Life History
About the Author

The cottonmouth is viviparous, meaning their eggs develop within the females body without any additional nourishment from the parent and hatch within the parent or immediately after being layed. Mating usually takes place in the early spring or at times in the summer/fall months.  The gestation period usually lasts from three to four months and the female produces a litter of up to 16 young.  The males are capable of breeding by their second year of aging while females are able to in the fall of their third year of age. Males are fertile year round with females producing sperm in the winter season and only producing you every other year.

The process of finding a mate occurs in a various phases. First the male has to find a suitable mate and may have to go through some male to male combat. The two males basically attempt to "top" its oponent several times for a period of 8-145 minutes. Then the dominant animal is established the loser quickly retreats with a short pursuit from the winner. The dominant male depending on whether the male combat was over a female or food approaches the female and begins to rapidly flick the tongue making contact with her by rubbing there chins together.  The male then advances towards her body putting their trunks side by side and the mail strokes the females cloaca with his tail. All throughout this time they continue to nudge each others heads.  The female must gape her cloaca in order for the male to have a successful copulatory attempt. When there is a successful intromission the male quickly retreats to a more casual distance with some chining and tongue flicking occurring.

It is interesting to note that the loser of the inter-male combat will only retreat to a favorable distance and wait for the predominating snake to finish his calculation with the female. The weaker male will then attempt to calculate with the female and has a better chance of producing his own offspring.


Located at:



A huge factor in mating/reproduction of the cottonmouth is geographic variation and the amount of resources readily available to the snake (especially for the female). Their energy budget  is mainly affected by the variation in abundance of prey throughout the seasons.

like mammals, snakes practice in internal fertilization in which the male sperm is introduced directly into the female's reproductive organ, the cloaca. Instead of a penis the male has a pair or copulatory organs called hemipenes. During mating only one pair of hemipenes is actually used. The other is used as a backup!