Water Moccasins Ahead!

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mtratcliffe
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Water Moccasins Ahead!

Post by mtratcliffe » March 30th, 2015, 4:16 pm

"Oh yeah, I see Water Moccasins here all the time. In fact, there are three of them further down the boardwalk here. Look on your left in the vegetation. Definitely Water Moccasins. I have some in the pond near my house - found one in my yard the other day and I killed it!"

"I remember that, daddy! That was cool!"

"They are so ugly and mean. Thankfully we are up on a boardwalk where they can't bother us. I still warned everyone else around about them though. Where I grew up, there was this kid in my school who was water skiing one summer on a nearby lake. He lost control going around a turn and ended up crashing into an area with shallow water and marsh grass. Turns out he landed on top of a Water Moccasin nest and was bit so many times that he died before he got to the hospital! Nasty snakes."

Look at this ugly Water Moccasin. Yuck!

ImageDSCN6702 by zeonicweapon, on Flickr

DO NOT WANT

ImageDSCN6696 by zeonicweapon, on Flickr

Get it away from me!

ImageDSCN6703 by zeonicweapon, on Flickr

Ok, this is Matt talking now. The dialogue posted above is a generous paraphrase of a few discussions I had with several people yesterday at a county park in Tampa, FL. The part about the water skier did not happen, but I have heard that urban legend enough times that I felt that I might as well add it.

As you can see, the three "Water Moccasins" turned out to be nothing other than Brown Watersnakes. Somehow, I wasn't surprised - I know enough not to trust the average citizen's ID skills of water-dwelling snakes. While seeing three Cottonmouths would have been awesome, these were my lifer Brown Watersnakes, so that was definitely a plus. All three were found fairly close to one another. I did my part to explain to everyone else looking at the snakes with me that they were not Water Moccasins, but rather Brown Watersnakes, and how you could tell the difference. Hopefully I changed a mind or two.

Here are a few other shots from the day:

ImageDSCN6688 by zeonicweapon, on Flickr

FL Red-bellied Cooter

ImageDSCN6691 by zeonicweapon, on Flickr

Green Anoles seem to be doing well at this location

ImageDSCN6692 by zeonicweapon, on Flickr

Peninsula Cooter

ImageDSCN6693 by zeonicweapon, on Flickr

Female Great Blue Skimmer that was more than happy to perch on a hand

ImageDSCN6707 by zeonicweapon, on Flickr

The smaller turtle (a Redbelly) was chasing the larger one (species unknown, markings don't give away much) around in the cypress swamp.

ImageDSCN6719 by zeonicweapon, on Flickr

This young gator appears quite content with itself

ImageDSCN6722 by zeonicweapon, on Flickr

HerpMan ATL
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Re: Water Moccasins Ahead!

Post by HerpMan ATL » March 30th, 2015, 5:51 pm

LOL. I heard all those Water Moccassin stories going up. I remember fishing at the lake one day and I flipped a boat over and there was a Copperhead underneath it. A guy there fishing said, " don't bother it, it's just a Watersnake." Funny that the one time someone thinks a snake is not venomous and it actually is.

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Noah M
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Re: Water Moccasins Ahead!

Post by Noah M » March 31st, 2015, 5:48 am

Yeah, the boardwalks in Big Cypress are full of "snake experts". I'm always excited when somebody calls out a cottonmouth, or even copperheads down there. I know they've seen something, so hopefully I will see it too. But so far, they've all been watersnakes of one kind or another.

Cool brown water snake pictures too. It is always nice to see a water snake that isn't fasciata.

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BillMcGighan
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Re: Water Moccasins Ahead!

Post by BillMcGighan » March 31st, 2015, 6:01 pm

You'll hear the water skier falling into a nesting ball, or similar, told as fact, all over the country, even in places like up-state NY, Wisconsin, California, etc. etc.
When people tell you this one for fact and that they actually saw it, it puts you on the horns of a dilemma:
Do I call this guy a liar?
Do I rationalize the possibilities for him, even though they are remote?


There are a few stories that seem to cycle.

PS
All good, but Dragonfly on hand was great.

simus343
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Re: Water Moccasins Ahead!

Post by simus343 » March 31st, 2015, 9:13 pm

BillMcGighan wrote:You'll hear the water skier falling into a nesting ball, or similar, told as fact, all over the country, even in places like up-state NY, Wisconsin, California, etc. etc.
When people tell you this one for fact and that they actually saw it, it puts you on the horns of a dilemma:
Do I call this guy a liar?
Do I rationalize the possibilities for him, even though they are remote?
Working with education, and the general public 1-2 times a month, processing 400-700 people a day when it is the general public, I have gotten sick of hearing cottonmouth lies over the past 4 years. I call them out in front of their kids and make sure everyone else standing around knows that it is a lie as well. Usually gets them to just hush up, leave the talking to someone that knows a lot more about snakes than they do, and stop spreading propaganda panic. If they want to brainwash their own family they can do that at home, not around other people - that's the way I see it.

Side-note on it though. I did hear one story that I can believe involving a mass-movement of cottonmouths, but no one was bitten. My grandmother grew up on a lake in Mississippi that was formed from an earthquake many years ago, but is near the Mississippi Rv. Some heavy rains up-river caused the river's water table to rise quickly. A result is a lot of land near the river was obviously flooded. This caused all of the cottonmouths to go down-stream, or swim to higher ground, in this case it was the farm that my grandmother grew up on. There is no pictures, and I was not there, but with the circumstances of river-over-flow and some Mississippi Rv. floods I have seen, I could believe it.

Also, mtratcliffe those are some nice brown water snakes. I have only seen a few, and never have I been able to get close to any. Really like the shot of the young gator at the end too :thumb:

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Re: Water Moccasins Ahead!

Post by Tamara D. McConnell » April 1st, 2015, 3:25 am

I call them out in front of their kids and make sure everyone else standing around knows that it is a lie as well. Usually gets them to just hush up, leave the talking to someone that knows a lot more about snakes than they do, and stop spreading propaganda panic. If they want to brainwash their own family they can do that at home, not around other people - that's the way I see it.
I love this.
I also love the happy little gator shot and the gorgeous dragonfly shot.

Jamie
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Re: Water Moccasins Ahead!

Post by Jamie » April 4th, 2015, 8:30 am

Glad me and my family aren't the only ones who have had this sort of encounter. Our added problem is us trying to point out the ID mistake from locals, where as we have strong English accents! ;)

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Re: Water Moccasins Ahead!

Post by BethH » April 5th, 2015, 6:20 am

It's not a water moccasin story, but I think it's sort of similar. I go to Yellowstone a lot. Yesterday, a lady told me there was a wolf on the other side of a big field. I had seen what I thought was a coyote, and said so. She informed me that it had to be a wolf. It was soooo big. She drove away. I set up my spotting scope and watched the coyote do coyote things for about the next 15-20 minutes. People, in general, can't identify animals, plants, reptiles, rocks, or legal parking places. When I think someone might listen, I try to educate. Otherwise, I usually just say, "Ohhh." And when I sense there's someone around who really knows something, I try to suck up the information. It's all part of going to the park. (Now back to cottonmouths.)

Beth

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Noah M
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Re: Water Moccasins Ahead!

Post by Noah M » April 5th, 2015, 11:04 am

I agree Beth. I have found that even highly educated, smart, well read, clever, respectable people who are extremely knowledgeable in all sorts of things in life can be dumber than a bag of hammers when it comes animal identification.

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mtratcliffe
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Re: Water Moccasins Ahead!

Post by mtratcliffe » April 5th, 2015, 1:29 pm

captainjack0000 wrote:I agree Beth. I have found that even highly educated, smart, well read, clever, respectable people who are extremely knowledgeable in all sorts of things in life can be dumber than a bag of hammers when it comes animal identification.
And movie preferences!

Another common ID mistake I hear a lot in Florida is that every lizard is a "gecko", especially Brown Anoles. I also forgot to mention this one - I came across a guy and his wife at the same park/same day as the Water Moccasin story above. He said he saw a turtle submerge below a log, and called it an Alligator Snapping Turtle. I didn't see it, and it could very well have been a Snapper, but it certainly wasn't the species he listed as they are not found in this part of Florida. Gopher Tortoises are also just "Turtles", or sometimes Box Turtles.

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Noah M
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Re: Water Moccasins Ahead!

Post by Noah M » April 6th, 2015, 3:51 pm

mtratcliffe wrote:
captainjack0000 wrote:I agree Beth. I have found that even highly educated, smart, well read, clever, respectable people who are extremely knowledgeable in all sorts of things in life can be dumber than a bag of hammers when it comes animal identification.
And movie preferences!

Another common ID mistake I hear a lot in Florida is that every lizard is a "gecko", especially Brown Anoles. I also forgot to mention this one - I came across a guy and his wife at the same park/same day as the Water Moccasin story above. He said he saw a turtle submerge below a log, and called it an Alligator Snapping Turtle. I didn't see it, and it could very well have been a Snapper, but it certainly wasn't the species he listed as they are not found in this part of Florida. Gopher Tortoises are also just "Turtles", or sometimes Box Turtles.
Yeah, day geckos (anoles) and night geckos (actual geckos).

Garden snakes (garter snakes) are also common one.

I was holding a black a racer I had found in my garden (2' long at most) and somebody walking by asked where I found the indigo snake...

The turtle/tortoise thing is only mildly annoying for me. Yeah, they're all Testudines, but how hard is it to call it a tortoise?

I think from now on every bird I see I'm just going to call a robin.

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Re: Water Moccasins Ahead!

Post by BillMcGighan » April 6th, 2015, 4:14 pm

When I first moved to Florida, many of the group of folks I worked with were folks who could trace their family history to early Florida immigration, some literally to "Florida Crackers", the cattle drivers that announced coming into a town along a cattle drive route by cracking whips.
Another common ID mistake I hear a lot in Florida is that every lizard is a "gecko", especially Brown Anoles. I also forgot to mention this one - I came across a guy and his wife at the same park/same day as the Water Moccasin story above. He said he saw a turtle submerge below a log, and called it an Alligator Snapping Turtle.
Many "Florida Crackers" believed red headed, male skinks were "scorpions" and were "poisonous".

Snapping Turtles were referred to as "Alligator Turtles".

All the rat snakes along the gulf from Yankeetown to Pensacola were called "White-oak Snakes".

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mtratcliffe
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Re: Water Moccasins Ahead!

Post by mtratcliffe » April 6th, 2015, 4:52 pm

BillMcGighan wrote:Many "Florida Crackers" believed red headed, male skinks were "scorpions" and were "poisonous".
I've read this before about skinks - it never made sense to me. Was it something to do with the orange heads on males?

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BillMcGighan
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Re: Water Moccasins Ahead!

Post by BillMcGighan » April 6th, 2015, 5:16 pm

I've heard 2 stories:
The red indicates poisonous.
Others say the blue tail of little ones are a lethal sting.

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Re: Water Moccasins Ahead!

Post by simus343 » April 6th, 2015, 6:34 pm

Thought this would be nice to add on the upside of Water Moccasins at parks, as the story I had today actually involved two Water Moccasins.

I was at a local boardwalk looking for snakes by peering over the edge when a young man approached me and asked me if I was tracking something. I told him I was looking for snakes and offered to show him two that I had just found, stating to him that they were Water Moccasins. I showed them to him, and to my surprise he started asking me the typical things I would ask someone else for "how do you know it is?"

He began informing me that there were non-venomous water snakes that had very similar markings, that looking at the head can sometimes be an inaccurate way to tell due to Water Snakes flattening their head. He explained that looking at the eyes is the best way to determine Cottonmouth from Nerodia, if I could get an easy look, as the pupils are rounded. He also did agree with my identification as soon as I pointed them out to him.

We then began to talk about reptiles in general and I was impressed and pleased to finally find someone else that I didn't have to give a lesson to about proper snake identification. As we were talking he was explaining to me how to ID various types of snakes from Florida. It was all rather basic stuff that to a herper would be a "well obviously" but for my area and the general public perception of snakes in Florida's "south" (the Northern part :lol:), again I was quite impressed and happy. It is always nice to go on an outing and find someone that knows a healthy bit of correct information about snakes.

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Re: Water Moccasins Ahead!

Post by Coluber Constrictor » April 6th, 2015, 7:49 pm

I heard some variation of the "nest of moccasins" story in Maryland. It is pretty widespread. Most people just do not know there is such a thing as a nonvenomous water snake.

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Re: Water Moccasins Ahead!

Post by BillMcGighan » April 7th, 2015, 8:25 am

In the spirit of skinks, scorpions, and folk lore, I found this little interesting commentary by Archie Carr, one of the heros of reptile conservation.
This is from his book:
A Naturalist in Florida: A Celebration of Eden
By Archie Carr, Marjorie Harris Carr
• ISBN-10: 0300068549
• ISBN-13: 978-0300068542



Image
Image
Image

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Stohlgren
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Re: Water Moccasins Ahead!

Post by Stohlgren » April 7th, 2015, 8:46 am

Side note: I'm pretty sure your smaller cooter is a male chasing a large female.

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Mike VanValen
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Re: Water Moccasins Ahead!

Post by Mike VanValen » April 7th, 2015, 10:44 am

(species unknown, markings don't give away much)
The head markings actually do give away the ID. Sparse yellow markings and "arrowpoint" down the middle make these florida red-bellied cooters. (P. nelsoni).

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mtratcliffe
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Re: Water Moccasins Ahead!

Post by mtratcliffe » April 7th, 2015, 4:08 pm

Stohlgren wrote:Side note: I'm pretty sure your smaller cooter is a male chasing a large female.
I was wondering if that was what was going on.

Mike - thanks for the ID. Based on the above, I assumed they were likely the same species. I've noticed that Florida Red-bellied Cooters do tend to have less striping on the necks, especially with age, when compared to Peninsula Cooters.

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