From Xplor for Kids
February 2011 Issue

Photos With Nop and Dave: Cranky Snake

Publish Date

Feb 02, 2011

Nop Paothong lay belly-down on the forest floor, trying hard not to irritate the large and quite venomous cottonmouth coiled 3 feet in front of him. It was mid-March, and the bluff overlooking Mingo National Wildlife Refuge was slithering with enough snakes to film an Indiana Jones movie.

Most snakes flee when humans creep too close. Western cottonmouths, also called water moccasins, often hold their ground. When scared, they spread their jaws to expose the cotton-white lining of their mouths. This behavior, called gaping, is a way to say, “Don’t mess with me.”

When Nop saw the snake in front of him gape, he shot several quick photos. Nop’s sudden movement made the snake strike. It was a bluff—the snake barely moved—but Nop still flinched.

This cranky attitude gives cottonmouths a bad rap for being aggressive. Although Nop doesn’t advise getting close to a cottonmouth, he says nothing could be further from the truth.

“Cottonmouths don’t want to waste venom on something they can’t eat,” Nop says. “They’re wellequipped to defend themselves, but they just want to be left alone.”


Also in this issue

You Discover

With winter almost gone and spring right around the corner, there’s plenty for you to discover outside in February and March. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Wild Jobs: Bug Detective Rob Lawrence

Bad bugs beware. Insect investigator Rob Lawrence is on the case.

My Outdoor Adventure

At first, Cedar was content to watch his dad and uncle snag paddlefish.

Vulture Culture

The sickly sweet smell of rotting flesh hangs in the humid air. A large black bird circles overhead, homing in on the scent. It soon spies the source, a dead opossum swollen in the sun like a furry balloon.

Xplor More: Time to Build a Bluebird House

What’s red, white and blue, eats bugs, and sings in the spring? It’s Missouri’s state bird, the eastern bluebird.

This Issue's Staff:

David Besenger
Bonnie Chasteen
Chris Cloyd
Peg Craft
Brett Dufur
Les Fortenberry
Chris Haefke
Karen Hudson
Regina Knauer
Kevin Lanahan
Kevin Muenks
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
Tim Smith
David Stonner
Nichole Leclair Terrill
Stephanie Thurber
Alicia Weaver
Cliff White
Kipp Woods

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