Northern Cottonmouth

Agkistrodon piscivorus


The Cottonmouth is a venomous, semiaquatic, piscivorous snake species native to the southeast US and all of Mississippi. This species is most often found in various wetlands including swamps, marshes, streams, ponds, ephemeral wetlands, and lakes. They primarily consist on fish. Cottonmouths are usually thick-bodied, brown, tan, or olive-colored with dark cross-banding. The head is generally thicker than the neck (Behler & King, 1979). They are often active at night, and may be seen crossing roads near wetlands. The best way to safely avoid conflict with venomous snakes is to learn the few species Mississippi has and leaving them alone. Bites most often occur in the event one attempts to kill a snake.

Adult Cottonmouth showing off its namesake, Harrison Co. (MS)

Identifying Traits

  • Dark banding behind and across eye, no labial barring (separates from harmless Nerodia


Various wetlands


Nocturnal hunters, occasionally seen active at dawn or dusk, juveniles use caudal lures (yellow tails) to attract prey


Generally fish, frogs

Subadult waiting in ambush for prey, South Mississippi
Juvenile crossing a road in bottomland hardwood habitat, Madison Par. (LA)
Juveniles will often be brighter in coloration than adults, Harrison Co. (MS)