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Watch three male cottonmouths battle for female snake’s attention in Alabama swamp

Snakes caught in ‘fight’ on video

A video from a botanist in residence at Herpetology at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn., shows three male cottonmouth snakes trying to establish dominance for mating purposes.
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A video from a botanist in residence at Herpetology at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn., shows three male cottonmouth snakes trying to establish dominance for mating purposes.

This is how we imagine Medusa might look — if the Greek goddess swam in a swamp.

Three male cottonmouths were caught on video last month apparently battling for the attention of a nearby female snake in Huntsville, Alabama.

At first, just two snakes quarrel with their heads and part of their bodies swaying above swamp water, video shows.

Then a third snake joins the melee, with the trio dunking each other under the surface and intertwining their bodies in a fight for dominance, video shows.

Austin Peay State University graduate research assistant Claire Ciafré captured the footage while researching for her thesis. While her focus is on plants, Ciafré says she took the video to make her friends researching cottonmouths jealous.

“At the time I thought they were mating so I didn’t think it was that big of a deal,” Ciafré told McClatchy. “When I showed our university herpetologist he told me what was actually happening, and that it’s not often caught on video.”

The herpetologist told Ciafré that the snakes were in a competition for dominance, she said. The losers eventually tire and leave, allowing the winner to stay and mate with the nearby female cottonmouth, Ciafré said.

As for her reaction to seeing the three snakes, Ciafré said she wasn’t afraid. Instead, Ciafré says she has a healthy respect for the animals and knew to keep a safe distance away from the fight.

“I hope at least some people come away from the video with curiosity and fascination that these animals can be interesting and worth watching and protecting,” Ciafré said.

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Chacour Koop is a Real-Time reporter based in Kansas City. Previously, he reported for the Associated Press, Galveston County Daily News and Daily Herald in Chicago.
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