A panic-stricken cottonmouth was caught on video acting peculiarly in a North Carolina wildlife preserve — and the look was not exactly flattering.
The recording, shared June 11 on Facebook, shows the viper going so fast it actually tumbled over itself.
But that’s not the quirkiest part. Closer inspection of the video reveals the venomous snake dispensed with slithering and started sliding like a garden hose.
“This video captures a unique form of locomotion … which is to straighten out like a board and slide down a steep grade or embankment,” said herpetologist Frederick Boyce of the N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores.
“It was obviously in a big hurry and moving as fast as I’ve ever seen one of these snakes travel on land (which is not very fast, by the way). This seemed strange for a number of reasons. Cottonmouths are rarely ever in a hurry.”
Boyce recorded the video earlier this month and admits the scene puzzled him, because cottonmouths typically stay sheltered on hot, dry days (as it was that day).
Then it hit him: Minutes earlier he recorded a kingsnake swallowing a cottonmouth. And that kingsnake was last seen “heading in the direction” of the cottonmouth scrambling away, he said.
“So I feel there is very good reason to believe that this cottonmouth caught a whiff of it and was skedaddling for its life,” Boyce posted.
“I believe that cottonmouths and possibly other pit vipers are absolutely terrified of kingsnakes. They realize that they have absolutely no defense against these relentless super-predators.”
The video was recorded at a muddy coastal wildlife preserve that Boyce calls Cottonmouth Acres. The 25-acre site has about 100 “resident” cottonmouths and Boyce has a Facebook page devoted to their activities. It currently has more than 6,800 followers.
Cottonmouth Acres, with a location that is kept secret, is home to some of the state’s largest cottonmouths, including one “in excess of 5 feet,” McClatchy News reported. The average for cottonmouths is 3 to 4 feet, the state says.
The snake in the video is one Boyce said he has seen multiple times at the preserve, describing it as a “scarred male with his stub tail and one good eye.”
Boyce’s video has sparked lighthearted debate on snake forums across the nation, with some likening the movement to shimmying and others saying it looks more like the snake was skiing.
“He executed the belly slide pretty well!” one person posted.
“This made me laugh out loud. It looked so cute and funny. Like a kid rolling down a hill,” another person wrote.