01/03/2024

There’s a commune of venomous cottonmouths on NC coast, and they have a Facebook page

If North Carolina has such a thing as celebrity wildlife, it would include a group of 100-plus venomous cottonmouths living in a secret spot near the coast. This bunch of pit vipers are the stars of their own Facebook page — Cottonmouth Acres. The page has more than 6,400 followers and a bold approach to the things shared online.

“The more time I spend with them, the more I understand them, and the more I admire and like them,” Boyce told McClatchy News. “I am hoping that this will give me a much better opportunity to show these fascinating animals to more people as I have come to know them, which is very much at odds with the widespread myths and misconceptions that have plagued them for centuries.”

Among his recent posts: A “coming out party” of cottonmouths piled atop each other to enjoy the sun and a video of two males wrestling. “Male cottonmouths will engage in combat wrestling not only for females but also for other reasons such as access to food resources,” Boyce noted in one video. “These contests are highly ritualized and gentlemanly, and no biting is allowed!”

Cottonmouth Acres is made up of “wetland and swamp forest intersected by a network of drainage ditches,” which experts say is like Disneyland for semi-aquatic snakes. It also is home to a lot of biting insects and poison ivy, which keeps people out, Boyce says.

Only once in the past four years — last June — has a cottonmouth been “induced to sᴛʀɪᴋᴇ,” despite the fact Boyce says he has “accidentally stepped very close to a few.” This led him to conclude cottonmouths have an undeserved reputation for being ᴀɢɢʀᴇssɪᴠᴇ.

“While snakes are possibly the most misunderstood and misjudged of all the vertebrate animals, cottonmouths are perhaps the most misunderstood and wrongfully maligned of all snakes, at least in North America,” Boyce says.

“I have experimentally and very gently placed objects into their open mouths, and instead of snapping their jaws shut, as one might expect, the snakes only seem confused. … I have stepped all around gaping cottonmouths, taking photos at very close range and practically inserting the lens of my camera into their mouths without eliciting any sort of sᴛʀɪᴋᴇ, though I am careful to never actually touch them.” Boyce says the information gathered by his observations will eventually be included in a research paper.

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