This 2005 photograph depicted a Florida cottonmouth snake, Agkistrodon p. conanti. When one thinks about snakes indigenous to the hurricane prone areas in the eastern United States, the cottonmouth, or water moccasin is probably the first specie to come to mind. A large dark heavy-bodied snake, it ranges throughout a large portion of the southeastern United States. Cottonmouths are the largest snakes in the New World Agkistrodon species complex, and are the only members of the group that are semiaquatic (Gloyd and Conant, 1990). Three distinct subspecies are currently recognized: the eastern, Florida, and western cottonmouths. The Florida cottonmouth ranges from the southeastern extreme of South Carolina through coastal and southern Georgia, south throughout the state of Florida and west along the Gulf Coast to the eastern face of Mobile Bay in Alabama (Gloyd and Conant, 1990).
A. piscivorus conanti displays a head that is conspicuously marked with distinctive vertical stripes on the rostrum, and mental regions, creating a handle bar mustache-like marking on the rostrum, when viewed from the front. The head also bears a prominent pair of bilateral dark cheek stripes that are markedly bordered by light areas above and below (Gloyd and Connant, 1990); a pattern that can be so striking, untrained people accustomed to seeing the less colorful western specie, sometimes have trouble identifying the Florida subspecie as a cottonmouth (Wozniak, personal observation).