During a Photography/hiking trip to the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma in 2014, I had a close encounter with a Cottonmouth. Despite the cool morning temperature, this snake was far from sluggish. As I approached it for a closer look and photo opportunity, it suddenly turned and lunged at me with its mouth wide open. I quickly realized that this was a threatening move, and I retreated after taking a few photos.

Cottonmouth - Water Moccasin

Cottonmouth – Water Moccasin

Encountering a venomous snake in the wild can be a frightening experience. Among the most feared of these snakes is the Water Moccasin, also known as the Cottonmouth. This species, which is native to the southeastern United States, is named for the white interior of its mouth that it displays as a warning when it feels threatened.

The Defensive Display of the Cottonmouth

When a Cottonmouth perceives a threat, it opens its mouth wide to reveal the white coloration inside. This display is meant to intimidate potential predators and warn them to back off. The white coloration is reminiscent of cotton, hence the name Cottonmouth.

Staying Safe While Hiking

If you enjoy hiking or nature photography, it’s essential to be aware of the potential dangers that come with being in the wild. Snakes like the Cottonmouth are not aggressive towards humans, but they will defend themselves if they feel threatened. To avoid being bitten, stay alert and watch where you step. If you encounter a snake, give it plenty of space and do not attempt to handle or provoke it in any way.


The Cottonmouth is a venomous snake that is easily recognized by its unique defensive display. While encounters with these snakes can be intimidating, they are generally not aggressive towards humans. By staying alert and taking appropriate precautions, you can safely enjoy the beauty of nature without putting yourself in harm’s way.

I was hand-holding a Canon EOS 7D with a Canon EF 100-400 mm f/4.5-5.6L IS lens attached.

Camera Settings:

  • AV Mode
  • Aperture: f6.3
  • ISO: 1000
  • Shutter speed: 1/800 sec.
  • Focal Length: 400 mm

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