Though we rarely actually see them here in Florida, Attila and I roam among a wide variety of dangerous critters – alligators, scorpions, black widows, rattlesnakes etc. But it is HE, the cottonmouth, aka water moccasin, I fear the most…. Alligators are shy and will avoid humans (unless some moron has been feeding them). I’ve been stung by scorpions, and it’s no worse than a bee sting. Black widows are reclusive, and can be avoided by not sticking your hand in dark places where it does not belong…. The rattlesnake is a reptile “samurai” – it has honor, and one can reach an accommodation with one. You hear the rattle, and if you agree not to come closer, it will agree not to bite you.

But the cottonmouth has no honor. He is camouflaged, and will strike from seemingly nowhere. He is often aggressive and territorial…. Beware that thick body, narrow neck and triangular head!

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David Churchill Barrow is a regular Liberty Island contributor and along with his wife, MaryLu Barrow, is the author of the young adult novella Silver and Lead.