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- i'm coyote peterson. right now we're hiking inthe southern swamps of texas, which is home to twodifferent water snake species. one is venomous, and one is not. if your life depended on it, would you be able totell the difference? (dramatic music) stick around, 'causewe're about to show ya. (dramatic jungle music)

(animal growling) as the sun cut through thetops of the cypress trees, i carefully made myway into the swamp. every step counts whenyou're in the back country of south texas. and as my boots slowly splashedthrough the dark water, my focus was completely intune with the environment. i knew that it was onlya matter of time before i would find the onereptile that most people

are terrified of. ah. - [cameraman] hey, whatare you looking for? - snakes, and nothing yet. you know, most people areout there and they're hiking and they stumble upon snakeswhen they don't expect to. me, i'm always lookin' for 'em. but if you do comeacross one in the wild, i think it's really importantto identify the species.

a lot of times you havea non-venomous snake that will look likea venomous one. unfortunately, thesenon-venomous snakes are then vilifiedas being venomous and a lot of times theyend up being killed. my goal today is to catchone non-venomous snake and one venomous snakeso we can show you the distinct differencesbetween the two. ah, it's a long searchout here in the swamps.

i'm not givin' up. we are gonna find some snakes. (water splashing) (suspenseful music) (yelling) yes! yes! check it out. okay, little bitey,little bitey. ah, ah, ah, ah,he's got my finger.

ouch! ah, good news for me, though, is that this oneis non-venomous. bring it up in thelight, check that out. that is a broad-bandedwater snake. woo, okay. that is half of theequation right there. watch your gopro. he's trying to bite ya.

well, that's the safe one. now we gotta find the moccasin. whew, awesome! man, definitely got my thumb. a bite from this one andi'm gonna be just fine. but the other snakewe're lookin' for? the water mocassin? if that attacked my thumb, we wouldn't be gettin' shots.

we'd be on our wayto the hospital. look at that. let me get 'em real closefor your camera there. woah! - [cameraman] he's bitey. beautiful snake. - okay, cool. well, let's keepsearching for moccasins. you do not wanna dois just accidentally

step on a venomous snake. this is definitelymoccasin territory. there's a moccasin right there. okay, come up slow. - [cameraman] where? - right up againstthe side of that tree. - [cameraman] oh, i see. - wow, look at how big it is. okay, now this it the real deal.

stay back. (exhaling) okay. stay a couple steps back out. now, they usuallymove pretty slow. i'm gonna try to hookit and bring it up here on the path. you ready? - [cameraman] yup.

careful. - oh, oh, oh, oh, oh. startle. - [cameraman] careful. - got it by the tail,got it by the tail. okay, there we go. do not wanna take abite from this snake. that one will sendya to the hospital. okay, bringing itup on the path here.

wow, okay. ooh, rattle in thetail a little bit. that is a defensive sign. ah, ah, ah, tss, tss, tss, tss. it should just stop for us. come here, come here. there we go. all right, what we needto do now is just get the snake under controlso that we can get it

up close for the cameras. let me move it backa little bit here. ha, my nerves are goin'. just looking intothe water there and that's how wellthese things camouflage. i just saw it out ofthe corner of my eye, just an obscure shapeup against that cypress. and that's whatthese snakes will do. you don't often seethem slithering about

like you would a water snake. they'll often be just like this, curled up in a ball somewheretrying to stay camouflaged, trying to stay away fromany potential predators. then again, if you weregonna try to eat this snake, you better be quickbecause if you're tagged by those fangs, you are goingto be in a world of trouble. now this is a water moccasin, but they are famouslyknown as cottonmouths.

and watch this. i'll get the snaketo open its mouth and you'll seethat white throat. that is a defensive, woah, see? and look, he got thetail goin' now, too. you see that? mimicking a rattlesnake,saying i am venomous. yes, we know thatyou are venomous. i can actually seethe fangs tucked back.

woo, i am drippin' bulletsof sweat right now. let me back up a touch. okay, well perfect. we have the two snakespecies that are indigenous to this habitat. a water moccasin and abroad-banded water snake. one venomous, one that is not. stick around and we'llshow you which is which. wow.

check this out. completely calm nowconsidering the fact just a few minutes agothis snake was doing everything it could tobite me and get away. this is the broad-bandedwater snake. and look at thisincredibly calm demeanor. now i noticed the same thingwith lake erie water snakes and northern water snakes. at first it's allabout fight or flight.

if they can't get awayand you catch 'em, they immediatelytry to bite you. now the good news forme, like i said before, is that this is anon-venomous species. - [cameraman] so howbig do the snakes get? i mean, do thesesnakes get as big as a northern water snake? - yeah, they do. i would say this isabout average size for

one of these snakes. it is i'd say about twoand a half feet in length. but they can grow out tobe about three and a half or four feet at a maximum size. females are largerthan the males, and i do believe it's amale, looking at its cloaca. yeah, you're a handsomefella, aren't ya? now, these snakes areoften misidentified. people see them near the water

and they automaticallythink it's a water moccasin. this is a very commonspecies all across the southeastern united states. and the reason people mistakeit for a water moccasin is mostly the fact that a,it's right by the water, and b, the coloration. i'm gonna turn thesnake just a little bit. you see all that darkbrown that runs the length of the body?

and then that fadedbanding looks just like a younger water moccasin. but then of course ifyou flip the snake over and look at its belly, look at all thatcopper checkering. you will not find thaton a water moccasin. and not that you'dever necessarily see the belly of the snake, but i just think that that'sreally, really cool lookin'.

ho, ho, this isactually the first time i have caught thisspecies of snake. and it is just soincredibly calm right now. i cannot believe howcomfortable this snake has gotten with us, and we've only been handlingit for a few minutes. oh, but it did musk on me. there you go. see that white stuffon my hand right there?

- [cameraman] ew. - oh, yeah, it stinks. that is anotherdefense mechanism. poop on a potential predatorif it's trying to eat me. all right, but i'mnot gonna eat you. don't worry. we could just hangout and be friends. wow, this snake is so cool. well, i think at thisjuncture we should bring out

the water moccasin. i'm gonna hand thesnake off to mario. he's gonna bringin the moccasin. this is gonna be alittle more dangerous. hopefully we'll get thatsnake to just calm down on the ground and we'll getthe cameras up close for it so we can show you thedistinct field markings of that snake. all right, you ready?

- [mario] yup. - all right, now we're gonnabring in the water moccasin. ah, just keep yourwits about you 'cause this is going to beslightly more dangerous. okay, let me bring it over here. come here, come here, come here. - [cameraman] slightlyis an understatement. - [coyote] yeah. i got it, i got it, i got it.

sling it in under. hold on, let me get her to stop. shht, shht. - [cameraman] so, coyote,the water snake you just held had anticoagulant in its saliva. this snake has venom. what would this snake do to you? - this snake would, dependingon how your body reacted, it could potentially kill you.

there are not manyreported deaths from water moccasin bites. however, that venomis incredibly toxic and it will break downyour red blood cells. you could lose a finger, you could lose your hand. let's just put it this way. if i'm tagged by this snake, we are leaving thescene and we are heading

to the hospital. so i need to be extracareful right now. mark, we've got you acouple feet past the snake. we've got mariojust off camera here making sure if thesnake makes a move, he can keep it awayfrom you, mark. but other than that, if we just staycalm and collected just like this infront of the snake,

we should be just fine. you see, the snake'snot trying to flee. it's just keeping itselflow to the ground, its body spread. look how wide andgirthy that snake is. now these snakes,like the banded watersnakes, are aquatic. however, they do not divedown under water to hunt. you will see themoccasionally moving from pocket of water topocket of water,

but they usually arehunting on the embankment. these snakes do not haverattles like rattlesnakes and they rely on theircamouflage to keep them hidden. a lot of times people willbe walking down a trail, you accidentallystep on the snake, and that's how you are bitten. this snake has nointerest in chasing or hurting humans. if you just admire thisanimal from a safe distance,

you're gonna be just fine. okay, so the most importantpart of this episode is that we want toshow you a comparison of this snake next to thebroad-banded water snake. now to do that i'mgoing to have to get the water moccasinunder control, which means i'm gonnause my snake hook to gently pin its head andthen pick the snake up. mario's gonna bring in thebroad-banded water snake,

we're gonna putthem side-by-side, and show you thedistinct field marks so that you can properlyidentify these snakes if you ever come acrossthem in the wild. - [mark] should weget in for a shot? - [coyote] i am gently goingto get position of her head just like this. i want my fingers justbehind the head like that. - [mark] this is themost dangerous thing

you can do witha venomous snake. - yup. never, ever, ever do whatyou see me doing here. i'll get fullcontrol of the body. yeah, well you noticemy hand is shaking. now never, ever, ever tryto pick up a venomous snake like you just saw me do. the only reason thati headed this snake is so that we canget both of these

right next to each other. i've got a gentle yetfirm grip on the back of her head justbehind the venom glands and full control of the body. you won't see memoving too much more for this scene. i just kind of gotta collectmy nerves, stay calm. mario, go ahead and bring inthe broad-banded water snake. - [mario] there we go.

- cool. - lookin' a little nervous. - little bit. kind of have a dangeroussnake here in my hand. she's calmed down a bit. you can see her tongue'sflickin' out now, so that's good. she's not trying toexpose her fangs. now the water moccasin,because it it a pit viper

and it has these twomassive venom glands, has a verytriangular-shaped head. you pan over to thebroad-banded water snake, and its head isactually very narrow. however, when thesebroad-banded water snakes are threatened, theywill flatten their heads and puff them up, formingthem into a triangle, which often times causespeople to misidentify them for water moccasins.

it's good news for the snakeif it draws off a predator, but it's bad news ifthat predator's a human, and then unfortunatelythat snake usually ends up being killed. hoo, sorry, a little nervous. let's look on the heads aswell at the snake's eye. so i'm just gonna slightly turn. - [mario] i'll move,you stay there. - okay, okay.

you'll notice thatthe water moccasin has a vertical pupil whilethe broad-banded water snake has a circular pupil. i don't imagine anybodyout there watching is ever gonna getface-to-face with either of these snake species, but if you happen upon oneand you see a vertical pupil, you know it's amoccasin and you know that it's venomous.

now the last difference onthe face of these snakes is the fact that the watermoccasin is a pit viper. now right up front thereyou'll see a nostril and just behind thatyou see another hole in-between thenostril and the eye. that is the heat-sensingpit which allows these snakes to detectnot only their prey, but potential predatorsin the environment. now when you look at thebroad-banded water snake,

you'll notice that itdoes not have pits, just eyes and nostrils. when you look at thesetwo snakes overhead, you can see how similarthey are in coloration. now the broad-banded watersnake has more distinct banding, but if you were tojust see these snakes at a quick glance, they are pretty similar-looking. but you'll notice thatthe water moccasin

has a much girthierflattened body as compared to thebanded water snake. look at thatdifference right there. - [mark] but theirscales look similar. - [coyote] they do, don't they? and both species haverough keeled scales which allows them toquickly be able to move through this rugged environment. - [mark] can we see the bellies?

i know that's anotherbig difference. - [mark] wow, look at that. - yup, now you're neverlikely to see the belly of these two snakesnext to each other, but as you can see, the banded water snake isbeautiful and checkered, and the water moccasinis just kind of plain and cream-colored. not that that makes thesnake any less special.

(mario sniffing) - i smell something, coyote. - you do. i smell that same thing. both of these snakesright now are musking, which is a final defensetactic in the event that somethingtries to eat them. that musk is coming outof their bottom ends, and if you're a predatorand you get that

in your mouth, ittastes really bad. so as you can tell, these snakes have manydifferent defenses against potential predators. for everyone out there watching, we want you to knowthat these two snakes are very difficultto distinguish from one another. and if you see a snakeout there in the wild,

definitely treat itas if it's venomous. if it's a moccasinand you take a bite, you're gonna be ina lot of trouble. so it's best to justalways admire these animals from a safe distance. i'm coyote peterson. be brave! stay wild. we'll see you onthe next adventure.

all right, youready to let 'em go? - let's do it. - back into the wildwith these snakes. working with snakesis one of the most dangerous aspects of this job, and the reason i doit is so that we can learn about theseincredible animals and hopefully walk awaywith a newfound respect for even the onesthat we are afraid of.

if you thought thisepisode was fascinating, make sure to go backand watch as mario and i compared analligator to a crocodile. and don't forget, subscribe, so you can join me andthe crew on this season of breaking trail. (birds chirping)

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