I really wanted to title this article, "Think You Saw a Water Moccasin in New Jersey? You're Definitely Wrong," but since there was just an alligator in Middlesex, New Jersey...nothing is impossible.
What gives me the confidence to tell an entire state that they are probably wrong when they say that they saw a water moccasin AKA a cottonmouth snake while they were tubing, kayaking, fishing, or participating in any other water activity in New Jersey? Well, I spent almost a decade of my childhood volunteering with reptiles at Cattus Island County Park in Toms River. That, and the fact that snakes are my second favorite animal...so I do my research.
It took a quick search on Facebook and X, the social media platform previously known as Twitter, typing in "New Jersey water moccasin," to find a few mentions of the snake being in New Jersey.
Not sure what the one Twitter user got bit by, but odds are it wasn't a cottonmouth.
The name alone gives an indication of where the snake lives, the south.
The farthest north water moccasins reside in is Southeast Virginia, which would mean the snake would have to traverse two states and a bay to get to New Jersey or two states and the Delaware River to get here.
Could it potentially happen? Sure. Likely? Nope.
So what do people mistake for a water mocassin here in the Garden State?
The northern water snake.
Above: Northern Water Snake
Below: Cottonmouth (Water Moccasin)
They look very similar. If you were just minding your own business and then were startled by something slithering by you, it would be an easy mistake to make.
In New Jersey, we only have two venomous snakes, the northern copperhead and the timber rattlesnake. The copperhead can be found in North Jersey, while the timber rattlesnake can be found in far North Jersey and then in Central Jersey spreading down into South Jersey in parts.
However, don't be too alarmed, snakes are very good at avoiding people so they would much prefer to hide from you than strike at you.