Cottonmouth vs Water moccasin Best 10 Main Differences Explained

Cottonmouth vs Water moccasin

The cottonmouth snakes and water moccasins are referred as two distinct snakes. The first one is poisonous, and the other snake is deadly poisonous. The scientific name of the cottonmouth snake is Agkistrodon piscivorus. The Agkistrodon piscivorus is a pit viper species belonging to the family viperidae. The pit vipers are venomous snakes that can be quickly identified by large openings, or pits between their nostrils and eyes. A large amount of venom of pit vipers can cause extreme pain and severe swelling on the body. The cottonmouth snake is also considered a venomous snake. The Northern cottonmouth is also a pit viper species. 

Although eastern cottonmouth snake bites are rare, they can be a deadly poisonous water snake to humans. For instance, the cottonmouth bite leaves scars, leading to amputation. The head shape of these venomous snakes is a telling clue. The cottonmouth snake possesses a triangular-shaped head. Due to the venom glands, these triangular heads possess a dark line through the elliptical pupils and eyes.

The body color varies from dark brown to black-colored. The cottonmouths live near the Southeastern Virginia, Mississippi river, Florida and other areas. The cottonmouth snakes eat a variety of prey, such as small turtles, young alligators, fish, and sometimes smaller cottonmouths.

 The females are smaller than the male cottonmouths. The cottonmouths mate during the early summer, giving birth to litters of 1 to 20 young ones. The young cottonmouth snake has bright yellow tail tips that they use to attract prey. On the other hand, adult cottonmouths possess a body length of more than 31.5 inches.

The body color of a cottonmouth moccasin is brown with olive and blackish markings, with a lighter belly. The juvenile cottonmouths have a more bright-colored pattern. The cottonmouth moccasin’s venom can kill you. 

Cottonmouth vs Water moccasin

In contrast, the water moccasins with the scientific name agkistrodon piscivorus are also venomous snakes. The water moccasins are present in the Southeastern United States, southeast Virginia, and Central Texas. The water snake’s head is slender or flat. At the same time, the northern water snake is dark brown-colored with round pupils. These snakes are called non-venomous water snakes. In contrast, water moccasins possess heat-sensing facial pits between the nostrils and eyes.

The water moccasin has vertical pupils and a thick body, opening a mouth wide when threatened. Although cottonmouths and water moccasins are the same snake species, there are also some differences. The cottonmouths are sometimes called water moccasins. The people bitten from the cottonmouth’s powerful cytotoxic venom may suffer from permanent muscle damage. In addition to it, these snakes also show defensive behavior like other snakes. For example, the cottonmouth also called gapper, emit a potent pungent anal secretion.


Water moccasin

  • The cottonmouth snakes possess dark, stout, thick bodies. These venomous snakes will pop their mouths open when frightened. In addition to it, the skin inside the mouth of a cottonmouth snake bright-white-colored; that’s why it is called the cottonmouth. There are also dark-grayish-colored bodies with no markings in the cottonmouth. 
  • The water moccasins possess thick, muscular bodies covered in ridged or keeled scales and blocky heads with large jowls. Their vertical pupils have dark-colored stripes next to each nostril. Furthermore, the body color of the water moccasin varies from banded brown, black to olive, and dark brown to yellow.
  • The cottonmouths are present in many countries, including U.S. According to the IUCN, the cottonmouth ranges from north to Indiana, southern Illinois and southeastern Virginia to Florida. The cottonmouths live in other wetland and aquatic habitats, such as ponds, lakes, streams, marshes, swamps, drainage ditches, etc. 
  • According to International Union for Conservation of Nature, the water moccasins are also present worldwide, including Florida, Indiana, the U.S., Southeastern Virginia, Central Texas, and Southern Illinois. In addition to it, the water moccasin snake is native to freshwater habitats, heavily-vegetated wetlands, cypress swamps, and river floodplains. 
  • The adult cottonmouths have an average body length between two and four feet. The female cottonmouth is smaller in size compared to the male cottonmouth. The longest recorded cottonmouth was about 74 inches long. However, the average weight of these animal species is about three to four pounds. 
  • The water moccasin snakes are about 61 to 122 centimeters or 24 to 48 inches in body length. According to the Virginia Herpetological Society, the largest water moccasin was about 74 inches long, found near the Virginia-North Carolina line. These species weigh approximately between 10.32 and 20.44 ounces. 
  • The cottonmouths require a proper diet to survive. For instance, their primary food includes fish on stingers, small mammals, carrion, smaller snakes, fish, frogs, and small water birds. The cottonmouth is also preyed on by humans and other venomous snakes. 
  • The water moccasins also need some food to survive. For example, they rely on various aquatic and terrestrial prey, such as baby alligators, fish, mammals, birds, tiny turtles, snakes, lizards, amphibians, and other smaller cottonmouths. 
  • The cottonmouth undergoes both types of reproduction i.e. sexual and asexual reproduction. They mate during the early summer, in which the males slither around to compete for females. Furthermore, the female cottonmouth snake gives birth to litters of about one to twenty live young ones every two to three years. 
  • The water moccasin also reproduces either sexually or asexually. They are ovoviviparous, which means the incubation of eggs takes place inside the mothers’ bodies. In addition to this, about 10 to 20 offspring are produced every 2 to 3 years. The baby water moccasins possess bright-colored bodies. 
  • The cottonmouths are not aggressive snakes and avoid direct contact with various people and pets. However, being the venomous snake species, they can leave dangerous impacts on both pets and humans. There is advice for a victim to visit a hospital or seek a medical care from different physicians. 
  • Even though most people say the water moccasins are venomous and dangerous, they do not show aggressive behavior. Keeping ourselves away from their way is advised as it will be great for both. Otherwise, they will offer defensive behavior, biting when they feel disturbed or threatened. 
  • The cottonmouth snake is a semi-aquatic poisonous snake that makes it a good swimmer. They are sometimes confused with water moccasins due to their excellent swimming ability. It is easy to recognize snake if its body is floating on top of the water. 
  • The water moccasins are also comfortable swimming like various snake species, including the cottonmouth snake. In addition to this, these animal species are considered the best swimmers of the snakes. They are quickly recognized floating on water.
  • The cottonmouths live for a specific time, after which they die. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, these snakes have an average lifespan of fewer than 10 years in the wild. However, they can live for over 24 years in captivity. 
  • The water moccasins also live for a specific time like the cottonmouth, after which they die. For example, they can live for almost ten years in the wild but more than twenty years in captivity. These snakes are most active at night.
  • There are many predators of cottonmouth in the world. Various animals prey on these snakes, such as cats, owls, hawks, raccoons, ergots, snapping turtles, otters, largemouth bass, etc. 
  • The water moccasins are also preyed on by many wild animals. The main predators of the juvenile water moccasin are wild pigs, raccoons, cats, dogs, rodent-like opossums and other mammals. 
  • The cottonmouths are considered the species of most minor concern. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, they are not listed as endangered species. 
  • The water moccasins are called the species of least concern, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Furthermore, they are not included in red list of endangered species.


Sometimes people get confused and raise questions about the cottonmouth vs water moccasin to clear their minds. Therefore, the answers to some of those submitted questions are as mentioned below;

How can you tell the difference between a water snake and a water moccasin?

The water snakes possess a double row of scales over their bodies; in contrast, a single row of scales, just like to the belly scales, is present on the underside of the tails of these harmless water snakes. 

How long do you have after a water moccasin bite?

Besides sea snakes, two more snake species live in or near water, such as the water snake and the water moccasin snake. These snakes are as deadliest and venomous underwater as they are on land. 


Various animals and plants are present worldwide; each possessing unique identification features discriminating against them. The same is the case with the cottonmouth and the water moccasin. They look similar in appearance in many ways, due to which people confuse them. But some differences discriminates them. There is no need to worry, as this blog post provides exciting facts and information about these two snakes to make people’s minds clear. It will help greatly if you read this article with great care and pay full attention.  

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