Cottonmouth Combat for Mating Rights

By Gene Ott

On Saturday morning (May 22, 2004) Win and I chauffeured a group of attendees on a road cruise in the Hellhole area of Francais Marion National Forest. We we searching the higher ground areas. Because I was driving, my attention was principally upon searching the road for herps. By luck, I happened to glimpse the olive banded pattern of the Cottonmouth in the roadside ditch to my left. The spot where I saw the snake was at a culvert. There were two small pools of water. Receding water levels had concentrated the surviving aquatic life.

I stopped the van and we filed out to see the snake. To our very welcomed surprise we found two large male Cottonmouths engaging in ritual neck-wrestling combat. The snakes paid very little attention to us for 5 to 10 minutes. Then they disengaged and one went away. We presume the departing one was the loser.

Below are some images of this remarkable exhibition that we were honored to witness.

Return to Herping in Hellhole with Holmes - 2004

May 31, 2004
Contact: South Carolina Reptiles and Amphibians