Texas Water Moccasin angry in strike position outside feral pig trap





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Published on Apr 10, 2011

Water Moccasin (Agkistrodon piscivorus) with it's head raised in strike position displaying its trademark white cottonmouth just outside of feral pig trap in Dallas Texas near Trinity River. Sporadic gunfire in the background is from the Dallas Sheriff's gun range. Both the snake and I went our separate ways unharmed.

This is the largest species of the genus Agkistrodon. Adults commonly exceed 80 cm (31.5 in) in length, females growing smaller than males. Occasionally, individuals may exceed 180 cm (71 in) in length, especially in the eastern part of the range.[5] According to Gloyd and Conant (1990), the largest recorded specimen of A. p. piscivorus was 188 cm (74 in) in length, based on a specimen caught in the Dismal Swamp region and given to the Philadelphia Zoological Garden. It should be noted, however, that this snake had apparently been injured during capture, died several days later and was measured when straight and relaxed.

The broad head is distinct from the neck, the snout blunt in profile with the rim of the top of the head extending forwards slightly further than the mouth. The body has a heavy build and a tail that is moderately long and slender. On top of the head, a generalized pattern of nine symmetrical head plates is present, although the parietal plates are often fragmented, especially towards the rear. A loreal scale is absent. There are 6-9 supralabials and 8-12 infralabials. At midbody, there are 23-27 rows of dorsal scales. All dorsal scale rows have keels, although those on the lowermost scale rows are weak.[8] In males/females, the ventral scales number 130-145/128-144 and the subcaudals 38-54/36-50. Many of the latter may be divided.

Though the majority of specimens are almost or even totally black, (with the exception of head and facial markings) the color pattern may consist of a brown, gray, tan, yellowish olive or blackish ground color, which is overlaid with a series of 10-17 crossbands that are dark brown to almost black. These crossbands, which usually have black edges, are sometimes broken along the dorsal midline to form a series of staggered half bands on either side of the body. These crossbands are visibly lighter in the center, almost matching the ground color, often contain irregular dark markings, and extend well down onto the ventral scales. The dorsal banding pattern fades with age, so that older individuals are an almost uniform olive brown, grayish brown or black. The belly is white, yellowish white or tan, marked with dark spots, and becomes darker posteriorly. The amount of dark pigment on the belly varies from virtually nothing to almost completely black. The head is a more or less uniform brown color, especially in A. p. piscivorus. Subadult specimens may exhibit the same kind of dark, parietal spots that are characteristic of A. contortrix, but sometimes these are still visible in adults. Eastern populations have a broad dark postocular stripe, bordered with pale pigment above and below, that is faint or absent in western populations. The underside of the head is generally whitish, cream or tan.

Juvenile and subadult specimens generally have a more contrasting color pattern, with dark crossbands on a lighter ground color. The ground color is then tan, brown or reddish brown. The tip of the tail is usually yellowish, becoming greenish yellow or greenish in subadults, and then black in adults. On some juveniles, the banding pattern can also be seen on the tail.

This species is often confused with the copperhead, A. contortrix. This is especially true for juveniles, but there are differences. A. piscivorus has broad dark stripes on the sides of its head that extend back from the eye, whereas A. contortrix has only a thin dark line that divides the pale supralabials from the somewhat darker color of the head.

The watersnakes of the genus Nerodia are also similar in appearance, being thick-bodied with large heads, but they have round pupils, no loreal pit, a single anal plate, subcaudal scales that are divided throughout and a distinctive overall color pattern.


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