Cottonmouth vs Water Snake!
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Cottonmouth vs Water Snake!

October 21, 2019

– I’m Coyote Peterson. Right now we’re hiking in
the southern swamps of Texas, which is home to two
different water snake species. One is venomous, and one is not. If your life depended on it, would you be able to
tell the difference? (dramatic music) Stick around, ’cause
we’re about to show ya. (dramatic jungle music) (animal growling) As the sun cut through the
tops of the cypress trees, I carefully made my
way into the swamp. Every step counts when
you’re in the back country of south Texas. And as my boots slowly splashed
through the dark water, my focus was completely in
tune with the environment. I knew that it was only
a matter of time before I would find the one
reptile that most people are terrified of. Ah. – [Cameraman] Hey, what
are you looking for? – Snakes, and nothing yet. You know, most people are
out there and they’re hiking and they stumble upon snakes
when they don’t expect to. Me, I’m always lookin’ for ’em. But if you do come
across one in the wild, I think it’s really important
to identify the species. A lot of times you have
a non-venomous snake that will look like
a venomous one. Unfortunately, these
non-venomous snakes are then vilified
as being venomous and a lot of times they
end up being killed. My goal today is to catch
one non-venomous snake and one venomous snake
so we can show you the distinct differences
between the two. Ah, it’s a long search
out here in the swamps. I’m not givin’ up. We are gonna find some snakes. (water splashing) (suspenseful music) (dramatic music) (yelling) Yes! Yes! Check it out. Okay, little bitey,
little bitey. Ah, ah, ah, ah,
he’s got my finger. Ouch! Ah, good news for me, though, is that this one
is non-venomous. Bring it up in the
light, check that out. That is a broad-banded
water snake. Woo, okay. That is half of the
equation right there. Watch your GoPro. He’s trying to bite ya. Well, that’s the safe one. Now we gotta find the moccasin. Whew, awesome! Man, definitely got my thumb. A bite from this one and
I’m gonna be just fine. But the other snake
we’re lookin’ for? The water mocassin? If that attacked my thumb, we wouldn’t be gettin’ shots. We’d be on our way
to the hospital. Look at that. Let me get ’em real close
for your camera there. Woah! – [Cameraman] He’s bitey. Beautiful snake. – Okay, cool. Well, let’s keep
searching for moccasins. (dramatic music) You do not wanna do
is just accidentally step on a venomous snake. This is definitely
moccasin territory. There’s a moccasin right there. Okay, come up slow. – [Cameraman] Where? – Right up against
the side of that tree. – [Cameraman] Oh, I see. – Wow, look at how big it is. Okay, now this it the real deal. Stay back. (exhaling) Okay. Stay a couple steps back out. Now, they usually
move pretty slow. I’m gonna try to hook
it and bring it up here on the path. You ready? – [Cameraman] Yup. Careful. (dramatic music) – Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh. Startle. (dramatic music) – [Cameraman] Careful. – Got it by the tail,
got it by the tail. Okay, there we go. Do not wanna take a
bite from this snake. That one will send
ya to the hospital. Okay, bringing it
up on the path here. Wow, okay. Ooh, rattle in the
tail a little bit. That is a defensive sign. Okay. Ah, ah, ah, tss, tss, tss, tss. It should just stop for us. Come here, come here. There we go. All right, what we need
to do now is just get the snake under control
so that we can get it up close for the cameras. Let me move it back
a little bit here. Ha, my nerves are goin’. Just looking into
the water there and that’s how well
these things camouflage. I just saw it out of
the corner of my eye, just an obscure shape
up against that cypress. And that’s what
these snakes will do. You don’t often see
them slithering about like you would a water snake. They’ll often be just like this, curled up in a ball somewhere
trying to stay camouflaged, trying to stay away from
any potential predators. Then again, if you were
gonna try to eat this snake, you better be quick
because if you’re tagged by those fangs, you are going
to be in a world of trouble. Now this is a water moccasin, but they are famously
known as cottonmouths. And watch this. I’ll get the snake
to open its mouth and you’ll see
that white throat. Look at that. That is a defensive, woah, see? And look, he got the
tail goin’ now, too. You see that? Mimicking a rattlesnake,
saying I am venomous. Yes, we know that
you are venomous. I can actually see
the fangs tucked back. Woo, I am drippin’ bullets
of sweat right now. Let me back up a touch. Okay, well perfect. We have the two snake
species that are indigenous to this habitat. A water moccasin and a
broad-banded water snake. One venomous, one that is not. Stick around and we’ll
show you which is which. Wow. Check this out. Completely calm now
considering the fact just a few minutes ago
this snake was doing everything it could to
bite me and get away. This is the broad-banded
water snake. And look at this
incredibly calm demeanor. Now I noticed the same thing
with Lake Erie water snakes and northern water snakes. At first it’s all
about fight or flight. If they can’t get away
and you catch ’em, they immediately
try to bite you. Now the good news for
me, like I said before, is that this is a
non-venomous species. – [Cameraman] So how
big do the snakes get? I mean, do these
snakes get as big as a northern water snake? – Yeah, they do. I would say this is
about average size for one of these snakes. It is I’d say about two
and a half feet in length. But they can grow out to
be about three and a half or four feet at a maximum size. Females are larger
than the males, and I do believe it’s a
male, looking at its cloaca. Yeah, you’re a handsome
fella, aren’t ya? Now, these snakes are
often misidentified. People see them near the water and they automatically
think it’s a water moccasin. This is a very common
species all across the southeastern United States. And the reason people mistake
it for a water moccasin is mostly the fact that A,
it’s right by the water, and B, the coloration. I’m gonna turn the
snake just a little bit. You see all that dark
brown that runs the length of the body? And then that faded
banding looks just like a younger water moccasin. But then of course if
you flip the snake over and look at its belly, look at all that
copper checkering. You will not find that
on a water moccasin. And not that you’d
ever necessarily see the belly of the snake, but I just think that that’s
really, really cool lookin’. Ho, ho, this is
actually the first time I have caught this
species of snake. And it is just so
incredibly calm right now. I cannot believe how
comfortable this snake has gotten with us, and we’ve only been handling
it for a few minutes. Oh, but it did musk on me. There you go. See that white stuff
on my hand right there? – [Cameraman] Ew. – Oh, yeah, it stinks. That is another
defense mechanism. Poop on a potential predator
if it’s trying to eat me. All right, but I’m
not gonna eat you. Don’t worry. We could just hang
out and be friends. Wow, this snake is so cool. Well, I think at this
juncture we should bring out the water moccasin. I’m gonna hand the
snake off to Mario. He’s gonna bring
in the moccasin. This is gonna be a
little more dangerous. Hopefully we’ll get that
snake to just calm down on the ground and we’ll get
the cameras up close for it so we can show you the
distinct field markings of that snake. All right, you ready? – [Mario] Yup. – All right, now we’re gonna
bring in the water moccasin. Ah, just keep your
wits about you ’cause this is going to be
slightly more dangerous. Okay, let me bring it over here. Come here, come here, come here. – [Cameraman] Slightly
is an understatement. – [Coyote] Yeah. I got it, I got it, I got it. Sling it in under. Hold on, let me get her to stop. Shht, shht. There we go. – [Cameraman] So, Coyote,
the water snake you just held had anticoagulant in its saliva. This snake has venom. What would this snake do to you? – This snake would, depending
on how your body reacted, it could potentially kill you. There are not many
reported deaths from water moccasin bites. However, that venom
is incredibly toxic and it will break down
your red blood cells. You could lose a finger, you could lose your hand. Let’s just put it this way. If I’m tagged by this snake, we are leaving the
scene and we are heading to the hospital. So I need to be extra
careful right now. Mark, we’ve got you a
couple feet past the snake. We’ve got Mario
just off camera here making sure if the
snake makes a move, he can keep it away
from you, Mark. But other than that, if we just stay
calm and collected just like this in
front of the snake, we should be just fine. You see, the snake’s
not trying to flee. It’s just keeping itself
low to the ground, its body spread. Look how wide and
girthy that snake is. Now these snakes,
like the banded water
snakes, are aquatic. However, they do not dive
down under water to hunt. You will see them
occasionally moving from pocket of water to
pocket of water, but they usually are
hunting on the embankment. These snakes do not have
rattles like rattlesnakes and they rely on their
camouflage to keep them hidden. A lot of times people will
be walking down a trail, you accidentally
step on the snake, and that’s how you are bitten. This snake has no
interest in chasing or hurting humans. If you just admire this
animal from a safe distance, you’re gonna be just fine. Okay, so the most important
part of this episode is that we want to
show you a comparison of this snake next to the
broad-banded water snake. Now to do that I’m
going to have to get the water moccasin
under control, which means I’m gonna
use my snake hook to gently pin its head and
then pick the snake up. Mario’s gonna bring in the
broad-banded water snake, we’re gonna put
them side-by-side, and show you the
distinct field marks so that you can properly
identify these snakes if you ever come across
them in the wild. – [Mark] Should we
get in for a shot? – [Coyote] I am gently going
to get position of her head just like this. There we go. I want my fingers just
behind the head like that. – [Mark] This is the
most dangerous thing you can do with
a venomous snake. – Yup. Never, ever, ever do what
you see me doing here. I’ll get full
control of the body. There we go. Yeah, well you notice
my hand is shaking. Now never, ever, ever try
to pick up a venomous snake like you just saw me do. The only reason that
I headed this snake is so that we can
get both of these right next to each other. I’ve got a gentle yet
firm grip on the back of her head just
behind the venom glands and full control of the body. You won’t see me
moving too much more for this scene. I just kind of gotta collect
my nerves, stay calm. Mario, go ahead and bring in
the broad-banded water snake. – [Mario] There we go. – Cool. – Lookin’ a little nervous. – Little bit. Kind of have a dangerous
snake here in my hand. She’s calmed down a bit. You can see her tongue’s
flickin’ out now, so that’s good. She’s not trying to
expose her fangs. Now the water moccasin,
because it it a pit viper and it has these two
massive venom glands, has a very
triangular-shaped head. You pan over to the
broad-banded water snake, and its head is
actually very narrow. However, when these
broad-banded water snakes are threatened, they
will flatten their heads and puff them up, forming
them into a triangle, which often times causes
people to misidentify them for water moccasins. It’s good news for the snake
if it draws off a predator, but it’s bad news if
that predator’s a human, and then unfortunately
that snake usually ends up being killed. Hoo, sorry, a little nervous. Let’s look on the heads as
well at the snake’s eye. So I’m just gonna slightly turn. – [Mario] I’ll move,
you stay there. – Okay, okay. You’ll notice that
the water moccasin has a vertical pupil while
the broad-banded water snake has a circular pupil. I don’t imagine anybody
out there watching is ever gonna get
face-to-face with either of these snake species, but if you happen upon one
and you see a vertical pupil, you know it’s a
moccasin and you know that it’s venomous. Now the last difference on
the face of these snakes is the fact that the water
moccasin is a pit viper. Now right up front there
you’ll see a nostril and just behind that
you see another hole in-between the
nostril and the eye. That is the heat-sensing
pit which allows these snakes to detect
not only their prey, but potential predators
in the environment. Now when you look at the
broad-banded water snake, you’ll notice that it
does not have pits, just eyes and nostrils. When you look at these
two snakes overhead, you can see how similar
they are in coloration. Now the broad-banded water
snake has more distinct banding, but if you were to
just see these snakes at a quick glance, they are pretty similar-looking. But you’ll notice that
the water moccasin has a much girthier
flattened body as compared to the
banded water snake. Look at that
difference right there. – [Mark] But their
scales look similar. – [Coyote] They do, don’t they? And both species have
rough keeled scales which allows them to
quickly be able to move through this rugged environment. – [Mark] Can we see the bellies? I know that’s another
big difference. – Yup. – [Mark] Wow, look at that. – Yup, now you’re never
likely to see the belly of these two snakes
next to each other, but as you can see, the banded water snake is
beautiful and checkered, and the water moccasin
is just kind of plain and cream-colored. Not that that makes the
snake any less special. (Mario sniffing) – I smell something, Coyote. – You do. I smell that same thing. Both of these snakes
right now are musking, which is a final defense
tactic in the event that something
tries to eat them. That musk is coming out
of their bottom ends, and if you’re a predator
and you get that in your mouth, it
tastes really bad. So as you can tell, these snakes have many
different defenses against potential predators. For everyone out there watching, we want you to know
that these two snakes are very difficult
to distinguish from one another. And if you see a snake
out there in the wild, definitely treat it
as if it’s venomous. If it’s a moccasin
and you take a bite, you’re gonna be in
a lot of trouble. So it’s best to just
always admire these animals from a safe distance. I’m Coyote Peterson. Be brave! Stay wild. We’ll see you on
the next adventure. All right, you
ready to let ’em go? – Let’s do it. – Back into the wild
with these snakes. Working with snakes
is one of the most dangerous aspects of this job, and the reason I do
it is so that we can learn about these
incredible animals and hopefully walk away
with a newfound respect for even the ones
that we are afraid of. If you thought this
episode was fascinating, make sure to go back
and watch as Mario and I compared an
alligator to a crocodile. And don’t forget, subscribe, so you can join me and
the crew on this season of Breaking Trail. (animal growling) (birds chirping)

Only registered users can comment.

  1. surprised you didn't mention the bands on the water snake lower jaw and the faded bulls eyes on the body of the moccasin also Florida moccasons have a zorro mask and distinct under the head markings, which they always show when they coil up in defensive position.

  2. I love this channel but why does he say idk what people are afraid of snakes but the like 5 mins later he says a bite form that snake can send you to the hospital.?

  3. I don't think I need anyone to tell me which one is venomous and which one is not. Just the shape of the head and the scales tell the whole story.
    It always seems like venomous snakes have much more evil looking heads, More wider and with scale formations that makes them look more intimidating (especially around their eyes).
    And the scales on the rest of their bodies often seem less smooth and glossy but instead rough and spikey. Sure the are exceptions, but in general it's quite easy.

  4. Just a note, do not try to identify venomous snake with non venomous by the shape of the pupils. The pupil does not tell you something is venomous. All it tells you is wether a animal is awake during the night or day.
    Also just a interesting thing I noticed, the cottonmouth looks like it's going into shed soon ( might be part of why she was so flighty but I could be wrong just a interesting observation)

  5. A viper's eyes are cat-like, and 99% of other snakes have round pupils. Besides Cobra's and coral snakes, which both have round pupils, most, if not all, other snakes with round pupils aren't venomous. Ok I'll say it like this, if u see a snake with slit, cat-like pupils, KNOW IT'S VENOMOUS… Before you kill it, just try and get a glance at the eyes. Oh and also the cotton mouth has a very definitive neck and tail, right after the venom sacks on the back of the head, it gets fairly small then widens in girth almost all the way to the tail, but when it gets ti the tail, it's a dramatic drop in girth for the last 3-4 inches, as opposed to the water snake where you can't really see where the tail starts, or neck for that matter. The whole snake is generally the same girth and an even slope from the belly to the tail.

  6. Coyote Peterson: and look at the eyes

    Me:… But if your trying to see if it's venomous, I would still try to get away,don't hold a able u less itsa pet.

    Him: mentions the pit hole thing.

    Me: who would get that close?
    Me again: I think I'm going crazy

  7. Weird that some snakes are the exact same size and everything but some evolved to have Venom Glands to kill their prey and some didn't. I can see why the bigger constrictor snakes like Boas and Anacondas don't have any venom since they are normally so big. You would think these normal water snakes would evolved to have Venom Glands

  8. You have to hold him by the head bc if you hold him by the tail he will rap up and bite u just some advise btw I LOVE you and you channal❤️

  9. If you notice the eyes of the cottonmouth were cloudy this means the snake is soon going to shed its skin. At this time a snake is usually more dangerous due to the fact that the snake can't see very well. The best thing you can do is leave it be!

  10. OMG HIS A VISCO GIRL SKSKSKSKSK ?‍????‍??‍??‍??? one like if you see the snake emoji on your phone SkSksksk

  11. I was wade fishing in the Dan River in North Carolina and that day it was full of cotton mouths. I had a few trout on my stringer hanging from my belt and they wanted the trout as much as I did. It got so bad in just had to stop fishing for the day. They kept coming up to me because they could smell the fish.

  12. I’m so glad my children and I can watch ur channel. My boys and I go fishing all the time. I’m trying to teach my children to respect nature and know there animals. Thank u again for taking the time to share this. God Bless

  13. That snake will chase you. Especially in the hot part of the summer they are very territorial. I have been chased while swimming. My son while fishing. My dad had one actually climb in a small boat to get at him.

  14. Once in 3rd grade I sat next to a big black snake accidentally on a field trip and it didn’t bite.

    Anyone have an idea of what kind of snake it was?

  15. I hate that FISHEYE look the older GoPros have …hope you have the GoPro Hero Black 7 or the new 8 where you can film in Linear mode to remove fisheye.

  16. So happy I live in a colder climate then snakes like. In New England I’ve spent thousands of hours dirt biking. Hiking. Exploring the woods and the only snakes I’ve ever seen were tiny garden snakes and they don’t even bite when you handle them. Harmless. I don’t know how people live in areas with poisonous snakes /reptiles. Guess when you’re raised with em around it’s just normal, but def not my cup of tea. Fascinated by em though.

  17. You also forgot the bands on mouth and head ive heard harmless water snakes has that continued banding through mouth ….. The venomous cotton mouth does not….

  18. I used to show people the difference. Those non-venomous water snakes are some of the most aggressive snakes I have ever handled. Very surprised to see him handling this one so easy. They give a very good immitation of a venomous snake and strike fast and hard.

  19. You really shouldn't be handling the cotton mouth it was about to shed. You can tell by the cloudy eyes and before anyone says that I don't know what I'm talking about I rescue and rehab cotton mouths so I do

  20. I often fish alongside both of these snakes while they bask in the sun. I don’t bother them and they don’t bother me. However they both love to go after my minnow bucket.

  21. Correction: Texas has more than two water snake species
    Correction: Cottonmouth are not water snakes
    Correction: Water snake (Nerodia) is a genus, not a species

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