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Discover Nature: Water Snakes

A brownish cottonmouth sits on a rock in the sun.
The Northern cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus), also known as a water moccasin, is Missouri’s only venomous water snake. Many more common semi-aquatic snake species are often misidentified as cottonmouths.";

This week on Discover Nature, watch for water snakes basking near water.


Missouri’s semi-aquatic snakes include the most prolific, Northern water snake, the diamond-backed water snake, yellow-bellied water snake, broad-banded water snake, and graham’s crayfish snake. 


Western mud snakes and Mississippi green water snakes are found only in the Southeast corner of the state, and the latter is an endangered species of conservation concern. 


While all of these snakes may bite in defense, if cornered, they are all non-venomous.  


Missouri’s only venomous water snake, the Northern cottonmouth, also known as a water moccasin, occurs only south of the Missouri River. It’s normally found only in cool, spring-fed creeks and small rivers in the Ozarks, and swamps, lakes, and ditches in Southeastern Missouri. 


Venomous- or non-venomous, all snakes play an integral role in Missouri’s wildlife community, and generally will do everything in their power to avoid people. 


While snakes can evoke fear in a wild encounter, it is unlawful to kill, harm or harass them. 


Learn more about Missouri’s water snakes and how to identify them with the Missouri Department of Conservation’s online field guide


Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

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