It’s awkward when venomous snakes get caught having sex at a tourist attraction, but a rare exception recently played out on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
Two lustful cottonmouths decided their perfect spot was outside the doors of the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education in Corolla, and they were photographed in the act.
“We had some unexpected visitors this morning!!” the center’s staff posted on Facebook, with the photo. “These Cottonmouths were performing a courtship dance behind our center.”
The photo shows the two pit vipers entangled in a bed of pine straw, their necks craned high as they danced face to face.
Unsettling? Maybe. But inappropriate? Visitors to the tourist center probably got more of a wildlife education than they expected.
“These are a native species of venomous snake in North Carolina,” the post added. “If you ever come upon snakes in the wild, please view them a safe distance. Whether they are venomous or not, they are wild animals.”
Reaction to the July 4 holiday weekend post has been less than supportive of the snakes.
“Thanks for the warning, but not in my yard or my pond,” said Bob Clark on the center’s Facebook page.
“Suddenly I’ve lost any desire to go back to the Whalehead area,” wrote Maria Casey.
“Now that I know what their mating ritual looks like...where’s my AR,” posted Elsa Agdeppa Aho.
Videos on YouTube show cottonmouths literally do “a dance” as they mate, raising their upper bodies in the air, following each other’s movements as they gently sway, and entwining themselves.
The water-loving snakes grow up to 6 feet long in North Carolina, and have a venom that can put people in the hospital, state wildlife officials say. It can also kill, if the victim has an allergic reaction.
Cottonmouths — also known as water moccasins — mate in the spring and fall and give birth to as many as 14 young between August and October, according to NCWildlife.org. Their young are born about 10 inches long, the site says.