What would you do if you came across two snakes locked in battle? A lot of people would run from just a single snake, much less two of them fighting. But if you’re Matthew Moore, a wildlife technician for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, you stop and make a video.
At least, that’s what Moore did recently when he came across two cottonmouth snakes — each about three and a half feet long — wrestling in a swamp in Georgia’s Bulloch County. Not counting a couple of breaks in the action, the fight lasts around eight minutes. You can watch the video below.
In the beginning of the video you can only see one of the snakes, making its way through the moss-covered roots of a cypress tree. Soon the second cottonmouth comes out to meet the first, and not long afterward they’re locked in battle. At first it almost looks like the two snakes are dancing, but what they’re really doing is a lot more more violent. After the slightly larger cottonmouth scares the other one away, the winner returns to the tree where the fight started.
Moore told the Savannah, Georgia news station WJCL that what we’re seeing in the video is a struggle for dominance. The two snakes are fighting over the right to mate with any nearby females. The wildlife technician added that his suspicion was there was a female cottonmouth nearby, possibly in the roots and tunnels beneath the same cypress he hid behind while recording the fight.
As Moore pointed out and as you can see in the video, while male cottonmouths may fight over females, the battle isn’t a death match. The snakes are venomous but when fighting for dominance, they don’t bite each other. Instead, they tangle their bodies together with each one trying to push the other down.
Cottonmouths aren’t the only names these particular snakes go by. They’re often referred to as water moccasins, swamp moccasins, or simply vipers. The name “cottonmouth” comes from their threat display, in which the reptiles open their mouths, whose linings are white like cotton. Cottonmouths are found mostly in the southeastern part of the United States, though they have been known to show up as far west as central Texas, and as far north as Illinois and Virginia.
While hiding behind a tree to record the snakes’ battle, Moore proved much luckier than some other folks have been in recent days when it comes to random snake encounters. Just a couple of weeks ago, Australian TikTokker Sarah Kirkman posted a video after returning home to find a large, venomous red-bellied black snake had destroyed her living room. Not long before that, security footage showed a 6-foot long snake attacking a shopkeeper in India.
Moore told WJCL that this cottonmouth battle isn’t the first he’s seen, and it isn’t the longest. The wildlife technician said he’s seen the fights end as quickly as 60 seconds and go as long as half an hour. Moore has a YouTube channel you can check out with a bunch of snake videos, including the 27 minute tussle he told WJCL about, from September 2016.