Snakes in Texas are as common as alligators are in Florida. They play an important part in the ecosystem, eating smaller prey but also being eaten by larger animals. While most species are harmless, there are quite a few venomous Texas snakes that should be avoided at all costs. One, in particular, has a nasty bite that keeps blood from clotting. Its name? The water moccasin.
How to Identify a Texas Water Moccasin
Luckily, the Texas water moccasin, or cottonmouth, is the only poisonous water snake in the United States, making it easier to identify when you know what you’re looking for.
The largest feature you can identify first is the body. Unlike a harmless water snake, the water moccasin in Texas is very thick and moves around with a heavy, stocky body. The tails are often very short and thick as well. Look for dark colors. It often appears as a banded water snake, however adults can be all black. Texas Water Moccasin scales will be rough looking and keeled. Keeled means that instead of smooth scales, there are little ridges that run down the center of each scale. This also means the snake will not be shiny. The coloration will show as dull and non-reflective.
If the body isn’t a clear giveaway, focus on the Texas Water Mocassin’s head. Is it thick and blocky rather than small and smooth? Is the neck much smaller than the head rather than being almost the same thickness? Are there stripes across the eyes? Is the inside of its mouth white? Is the nose pointed or round? Venomous snakes have angular snouts. In addition, they also have an extra set of face holes.
If you’re close enough to get a good look at the head, there should be what’s known as a heat sensing pit located between the eyes and the nostrils. The pupils are another giveaway but that may bring you too close to a water moccasin bite. Where the non-venomous snakes have round pupils, Texas Water Moccasins sport the typical elliptical pupils found in venomous species.
Finally, did you see the snake swimming with its entire body above water? If the answer is yes, then it’s probably a cottonmouth. This is because they inflate their lungs, causing greater flotation than the harmless snakes which prefer to remain mostly submerged.
What Should You Do?
As soon as you or anyone else sees a snake, move slowly and back away. Do not approach it. There is absolutely no reason to put yourself or anyone else in danger. Most of the time, venomous Texas snakes simply want to continue on their way.
Humans are not their prey of choice, but they will not hesitate to attack if you venture too close. Reach out to a professional and explain where you saw the snake. This will allow for proper identification and handling should the snake prove to be a threat.