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Eastern Cottonmouth

Eastern cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus piscivorus)  Beidler Forest Audubon Center & Sanctuary,  Harleyville, SC
Sasha Azevedo [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0] via
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Eastern cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus piscivorus) Beidler Forest Audubon Center & Sanctuary, Harleyville, SC

A listener encounters a snake and doesn't recognize the species. The most important rule in such a situation: leave the snake alone.

The eastern cottonmouth, Agkistrodon piscivorus, is a species of pit viper in the subfamily Crotalinae of the family Viperidae. It is the world's only semiaquatic viper, and is native to the southeastern United States. As an adult, it is large and capable of delivering a painful and potentially fatal bite. When threatened, it may respond by coiling its body and displaying its fangs. Individuals may bite when feeling threatened or being handled in any way. It occurs in or near water, particularly in slow-moving and shallow lakes, streams, and marshes. It is a capable swimmer and, like several species of snakes, is known to occasionally enter bays and estuaries and swim between barrier islands and the mainland.

Rudy Mancke served as naturalist and co-host of South Carolina ETV's NatureScene, which began its long run in 1978. His field trips, broadcast nationwide, have earned him a legion of dedicated viewers. Rudy's knowledge of the complex inner-workings of different ecosystems and his great admiration for the natural world make him the perfect guide. In fact, the National Wildlife Federation and the Garden Club of America honored his commitment to resource conservation with special awards. Since retiring from SCETV, Rudy has gone on to teach at the University of South Carolina, Columbia.