Solid White, A Scary Sight- Most East Texans have heard the popular rhyme to assist with the identification of poisonous snakes in the Pineywoods, “Red on yellow, kills a fellow. Red on black, friend of Jack.” But what about solid white? Solid white, a scary sight!
Noah Reams captured this image of what is believed to be a white water mocassin in Chapel Hill this summer.
The water moccasin, also known as the cottonmouth, is a venomous aquatic snake native to East Texas. These snakes belong to the pit viper family; the same family of snakes that includes rattlesnakes and copperheads. Their venom is destructive to tissue and can be potentially fatal in some cases in some cases.
Water moccasins are large, heavy-bodied, stubby, muscular snake and can grow to nearly six feet. When threatened, it will open its mouth to show its fangs. Water moccasins can vary in color, from brown or olive to nearly black. Juvenile water moccasins usually have a yellow or light green tail. These snakes have crossbands across their backs that are generally darker than their base color, though in some individuals these bands are indistinct, giving the appearance of a solid colored snake. The inside of the mouth is lined with white, hence the name cottonmouth.
Water mocassins eat frogs, fish and animals. These snakes can be very defensive and sometimes aggressive. They can bite underwater, despite the popular notion that they cannot strike and release venom under water.
Water moccasins are solitary and nocturnal, and tend not to stray far from a water source. When cornered on land without an adjacent body of water to flee to, water moccasins can become aggressive. Before striking, a water moccasin will coil into a circle and vibrate its tail quickly. If this warning goes unheeded, water moccasins will open their mouths to display the white lining. They will bite readily to defend themselves, and will typically release a foul-smelling musk from their cloaca as well.
Water moccasins inhabit a geographic range in East Texas. They are semi-aquatic and prefer swamps, freshwater streams, sloughs, lakes and ditches of the Pineywoods. Water moccasins also reside on land in moist, low-lying forests near streams or other bodies of water.
Swimmers, bathers and anglers on river banks should always keep a sharp eye out for these snakes.