Can snakes bite underwater?
Living Alongside Wildlife: Can Cottonmouths Bite Underwater?
** Living Alongside Wildlife **
A natural history of the fascinating animals that share our landscapes
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*Tuesday, June 21, 2011*
- Can Cottonmouths Bite Underwater? -
A few years ago, I was asked to comment on a proposed snake exhibit in a
local nature-themed education center. The exhibit was going to be a large
swampy area, complete with water snakes, Cottonmouths, and various other
wetland reptiles, like turtles. Although I personally would have enjoyed
viewing such a display, I warned those at the nature center that the
exhibit was unlikely to be very diverse for very long. Eventually, I
predicted, the entire display would have consisted of a few very fat and
very content Cottonmouths.
Cottonmouths can become abundant in suitable wetland habitats, such as
beaver ponds and creeks. My hunch is that they can thrive in these
wetlands because they are not picky about what they eat. And, when an
animal eats just about anything, there’s a smaller chance that they will
go hungry or compete for scraps with other individuals of the same species.
As a result, Cottonmouths can eat, grow large, and reproduce with
relatively little holding them back.
Cottonmouths can and do eat insects, frogs, salamanders, turtles, rodents,
birds, and other snakes, even including individuals of their own species.
But, given their aquatic tendencies, you may not be surprised to find out
that their primary prey item is often fish. Since fish spend their time
underwater, it is also not surprising that this is where Cottonmouths find
and capture them….with their mouths
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