Can you believe we are already in the middle of February? Snake season is just a month away. Depending on March temperatures, this can truly vary as to hibernation emergence for our native snakes.

I have decided to write on a non-native species on which I have received numerous emails. People ask about this species of snake and say they themselves have actually seen or encountered one. Known to us as the water moccasin, this water snake is well known for being called the “cottonmouth,” so-called because of the white colored cotton lining in its mouth.

Many people say they have encountered these snakes deep in Southern Maryland and as far as Deep Creek Lake, in far Western Maryland. However, as I have educated you on the various snake species only native to Maryland, I thought this would be a great topic to write on.

As you know, Maryland is only home to two venomous snakes, the timber rattlesnake and copperhead. The timber rattlesnake part of the Crotalus family, and the copperhead is part of the Agkistrodon family. The water moccasin is also part of the Agkistrodon family. The habitat of the water moccasin does border the Virginia line so I have no doubt that perhaps this snake could have been part of flood waters that perhaps washed down some mountainous terrain or some another other way only understood by nature.

The most amazing thing about the water moccasin is this is the only snake in the Agkistrodon family whose habitat is solely of aquatic existence, even though our native copperhead enjoys swampy and damp habitat. The water mocassin lives only in water regions. Our timber rattlesnake is the one snake that reaches maturity in three to five years and gives live birth every other year. But the water moccasin reaches maturity at three years and also gives live birth every other year. The copperhead, on the other hand, gives birth each year.

The water moccasin has a very stocky build. Its colors are olive, brown, to black with no pattern on the underbelly. The babies do have patterns along with a yellow tip on their tails, just like the copperhead. Unlike other water snakes, it swims with its head well out of the water. They do stand their ground and they are much more aggressive than our native copperhead. They will do a constant gaping of the mouth before readying to strike. Their venom is more painful and toxic than a copperhead.

Their diet consists of frogs, fish, snakes, and very small birds. They are more tolerant to cold and are one of the last in their region to enter hibernation. Most will always use the same hibernation den.

Thank you again to all of you who send me the most fantastic questions.

Our state of Maryland has so to much offer. So get out and enjoy all the beautiful nature right in our own backyard.

Tammy McCormack is a licensed Maryland professional snake trapper. She welcomes your emails and pictues. You may reach her at

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