|Common Name||Copperhead snake, chunk head, dry-land moccasin,|
narrow-banded copperhead, highland moccasin,
northern copperhead, poplar leaf, pilot snake,
red snake, white oak snake, red oak, southeastern copperhead,
American copperhead, southern copperhead
|Scientific Name||Agkistrodon contortrix|
|Captive Lifespan||12 to 20 years|
|Size||2 – 3 feet on an average. Typically reaches 2½ feet in length;|
rarely, it can reach slightly more than 4 1/3 feet
|Mass||½ to ¾ of a pound|
|Habitat||Meadows, talus slopes, pastureland,|
mixed woodlands, among rocks,
and along watercourses (ponds, lakes)
|Country of Origin||North America|
Copperheadsnakes possess a heavy, thick, muscular body, with adistinct coppery-russet or coppery-orange head. They lack a well-defined eye stripe. The color patterns consist of a groundcolor that is typically pale tan to salmon pinkish. The ground color turnsdarker towards the copperhead snake’s foreline and is overlaid with crossbands.
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The characteristic crossbands of copperhead snakes are darker towardsthe edges, ranging from light tan-pinkish-pale brown in the center. Thecrossbands do not extend towards the ventral scales.
A majorcharacteristic of Agkistrodoncontortrix’s color motifs is that both the crossbandpattern, as well as the ground color are rather pale in this particularsubspecies of the Viperidae family,unlike in other subspecies, namely A. c. Laticinctus, A. c. mokasen, A. c.phaeogaster, and A. c. pictigaster.
Usually, thecrossbands alternate on either side of the coppehead’s body, divided at themidline. Some individuals may have more half bands than complete bands.
Next, to the belly, a series of dark brown spots are noticeable, thedarkest and the largest of which are located in the spaces right between thecrossbands.
A copperhead snake’s belly is thesame color as the ground color, however, it may be a bit whitish in part,too.
One to three (commonly two) brown crossbands are found at the base ofthe tail, followed by a distinctly gray zone.
The pattern of the tail, featuring 7-9 quite visible crossbands, withthe tip of the tail yellow in color, is typically more distinct in juvenilecopperhead snakes than in adults.
The crown on the copperhead snake’s head zone is unmarked, with theexception of only a pair of small, dark sport, located near each parietalscale’s midline. A postocular stripe can be also spotted, although it is quitefaint, bordered below by a brown, narrow edge, and diffusing above.
With a head that is colored in solid, rich brown, and is very distinctfrom the rest of the body, the temperature-sensitive pit organs are presentbetween the nostril and the eye, right below the midline.
When clad in the nuances of the fallen leaves during the autumn season,copperhead snakes are almost invisible, masterfully coiled on the forest flooras they sit in quiet ambush.
Adult copperhead snakes can grow to a traditionallength, including the tail, of 50–95cm. Males aretypically larger than females. Even though some specimen may exceed 3.3 ft. inlength, this happens rarely and is considered exceptional for these species.
Getting the well-fitting name from their distinctly copper-red heads, itis not uncommon for other snakes to be referred to as copperhead snakes. Eventhough radiated rat snakes, Australian copperheads, water moccasins (akacottonmouths), and sharp-nosed pit vipers are generally called copperheads, itis crucial to note that these species are different from the Agkistrodon contortrix (North American copperhead).
Other nonvenomous snake species that have similar coloring to that ofcopperheads are also frequently confused for real copperhead snakes.
However, copperheads are effortless to recognize because of being theonly type of snakes with markings that come in hourglass-like shapes.
Like other snakes such as water moccasins and rattlesnakes, copperhead snakes are pit vipers. Pitvipers are known for possessing specific heat-sensory pits located on each sideof the head between nostril and eye.
It is thanks to these heat-sensory pits how the different types ofcopperhead snakes can detect the differences in temperature. Once thesedifferences are detected, copperheads can strike the source of the heat, whichin most cases is their potential prey.
There arefive subspecies of copperhead snakes in total, and they are distributed based on geographic range, namelythe northern, the southern, the northwestern, and two southwestern subspecies.
NaturalHabitat & Lifespan
The maximum longevity of copperhead snakes kept in captivity is 29.8years, but typically averages between 12 and 20 years. In the wild, the lifeexpectancy of copperhead snakes is lower than those kept in captivity, usuallyranging from 15 to 18 years.
Northerncopperheads can be found in a variety of terrains along the U.S. east coast, ranging from Georgia to Massachusetts,and from Alabama to Illinois. They particularlylike rocky outcroppings but can be also found in marshes, forests, wooded slopes,ravines, and coastal areas.
A single copperhead snake or a pair of copperhead snakes can be kept ina suitable terrarium, with a capacity of 30 to 50 gallon.
You can choose to add live plants to enhance the vivarium’snaturalistic appearance and aesthetics, but also because of practical reasons, asplants aid in taking best care of a copperhead snake’s nitrogen waste, whilefurther providing shelter and comfort.
Do make sure you only choose plants that are completely safe andnon-toxic, though, and mind that live plants must be chosen based on yourterrarium’s heating,temperature, lighting, as well as husbandry requirements.
Although it is not a must, it is great to consider adding a hide box ascopperhead snakes are truly fond of seeking cover. For instance, you can use asmall rock cave or a log placed on its side, thus, allowing for your pet toenjoy laying in ambush.
Usually, copperhead snakes spend most of their time relatively in theopen. However, as they regularly seek shelter, a hide box is quite essentialfor enhancing their well-being.
As a rule of thumb, provided food is frequently placed at the veryentrance of their hide box spot, copperheads can become quite food“aggressive.”
With newborncopperheads reaching only about are 0.17 meters (0.55 feet), they can be housed successfully if kept insomething as seemingly small as a 6QT tub. For a more natural feel, you canmake use of heat-treated leaves, sticks, and/or rocks collected from theoutside or readily-available at stores.
Since adult copperheads average 2.5– 3.5 feet ( 0.7 – 1 meter), a cage with the dimensionof 4 x 2 x 1.6 feet (1.2x 0.6 x 0.5 meters) can work great for housing a pair of adultcopperhead snakes.
It is imperative not to allow fecal material to sit in the cage, as the snake caneasily crawl through it. Doing so can result in skin infections. Skininfections can often lead to other health issues.
Beforeservicing, always remove the snake from the cage. Chlorhexidine solutions are suitablecleaning products.
Being burrowing snakes, the most natural substrate for copperheads consistsof dry fallen maple or oak leaves. Folded newspaper, aspen shavings, cypressshavings, several layers of paper towels, or pelleted newspapers can also workas excellent substrates.
Copperhead snakes can be maintained on a wide range of substrates successfully,including aspen shavings/chips bedding and mulch. Terrariums featuring liveplants and natural soil also make a wonderful choice.
As Copperheadsare real camouflage masters,the best way to witness and admire their natural behavior is to set them upwith sticks, rocks, plants, and soil, allowing for their inquisitiveness toshine. Then again, hiding areas, such as a plastic hide box or small, hollowlogs placed strategically should be provided to ensure a copperhead’s comfortand well-being.
Temperature,Lighting, and Humidity
It is highly recommended to maintain a natural light pattern mimickingthe normal daytime lightpattern.
Copperheadsnakes are not too pretentious when it comes to temperaturegradient. However, it is crucial to keep the temperature at well-controlledrates, ranging from 29-32°C (85-90 °F) on the warm side to about 24-27 °C (75-80 °F) on the cool side.
You can use a basking lamp to provide daytime illumination, making surenot to exceed a hot spot of 92 to 95 °F (33 Celsius – 35 Celsius) vs. a low-temperature nighttime spot thatdoes not drop below 60+ °F (15.5Celsius).
Although copperhead snakes do not require specific humidity rates to bemaintained at all times, it is crucial to add humidity in the case your pet isto have shedding issues.
Also, it is important for copperheads to have a dry place to rest, asthis helps them to keep their scales dry by preventing them from having directcontact with moisture constantly.
Juvenile copperhead snakes should be fed with freshly born pinky mice,their meals divided into appropriately sized weekly portions.
With newborn copperheads,feeding can be difficult at the start, as they tend not to want to eat miceimmediately. Because of this, you need to establish a suitable starter feedingroutine. You can begin by offering your baby copperhead snake frozen-thawedrodent.
However, if your baby copperhead does not show any interest in takingthe frozen-thawed rodent, you should offer a live rodent. In the case thisapproach also fails, offer your baby pet copperhead snake scented frozen-thawedrodent (frog typically works best).
Ultimately, if none of the methods described above succeeds, you cantry offering different food altogether, such as for instance, a small frog.
As a last resort, you can try feeding a baby copperhead through assistfeeding methods, making use of a small tube. Once you have secured the snake,you can slide down the pinkie mouse, so that when the copperhead gets intodefense mode, it will automatically bite the mouse, and then simply swallow iton its own.
One of the most suitable scenting items that copperheads adore is treefrogs. You can make best use of a frozen-thawed tree frog by slicing itsmidsection open, and then rubbing the mouse on the tree frog’s insides.
For the purpose of maintaining healthy body weight, adult copperheadsnakes should be fed with an adult mouse either on a weekly or on a biweeklybasis.
Since copperheads typically grow very fast, it is essential to feedlarger meals respectively.
It is best to stick to feeding your copperhead snake pet with captive-bornmice and a controlled food source in general as to avoid parasites.
In the wild, copperheads feed on mice, lizards, small birds, insects,amphibians, and small snakes, swallowing their prey whole.
Being typical representatives of carnivores, copperheads are alsorenowned as ambush hunters. Prior to swallowing they prey, they subdue it withvenom and then use theirflexibly hinged jaws for the purpose of swallowing their meal.
Typically, copperhead snakes allow for the venom to work, and then they track down their prey and feed once it has already died. When it comes to smaller prey, copperheads often tend to keep the victimin their mouths until it dies.
When kept as a pet,a copperhead snakeusually remains active all winter long, provided temperatures are maintained onthe warm side. It is not uncommon for copperhead pets to choose to skip on ameal during the cold winter months.
In the wild, copperheads can be frequentlyseen during the day in the spring and fall season. This is the time of the yearwhen they are most active, even though they are primarily nocturnal creatures.
Active copperheads are easy to spot on warm, humid nights, and especiallyshortly after a rain. Despite their nocturnal characteristics, they can be alsospotted during the daytime, moving around or basking in the sun.
In themountains, copperheads sometimes get into hibernation with timber rattlesnakes.
You need to make sure your copperhead snake pet has easy access to arelatively large water bowl at all times. The bowl should be big enough toallow the copperhead to drink, as well as to soak. It is best to opt for a bowlmade out of natural materials, such as rock or clay.
Apart from ensuring constant access to freshwater, you also need tokeep the water container alike clean and fresh at all times.
The mating season for copperhead snakes is during the spring, as wellas during the fall, giving birth to between 3 –18 young snakes either duringthe late summer or respectively during the early fall.
Baby copperhead snakes are typically paler in color than adultcopperhead snakes. However, patterning is quite the same, regardless of thesnakes’ stage of development.
In the wild, while the mating season is at its peak from February – Mayand from late August – October, male copperheads engage in dramatic affairs,some of which are ritual combats.
Copperhead snakes’ mating ritual combats are also wittily referred toas body-shoving contests, occurring when two or more males meet in the presenceof a female. If a male copperhead snake is to lose, it rarely challenges again.
Female copperheads will always reject male copperheads if the latter isto back down from a fight. Since copperhead snakes are ovoviviparous, their eggs are incubated inside the female’s body, and then babies are bornlive.
Youngcopperhead snakes typically 8 to 10inches (20 to 25 cm) in length. They are born with venom and fangs, ready to eatdifferent types of insects, such as caterpillars, from an early age.
Youngcopperheads tend to exhibitdifferent hunting patterns than adult copperheads. Using theiryellow-tipped tails, young copperheads may sit motionless, except for theirflicking tails, which is a hunting tactic known as “caudal luring.” As the taleresembles a small insect itself, it is used by the young snakes to attract afrog or a lizard, among other possible preys.
A contortrixis known to breed in late summer, but this doesnot happen every year. It is sometimes thecase that females will produce offspring for several years running, and thenthey will stop breeding at all for an unknown period.
Thelifecycle and reproduction of copperhead snakes can be categorized into 3 mainstages.
Stage 1 –Eggs
After asuccessful mating isbrought to an end, thefemale copperhead snakewould oviduct-store the sperms for about 30 – 60 days (1 – 2 months).
Afterwards, thefemale is to producelarge eggs. The fertilized eggs are laid under rocks or in other suitable shallow holes.
The outer layer of the eggs is much like soft leather rather than hardcovering. Females are to guard and look after their eggs until they hatch.
Each of the live young typically reaches about 20cm (7.9in) in length.
Stage 2 – Juvenile
It is not uncommon for various types of snake species, including copperheads, to warmthe eggs bytwitching their muscles. This is done in order for the hatchingprocess to be speeded up.
After biting the egg cover, the juvenile copperhead snake comes out of the egg. It is from the egg yolk how the snakes obtainall its nutrition priorto birth.
Stage 3 –Adult
It takes about 2 – 4 years for juvenile copperhead snakes to fullymature.
The frequency of molting per year is one of the major features thatdistinguish juveniles from adults. In quite some contrast to an adultcopperhead snake, which usually sheds its skin only once a year (two times peryear at the most), a juvenile is to shed its skin about 4 times annually.
How toBreed Copperhead Snakes
For those who intend to breed copperhead snakes, it is important to note thatthey will probably require an average of 3 months (90 days) dormancy period.
Typically, northern copperheads are to give birth to an average of 17 young in a single annual clutch,although the biennial clutch is also possible. Neonates reach about 9 inches inlength.
The gestation ofcopperheads lastsbetween three – nine months, with the total time spent in gestation beingdependent on whetherthe snake is to undergohibernation prior to givingbirth or not.
Young copperheadsreach sexual maturityafter they turn fouryears old.
As with humans, the temperament of copperhead snakes can greatly differfrom one individual to another. For instance, some are quite defensive whileothers are quite placid.
Even though copperhead snakes do not belong to the most toxic categoryof native to North America pitvipers, it is best to avoid any issues associatedwith bites from happening. Copperheads’ bites are painful and serious, and theyrequire you to seek immediate medical attention.
As a rule of thumb, copperhead snakes are not aggressive animals. They will rarelyever bite because of mere aggression. However, in the case they feelthreatened, they are not afraid to bite, as this is their natural defensivemechanism.
Handling a copperhead snake must be approached with diligence andcaution. ALWAYS remove a copperhead from its terrarium/cage before cleansing orother servicing practices. Also, don’t forget to use proper handling tools,such as hooks/sticks.
Any time when the cage is open, copperheads are to switch into a food “aggressive”mood, as they are ready for the prey to present itself. Because of this, youneed to be extra careful during feeding and avoid any possible handling.
How toPrevent and/or Address Possible Health Issues
Typically, copperheads shed successfully with facing no issues at all.However, you do need to make sure to keep the humidity level higher than theusual rates during the shedding period.
In the case, shedding issues occur, you can give your copperhead snakea small box equipped with moist moss. Doing so will allow the snake to crawlinto to loosen the shed easily.
2) PotentialHealth Problems
Copperhead snakes are very hardy, resilient species. Provided you keep acopperhead snake properly, it will rarely ever encounter any health issuesthroughout its lifespan.
Firstly, you want to make sure the cage is kept clean at all times.
Secondly, give a copperhead snake constant access to fresh, cleanwater.
Thirdly, maintain the needed temperature gradients.
Fourthly, ensure that the snake has a dry place to sit and/or hide.
Last but not least, only feed copperheads food from reliable sources toavoid parasitic/microbial attacks.
If you are to follow these simple rules, your copperhead snake petshould grow and develop easily as a happy, healthy animal.
PossibleDangers to Humans: Copperhead Snake Bite Protocol
For everyvenomous species that you may intend to keep as a pet, includingbut not limited to copperhead snakes, it is highly recommendable to have a bite protocol handy.
A dedicatedbite protocol will include important information about the species’ venom, as well as signs and symptomsof envenomation if you accidentally get bitten.
In the case you get bitten by a copperhead snake, it is imperative toimmediately contact peoplewho specialize in snakebites.
Copperheadsare known to have bittenmore people in most years than any other U.S. snake species. But on the brightside, their venom is not very potent, so a timely visit to medical rooms shouldsolve any possible issues. Do NOT attempt to suck out the venom beforequalified medical help is provided to you by the professionals.
Mind that unlike mostvenomous snake species, copperheads give no warning signs beforethey strike. Thestrike is almost an immediate one, and it so occurs if they are to feelthreatened.
Because of the venom of copperheads being hemotoxic, it often leads totemporary issue damage, effortless to spot in the immediate area of the bitebecause of the frequently accompanying swelling/redness.
Ultimately, despite the bite being commonly painful, it is rare toalmost never lethal to humans. However, minors, as well as elderly people, mayexhibit stronger reactions to the venom because of their still immature orcompromised immune system. In any case, medical attention must be sought assoon as possible.
Availability:Where to Get a Pet Copperhead Snake from?
In moststates, it is legal to catch andkeepcopperheadsnakes as pets, and thisrule applies to most of other venomous types of snakes, as well. However, it isonly legal to do so provided you have a permit.
Wild-caught varieties can be adopted as pets but captive-bred snakesremain the superior choice. Not only do captive-bred copperheads have beautifulcolor morphs and patterns, but they are also parasite-free and in great health.
Getting your copperhead snake pet from an authorized online or offlinepet store, reptile exhibit or expo, and/or directly from selected breeders willallow you to get further details regarding the history, age, and lineage of thesnakes, which is crucial for your pet’s future development and well-being.
Fun Facts about Copperhead Snakes
- During the breeding season, A. contortrixmales are known to have longer tongue tine lengths than females. It is believed that this intriguing phenomenon aids in males’ chemoreception when searching for females.
- Unlike insects, in which molting has much to do with ensuring the growth of the organism, copperhead snakes’ skin renewal does not really have a significant role in their growth, although it does have a significant role in their healthy development.
- Despite being responsible for the most snakebite attacks in the United States, copperheads’ bites do rarely ever result in fatality.
- Contrary to many other viper snake species, copperhead snakes do not attempt to make a fast getaway in cases when they sense danger. Instead, copperheads freeze in their tracks, patiently waiting until the danger has passed.
- The brown, rust, tan coloring of copperheads is probably the major reason why these species are to “blame” for the most bites in the U.S. since they are very difficult to spot when lying peacefully on leaves and/or soil, in their characteristic motionless behavior. Because of this, it is important to always look before you step in hiking areas where copperhead snakes are common to live.
- Unusually for most snakes, copperheads are diurnal in the fall, as well as in the spring, but are to become nocturnal during the summer season.
- Interestingly, you could potentially inbreed copperheads and cottonmouths, as both species share very similar characteristics. The result of such breeding are hybrids, known as “copper mouth” or “cotton heads.”
- According to theAmerican Museum of Natural History, a particular chemical in copperhead snakes’ venom may be helpful in inhibiting the growth of cancerous tumor cells.
- The length of a copperhead snake’s fangs is closely related to the length of the snake. The longer the snake grows, the longer the fangs grow.
- In certain occasions when touched, copperheads are known to emit a specific musk that smells just like cucumbers.
- Copperheadstend to be more social than someother snakes, as copperheads are known to sometimes hibernate in packs. What’s more, copperhead snakes do often allow other breeds to share their dens.
- Northern copperheads are known to brumate, which is a process that is very similar to hibernation. However, it does involves different metabolic processes than hibernation. As copperhead snakes brumate, they can be mostly asleep yet still fully capable of engaging in occasional activities.
- In late September 2018, a rare, two-headed copperhead snake was found in Virginia. This is not the only case of a two-headed snake being discovered, as there are other two-headed snakes, apart from the copperhead snake found in Virginia. Typically, two-headed snakes live for only a few months. However, some of them have been reported to not only live a full life but to even get reproduced, with their offspring resulting in normal, one-headed snakes.
How to Take Care of a Copperhead Snake
The firststep in taking care of a pet copperhead snake is to prepare its habitat. Aftercarefully and thoroughly cleansing the terrarium/cage from any possibleimpurities, it is time to add a suitable substrate.
Next, youneed to set up the lighting system and check if the temperature and humidity ratesare kept in norm before transferring the copperhead into its captive realm.
Pieces ofwood, such as driftwood, are especially suitable for the creation of themuch-needed hide box for copperheads, as to mimic their natural habitat andensure the snake is to feel comfortable. Doing so greatly limits anyaggression-related issues. Even though copperheads are not aggressive,unsuitable habitat and/or bad feeding practices can make the animals moreirritable than usual.
Rockswill ensure the copperhead has access to a dry place at all times, and willalso aid the snake in shedding its skin.
Thecopperhead snake’s terrarim must be maintained properly following high hygienestandards to ensure the reptile’s, as well as the owner’s health. Thesemesmerizing animals should be treated with care and respect for their personalspace, eating and sleeping habits at all times, and their whimsical beauty is tobe admired to the fullest.
Are Copperhead Snakes Bites Deadly to Dogs and Cats?
Even though most copperhead snakebites do not lead to fatalconsequences to humans, they can leadto fatal consequences to cats and dogs alike.If you notice your dog/cat getting bitten by a copperhead snake, or if youare suspicious that it may have been bitten by a copperhead, immediatelycontact a qualified veterinarian and seek professional help. Do not attempt tosuck out the poison prior to receiving qualified help.
Are There Snakes that Look Similar toCopperhead Snakes?
Yes, there are different copperheadsnake look-alikes. These include but are not limited to Northern water snake,Corn snake, and Eastern hognose snakes.
What to Do if You Get Bitten by aCopperhead Snake?
If you getbitten by a copperhead snake, immediately seek medical attention. Check out forfang marks and if possible, immediately clean the wound with water and soap butdo not put ice on it. Instead, use a tourniquet and do NOT suck out the venomout of the bite. Lie down, try to stand still, and keep the bitten area lowerthan the heart area before the medical team arrives.
Can a Copperhead Snake Bite Kill You?
Out of anaverage of 7000 – 8000 people who get bitten by a copperhead snake in the USannually, about a total of five people die. Since the venom of a copperheadsnake is the least toxic, its bites are rarely fatal to humans.
How Long Does it Take to Recover froma Copperhead Snake Bite?
Despite acopperhead snake’s envenomation being seldom fatal, all patients experienceswelling, pain, and redness in the area of the body where the venom has beentransferred following up the bite. Usually, those bitten by a copperhead snakereturn to their daily rhythm of life within about 2 – 4 weeks. However,although in rare occasions, residual symptoms may last for a year, or evenmore.
Are Baby Copperhead Snake Bites moreDangerous than Adults Bites?
There is acommon misconception that baby and/or juvenile copperhead snakes are morevenomous because they are thought not to be able to control the amount of venomthey inject, and/or because of their venom possibly being more concentrated asopposed to that of adult copperhead snakes. This is not true. Baby, as well as juvenilecopperhead snakes’ bites, are not more dangerous than adults’ bites.
Can a Copperhead Snake Bite Youthrough Jeans/Denim?
Typically,denim clothing provides effective protection against venom injection from acopperhead snake, and it can be a cost-effective means to provide a simplesolution to possible bites. However, even though wearing appropriate jeans canreduce the severity of snake bites, it greatly depends on the type of denim, aswell as the level of the physical power of the snake, so it is best not to rely100% on denim protection.
Is a Copperhead Snake Active atNight?
Copperheadscan be often spotted during humid, warm summer nights, and especially shortlyafter rain. Typically, they are solitary (the mating season is an exception)and can be seen during the day in the spring and fall season. It is in thesummer when copperhead snakes become primarily nocturnal.
Where Does a Copperhead Snake Hide?
Copperheadsnakes tend to use tree stumps, logs, abandoned animal warrens, tree stumps,and piles of sawdust as a den. When resting in the fallen leaves, a copperheadsnake may be also into ambush, waiting for its prey, perfectly hidden in thecamouflage of its unique coloration. For copperheads raised in captivity, asuitable hiding spot greatly contributes to the reptile’s well-being.
Can You Have a Copperhead Snake as aPet?
Yes, it ispossible to keep a copperhead snake as a pet. Unlike copperhead snakes in thewild, those in captivity will usually continue to eat even during thewintertime, since they are kept warm, and in return, active. It is not uncommonfor captivated copperhead snakes kept as pets to refuse to miss a meal duringthe cooler part of the winter months, though.