Mississippi Snake Identification
I am trying to identify a snake
It is about 12 inches long, oval head, mottled colorings with a gray body
reddish brown bloches outlined in black on its back with a different
pattern on its belly
It was found swimming in the Mississippi on the surface of the water.
It tried to strike when handled. Is this a water snake?
Well, there are several kinds of snakes that swim. Most of them aren't
venomous. You can find pictures of some of them at the web site
HOwever, none of those really match the description you gave, "reddish
brown bloches outlined in black." The closest picture of a water snake I
could find with such features is the venomous cottonmouth, or water
moccasin. These snakes are fairly aggressive and fearless, so they say.
(I've never encountered one in the wild; I have encountered rattlesnakes,
which are quite timid.) There are many pictures of cottonmouths at
http://gto.ncsa.uiuc.edu/pingleto/herps/crotalinae.html. What you
described sounds a little like the pictures of the juvenile, such as the
one at http://gto.ncsa.uiuc.edu/pingleto/herps/images/snakes/juvmoc3.jpg.
Don't pester a cottonmouth!
Richard Barrans Jr., Ph.D.
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Update: June 2012