The cottonmouth snake, sometimes called the water moccasin, is a heavy bodied venomous reptile that is known for a nasty reputation. This snake is actually the stuff of legends. One famous legend is the old, “I knew someone that fell into a nest of water moccasins while skiing.” This legend is completely false, as water moccasins do not build “nests” in the water at all. While the cottonmouth is a testy snake, it is not nearly as bad as people make it out to be. Still, the water moccasin is a terrible pet snake to own if you are not experienced with “hot” or venomous reptiles. Here are five reasons why:
The cottonmouth is a dangerous snake in spite of the tall tales floating around out there. It is not going to gather in a nest in the water and wait on some helpless water skier. What a cottonmouth snake will do, however, is stand its ground and bite in self defense with no hesitation. Some water moccasins have been known to actually move towards the source of danger if they feel cornered. That is not common, but the cottonmouth is still considered more aggressive than the average venomous snake in America. Because of this, and the danger involved if you are bitten, it is not a good idea to have a water moccasin for a pet. The venomous bite of a copperhead can kill you if you do not get treatment. Children and the elderly are particularly at risk for death from a bite.
Aside from getting bitten by this venomous reptile while trying to feed it, the cottonmouth presents some other potential problems with diet as well. Copperhead snakes eat a fairly diverse diet in the wild. They eat fish, salamanders, snakes, lizards, rats, mice and even turtles among other things. Reproducing this diet in captivity is a challenge because these foods are not easily located on a regular basis. Because of this, you are usually left to feed your pet cottonmouth mice and rats only. While this is okay, it is not nearly as good for the snake as their typical diet, especially if the pet is wild caught. This can affect the health of the snake and sometimes cause it to not eat.
The cottonmouth is like most snakes in that they are excellent escape artists. It is one thing when your pet garter snake escapes the cage, but something else entirely when it is a pet cottonmouth. The last thing you would want is a cottonmouth running wild in your home. Unfortunately, a novice snake owner will often have a cage or enclosure that is not sufficient in keeping the snake secured. This is highly dangerous and can even be deadly.
Creating a Wild Kingdom
To truly keep a cottonmouth snake healthy and happy, you need to recreate the life that they lead in the wild. This is nearly impossible for the wild cottonmouth, because they spend a large amount of time in the water. As such, a simple bowl of water is not really what they want or need. While experienced herpetologists and keepers have huge habitat areas that provide the right kind of surroundings, most people do not have this type of set up. Trying to recreate a swamp with the proper humidity and heat is a tricky proposition, and having the wrong set up can be deadly to the pet snake.
Against the Law In Many Places
In most parts of the United States of America it is against the law to keep a venomous cottonmouth as a pet. There are laws and permits that must be carefully adhered to, and the vast majority of pet cottonmouth owners do not follow them at all. This leads to amateur mistakes which can be quite deadly due to the venomous nature of the snake. For this reason, keeping a cottonmouth as a pet is a really bad idea and can even get you thrown in jail in some parts of the country.
Encyclopedia: water moccasin, Yahoo Education
Cottonmouth, Yahoo Kids