K I N G S L E Y L A K E . O R G
Snake info. If theres a snake in the water, many will assume its a water moccasin, and happily kill it without knowing any better. But most of the snakes around Kingsleyby a wide marginare harmless, and wed like to help residents learn the difference. Also, calling a snake harmless needs qualification. Pick up any wild snake improperly, and you'll probably get snakebit, and probably bleed too.
Weve collected photos of several harmless local snakes, and we have links at the bottom of the page that give even more information about the snakes Kingsley residents are likely to find. It has descriptions of numerous non-venomous water snakes, and links that show both venomous and non-venomous species that are abundant in Florida.
Clif Byrd, one of our residents who really knows his snakes, says, I bet you 99 out of 100 people would swear that this first photo is a Cottonmouth, but its just a harmless banded water snake...!
Another resident said, If you kill our snakes, well have a rodent problem. Id much rather have a few snakes and a few rats, than LOTS of rats...!
Several photos on this page courtesy of aaanimalcontrol.com
just a harmless Banded Water Snake
another harmless Banded Water Snake
a harmless Black Racer
a harmless Corn Snake
another harmless Corn Snake
a harmless Yellow Rat Snake
a harmless Garter Snake (about to shed)
however, this is the fellow to watch out for...!
Cottonmouth Water Moccasin. The Florida Cottonmouth/Water Moccasin (Agkistrodon piscivorus conanti) is a large heavy-bodied venomous snake, averaging three to four feet in length. Of the two names, which are use interchangeably, Cottonmouth is the more appropriate and more widely used, and was given because when the snake is threatened it will open its mouth and the lining of the mouth is cotton white. Moccasin is used since the skin feels like moccasin leather.
They do resemble several non-venomous water snakes, but Cottonmouths can easily be distinguished from harmless water snakes.
The Cottonmouth has a blackish-brown to olive-brown background with dark cross bands. A distinguishing broad, dark, facial stripe runs from the back of the nose, across the eye to the back of the head (see photo below). The head is thick and distinctly broader than the neck, and the top of head in front of the eyes is covered with large plate-like scales. Older specimens lose their coloration, and become almost black.
The eyes of a Cottonmouth cannot be seen when viewed from above, due to a visor-like ridge of skin above their eyes, and a Cottonmouth has elliptical, cat-like pupils, whereas non-venomous water snakes have round pupils. When a Cottonmouth's pupils are dilated for low light, however they can appear almost round.
Water moccasins also have a deep facial pit between the nostril and the eye. Water snakes do not.
Cottonmouths tend to swim high in the water, appearing somewhat overly buoyant, usually with their head out of the water. The harmless snakes tend to swim mostly submerged, or flat with the surface.
Cottonmouths often tend to retreat slowly, while water snakes tend to zip quickly out of the way. But some harmless water snakes will stand their ground and act aggressive too, when disturbed.
On a dead specimen, notice the belly scales below the vent. Cottonmouths have a single row of scales down to the tip, while water snakes have a double row. Note: Snakes maintain some degree of reflexive muscular activity up to a few hours after death, so dead snakes can still bite. Be careful handling any dead snake.
Be watchful around water, especially in areas that have not had much traffic. If you have left an overturned watercraft by the water, use caution in righting it. Canoeists have been bitten when they carelessly stuck their hands or feet under their overturned canoe. Fish on a stringer can attract Cottonmouths. Fishermen are sometimes bitten when they reach their hands over their boat's gunwhale to pull in the day's catch.
Notice the broad, dark, facial stripe that runs from each side of the nose, back across
the eye, and the large, flat plate-like scales on the top of the head.
Better view of the large, plate-like scales on the top of the head
Cottonmouths tend to swim high in the water, appearing almost
overly buoyant, usually with their head out of the water.
This is an Eastern Cottonmouth, but shows the characteristic white open mouth.When threatened... a Cottonmouth may respond by coiling its body and opening its mouth as though ready to bite, but this is considered defensive, and is not an aggressive stance. These snakes are timid, placid, and one of the more sedate venomous snakes, and will avoid human contact whenever possible. Most bites by cottonmouths involve snakes that have have been touched or molested, so Don't taunt snakes! If someone is bitten, commercial snake bite kits are not recommended, and the old cut & suck method of venom removal doesn't help much either. Attaching a sling or splint for support may help, then calmly seek medical attention at the nearest hospital or medical facility, keeping the bitten limb below the level of the heart. Your most important tools for getting to a hospital and treatment, may be your car keys and a cell phone. One more encouraging fact: only about 15-25% of the bites actually receive any venom!
Additional snake info from the Florida Fish & Wildlife CommissionFlorida snakes, a good intro
Floridas Water Snakes
Online Guide to Florida Snakes
Frequently Asked Questions about Florida Snakes
FWC snake brochures (downloadable PDFs)
Non-poisonous snakes pdf
Venomous snakes pdf