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Let’s take a few minutes and talk about camping near bogs, bayous, and sloughs. From the early 1980s until the late 1990s, I primarily camped around the bogs, bayous and sloughs in Southeast Texas.

Sometimes my buddies and I would hike to the camp location, sometimes we would take a boat. We had several places we would go camping. Most of them either near a marsh, or along a bayou and a bog.

There was one place in particular we visited on a semi-regular basis. The camp site was on a cut off the main bayou and near a bog. While camping there, we were just a dozen feet from the waters edge.

It was not uncommon to step off the boat, walk ten feet, and see a Cottonmouth Water Moccasin. One time, I walked right up on a cottonmouth and it struck at my boot. It was a warning strike and it did not bite. Just ten feet from that water moccasin was another one.

For close to two decades, I had somewhat regular run-ins with the Cottonmouth Water Moccasin and various other snakes.

I wish I had taken more pictures in the 1980s and 1990s of my camping trips, but alas I did not.

Camping Near Bogs, Bayous, and Sloughs



When camping near a bog or slough, one of the first things my buddies and I did was scout the area. We would look for snakes, a low areas which were holding water. We would also look for frogs. Why frogs? What eats frogs? Snakes do.

If the camp site is near a bog, bayou, or slough, and there are lots of frogs, chances are there will be snakes in the area. This is a typical predator-prey relationship. Predators go wherever the prey is at. In this case, the prey are frogs, and the predators are snakes.

Drawing from my decades of experience, if I had to pick the absolute worst place to camp, it has to be near a mud bog with just a few inches of water.

If frogs go into deep water, they get ate by fish. So it is safer to stay on the mud flats, and hope a snake does not come along.

Besides the Cottonmouth Water Moccasin, it would not be unusual to run into a harmless Water Snake (Genus Nerodia). The Water Snake is non-venomous and poses no real threat to humans. However, a bite from a Water Snake can inject bacteria under the skin, thus causing an infection.

Looking For Snakes



When setting up a campsite, just because someone does not see a snake in the area does not mean there are no snakes around. Chances are the cottonmouth is in a hole, or under some brush. After night falls they will come out and start looking for food.

Besides the cottonmouth, campers may run into the rat snake, aka chicken snake. These usually live in holes in the side of a tree, somewhere up high.

While on a camping trip a few years ago I had a hammock set up, was laying in the hammock, looked up, and there was a rat snake (chicken snake) working its way through the tree limbs. Why was it in the trees? It was probably looking for a birds nest. Staying in the trees also keeps the rat snake away from other snake species, such as the king snake, and the cottonmouth.

While looking for a camping spot, look up into the trees and look for holes in the side of trees. Rat snakes will hide in hollow places in tree trunks.

Final Thoughts

Running into a snake can be a stressful situation. This can be especially true when the person is out of their usual habitat, off in the woods and looking for a camping spot.

There were times when my buddies and I got out of the boat, walked 20 feet, and ran into two Cottonmouth Water Moccasins. There were a number of places we decided not to camp simply because there were too many snakes.

For the most part, but not always, snakes like to hunt in water that is standing still. This means they are not swept away, and they have to put forth less effort to cross the water. This makes bogs, bayous and sloughs perfect for snakes on the prowl.

Usually, I will not camp near mud bogs. If I walk up and see frogs jumping in the water of a bog, I keep going.

P.S. I took all of the pictures in this article
 

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Good article!! Applies to any body of water in areas snakes are known to be.
 
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I did a survival course in a bog. It sucked. Bugs eating me alive,wet all the time. I didn't see any snakes when I was looking for food. At least I knew it would end unlike if it was real.
The snakes hadn't recovered from the previous classes going through. If there would have been snakes, you would have found food. No survival course is going to have food available, it wouldn't be survival otherwise. :D:
 

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I love the subject, a lot of swamp as we call it here. One of natures least pleasant places to camp with heat, insects, critters and sudden rain changing the water levels but one worth learning to handle as a good bugout option. Simply for that reason its tough for others to follow.

Not sure what the worry about snakes is... are these cottonmouths an unusually bad snake? We have a lot of fatal types, some fast moving, some ambush types, most can swim but you just go about your business. Of course you watch where you put your hands and feet, check sleeping bags and boots before you get into them( snakes love warmth) but apart from that, you ignore any you see, or eat them(they are a decent food source if SHTF)...
 

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I love the subject, a lot of swamp as we call it here. One of natures least pleasant places to camp with heat, insects, critters and sudden rain changing the water levels but one worth learning to handle as a good bugout option. Simply for that reason its tough for others to follow.

Not sure what the worry about snakes is... are these cottonmouths an unusually bad snake? We have a lot of fatal types, some fast moving, some ambush types, most can swim but you just go about your business. Of course you watch where you put your hands and feet, check sleeping bags and boots before you get into them( snakes love warmth) but apart from that, you ignore any you see, or eat them(they are a decent food source if SHTF)...
Water Moccasins can be aggressive, and sometimes attack unprovoked. They dont retreat as most other snakes will, ignore one at your own peril.
I know 'experts' have said they're not aggressive, but from actual contact with them... they ARE!
One of their favorite hangouts is on branches overlooking water, one dropping into a boat results in some frantical activity. (funny, as long as it happens to someone else.) :eek:
 

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When possible, I always try to camp by water I can swim in. Makes camping far more enjoyable.


My favorite place to camp was Buckhorn State Park in Wisconsin. Right on the Wisconsin River. Spent one morning wading up the river with Bald Eagles flying around us looking at us like we were brunch.
 

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Water Moccasins can be aggressive, and sometimes attack unprovoked. They dont retreat as most other snakes will, ignore one at your own peril.
I know 'experts' have said they're not aggressive, but from actual contact with them... they ARE!
One of their favorite hangouts is on branches overlooking water, one dropping into a boat results in some frantical activity. (funny, as long as it happens to someone else.) :eek:
a snake can react aggressively, but this is still a jump from 'unprovoked attacks' to me. I usually ask for evidence or footage of them pursuing humans on sight.

Ignore them if you can't see them, kill them if you do. snake is not a difficult animal to hunt once sighted on open ground, it pretty much some natives easy meal. We have 100 venomous species, 12 are in the top 20 worlds deadliest, and I'd say the bulk of them killed here by a spade or hoe in the backyard. Snakes deserve a great deal of respect but I don't put them in the category of limiting access to an environment, like say crocodiles do.
 

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But I'll retract my comment for these species I have no experience in. Would not be good if they are something different and someone takes my comments as gospel and gets themselves bitten.
 

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I lived in the Bootheel of Missouri for many years. The area is essentially a drained swamp. But with lots of rivers, sloughs, ditches, backwaters, still some swamps.

Spent a lot of time in them fishing, hunting, and camping. We could usually find a decent camping spot, but if we were anywhere close to still water or slow water, we had to really watch for cottonmouth snakes.

I have personal experience of being chased by cotton mouths. One time, fishing, I cast into what I knew was a pretty deep hole in a very slow moving slough. Just that tiny splash disturbed a cottonmouth that I had not seen, sunning itself on a half submerged tree trunk several feet away.

Fortunately, the bank there was about three feet above the water, almost vertical, and muddy. That cottonmouth came off the tree trunk, and made straight for me. But it could not climb up the bank. But it tried.

I had drawn the Charter Arms Bulldog I was carrying, loaded with CCI shot shells for such possibilities. But since it could not get to me, I did not shoot it.

Then, not being able to reach me, the cottonmouth quickly swam upstream just a short distance, where it could get up the bank. When I saw it leave the water and realized that it was going to be right there with me in a very short period of time, I reeled in, threw the pole in the back of the truck, and got in the cab. As I was backing up to turn around, I saw the cottonmouth right there where I had been standing to fish.

My father told me about a couple of his experiences with cottonmouths chasing him. Once when he was swimming with several other people, and once when he was in a jon boat. The cottonmouth tried to climb up into the boat, but he was able to knock it away with a paddle.

Cottonmouths can be aggressive. They are not always, depending on a lot of factors, such as cooler weather, just having eaten, being pregnant, and such, but if one is 'in a mood', they are as likely to attack as just lie there. They very seldom slither away, but will sometimes.

Some of the other things when camping in areas like that are to have a no-see-um head net, wear long sleeves, pants, and full coverage footwear. Plenty of good bug spray, and treat the clothing with permethrin. Never step over anything that you cannot see the other side, and never step on something that could turn or roll, or you would be likely to slide off, because if you do not know what is under or on the other side, it very well could be a snake, possum, raccoon, or another of the animals that will take a chunk out of you if startled.

And believe me, possum may play dead, but if you provoke one, or catch one by surprise, those needle teeth will penetrated and then tear when they pull back. And with their regular diet, there is no telling what nastiness is in their mouth.

Raccoons can be the same way, though they are a lot smarter than possum. The biggest danger from raccoon, however, is for dogs. If around the water, and a dog disturbs a raccoon, the raccoon will lead the dog into the water, turn on it, climb up on its head, and drown it. Again, my father's personal experience, as well as being told the same thing from several other people. Raccoons, dogs, and water are a very dangerous mix for the dogs.

Sleeping in the open is really chancy in these areas. Snakes, as well as other animals, like either the warmth or the salt that humans have. And will come right up if a person is sleeping deeply, without much movement. A tent with a tub floor, zipped tight, with the windows open is a lot better option. And spray the thing a while before dark and close it up to kill any bugs that might have entered while you were in and out of it during the day.

Not only will they bite or sting, the buzzing, at least for me, nearly drives me crazy until I kill whatever it is.

Cottonmouths were around the water for the most part. But there were copperheads in the area, too. And there were plenty of them when we lived outside of St. Louis when I was younger. And while they are not usually aggressive, they do seem to mate for life, and if you kill one, be very cautious, because the mate is likely to be agitated and aggressive. Especially if it is close when you kill the first one. Even a few days later, it will still likely strike if it comes across someone or a dog, or the human or dog comes across it.

Just some of the things I learned back in the Bootheel.

Just my opinion.
 

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a snake can react aggressively, but this is still a jump from 'unprovoked attacks' to me. I usually ask for evidence or footage of them pursuing humans on sight.

Ignore them if you can't see them, kill them if you do. snake is not a difficult animal to hunt once sighted on open ground, it pretty much some natives easy meal. We have 100 venomous species, 12 are in the top 20 worlds deadliest, and I'd say the bulk of them killed here by a spade or hoe in the backyard. Snakes deserve a great deal of respect but I don't put them in the category of limiting access to an environment, like say crocodiles do.
I know first hand and on many occasions that these snakes will come at you.

"ignore them if you can't see them"? If you can't see them, there is nothing to ignore. And instead of killing them (unless you have/need to), leave them alone. They still serve a purpose in Mother Natures grand scope of things.

I do agree with snakes not determining where I camp. Camp smart and they won't be an issue. I am much more concerned about alligators at night than snakes during any time of the day or night. Hell, I'm more concerned with ants than with snakes.
 

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To each their own... :) I live only a few miles from Murphey's Pond, thought to be the densest concentration of Cottonmouths in the US. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murphy's_Pond
Entry is now restricted but students and professors of Murray State Uni., which now owns and administers the site, and studies litteraly hundreds of these vipers on a regular basis will tell you that they are generally no more aggressive than other poisonous snakes. They do however have a threatening alarm 'display.'
 

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I know first hand and on many occasions that these snakes will come at you.
We're probably just debating semantics,I agree snakes can act aggressively if disturbed close range. What I challenge is snakes pursuing a human on sight, or continuing the chase if the human departs. I'd like to see footage of it occurring if someone claims it.

"ignore them if you can't see them"? If you can't see them, there is nothing to ignore.
yep thats what I meant, don't worry about what you cant see. My saying is for every snake you spot you probably missed half a dozen between times...
I do agree with snakes not determining where I camp. Camp smart and they won't be an issue. I am much more concerned about alligators at night than snakes during any time of the day or night. Hell, I'm more concerned with ants than with snakes.
Agree 100%, here its crocodiles, night and day. :thumb:
 

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@sixtus Do you guys eat crocs? I've eaten gator tail a few times. When the S hits the fan Mr. Cottonmouth will make a tempting target for a 'snagging' rig and a nice strong treble hook.
 

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@sixtus Do you guys eat crocs? I've eaten gator tail a few times. When the S hits the fan Mr. Cottonmouth will make a tempting target for a 'snagging' rig and a nice strong treble hook.
Only farmed crocs, aka those kept for leather products which also produce some croc meat/jerky on the market. Crocs are protected from individual hunting here . They were almost shot out in the 60's, now plague proportions again, but the government is slow to allow culling/hunting to restart. Every few years some more tourists/pet dogs/cows get eaten and they revisit the issue....Yes agree reptiles are a good option for consumption :thumb:
 

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I love the subject, a lot of swamp as we call it here. One of natures least pleasant places to camp with heat, insects, critters and sudden rain changing the water levels but one worth learning to handle as a good bugout option. Simply for that reason its tough for others to follow.

Not sure what the worry about snakes is... are these cottonmouths an unusually bad snake? We have a lot of fatal types, some fast moving, some ambush types, most can swim but you just go about your business. Of course you watch where you put your hands and feet, check sleeping bags and boots before you get into them( snakes love warmth) but apart from that, you ignore any you see, or eat them(they are a decent food source if SHTF)...
Snake advice is something I like and know not all of it is true. There is one venomous snake in my state I'm sure I will spell it wrong Missagua Rattle Snake, and I have not heard of a fatality from it.

I don't plan on living down south but wouldn't mind a hunt or to when it's feasible for me so I read everybody's snake advice and look for the common denominators.

I know several people that will face a bear on a trail without drawing their weapon but would never deer hunt where there might be a venomous snake.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Most of the cottonmouths I ran into seem to have a chip on their shoulder. Rather than slithering away, they were posed and ready to strike.

It was as if they were saying, "Come at me bro."

there were times when my buddies and I were riding down a bayou in a boat, saw a cottonmouth on top of a tree stump and it never moved.

I have almost stepped on them, and they held their ground.
 
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