BIO 203

Is Anyone Hungry?

Like every other organism that lives or has lived within our world, it must eat and eat something in order to survive.  The Western Cottonmouth is no different.  In this section of the web page, you will learn what the organism eats to sustain itself and also how to stay off the menu (only joking).

The Western Cottonmouth is a hunter that in my opinion is an opportunistic hunter.  Several instances exist in which people have observed the snake consuming road kill, even consuming portions of a wild hog's body that was thrown into the water after being gutted.  So the statement that the snake consumes a variety of organisms is very true and includes, but is not limited to:

         Small amphibians (frogs, salamanders, turtles)

         Species of fish that can be found in swamps and marshes (catfish or even bass for example)

         Birds (as well as the bird eggs)

         Small mammals

         Even incidences of cannibalism have been reported along with the consumption of other species of snakes in the environment.



(Photos above were taken at the Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Palm Beach County.  These types of organisms can be found within the habitat range of the Western Cottonmouth. To see more visit the habitat page)

Studies conducted have also noticed that the intake of food for these snakes can vary dramatically relative to the yearly amount of rainfall and the time of year at which the pools begin to dry up.  When the pools dry up, the fish trapped within the pools are easy meals for the snake and they will gorge themselves on the dying fish.

In some instances reported in the juveniles of the cottonmouth, the snake appeared to wiggle the tip of its tail in such a fashion as to attract the prey.  To learn more about this and other adaptations, please visit the adaptation page.

During the early years of the organisms life however, the juvenile tends to be at a high risk of not living longer than a certain period of time because it is prey for a number of other organisms.  A number of bird species, large predatory fish and even some common house pets will prey on the juveniles.

While the cottonmouth may be a predator to certain animals, it does serve as a host to other organisms including:

         Dasymetra conferta

         Ochetosoma ancistrodontis / Ochetosoma aniarum

         Pneumatophilus foliaformis / Pneumatophilus leidyi

         Proteocephalus marenzelleri / Proteocephalus perspicua

         Ophidascaris labiatopapillosa

         Kiricephalus coarctatus

         Porocephalus crotali

Dasymetra is a genus that occurs within the esophagus or mouth of the snake.  Another type of organism that takes its root in the Western Cottonmouth is  one that takes hold in the lungs of the cottonmouths. This seems a very crucial and severe parasite seeing as how the cottonmouth relies on its lungs to breathe (you can’t breathe, you can’t live). Those parasites are Kiricephalus coarctatus and Porocephalus crotali.  These parasites can infect the snake’s lungs but do not cause lung inflammation, making it hard to detect.


Click here to move on to how the cottonmouth interacts with other organisms and others of its species.