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What is a Copperhead?

Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus

A copperhead is a venomous snake of the species contortrix and the genus Agkistrodon. This genus also includes the cottonmouth, or water moccasin. Copperheads are also called highland moccasins or American copperheads and they are found in the United States from Texas to the East Coast. The copperhead is the most common of the eastern venomous snakes, but its venom is considered comparatively mild as most copperhead bites are fatal to small animals, but not humans. Medical attention should always be sought immediately after a copperhead bite as the bites are usually painful. The type of venom copperheads carry destroys tissue that can cause secondary infection.

The copperhead is of the family Viperidae which means it is a type of pit viper. Pit vipers have a triangular head, folded fangs and a wide body. They find their prey by pits near their eyes and nostrils. Copperheads prey on other snakes as well as insects, mice, birds, frogs and lizards. The copperhead may be found in a wide range of habitats including both forests and suburban areas. They are often found near water and plant life.

Copperheads eat frogs.
Copperheads eat frogs.

The crisscrossing pattern and neutral colors of the copperhead help it hide in many different natural settings such as in leaves or on hillsides. They may be accidentally stepped on and may strike when disturbed. Research has found that copperheads tend to strike without warning unlike many other North American venomous snakes such as the diamondback rattlesnake. When the copperhead strikes as a warning, it may not release much venom. Chances should not be taken, such as trying to kill or capture the copperhead, as the bite could still be very dangerous and painful, especially without immediate medical attention.

Copperheads are found from Texas to the East Coast of America.
Copperheads are found from Texas to the East Coast of America.

A copperhead snake's head is copper in color, but the body color varies from a brownish pink to a rusty tan. Medium to dark reddish brown hourglass-shaped bands crisscross over the body color of a copperhead. Baby copperheads have adult coloring, but also have bright yellow tail tips.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Copperhead snake?

A Copperhead is a venomous snake, Agkistrodon contortrix, found in North America. They are known for their distinctive copper-red heads and patterned bodies, which provide excellent camouflage in their woodland and forest habitats. Copperheads are pit vipers, equipped with heat-sensing pits between their eyes and nostrils to detect prey.

How venomous is a Copperhead snake?

Both the copperhead and moccasin are of the Agkistrodon genus.
Both the copperhead and moccasin are of the Agkistrodon genus.

Copperhead venom is relatively mild compared to other venomous snakes in North America. While their bites are painful and can cause significant tissue damage, they are rarely fatal to humans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Copperhead bites are the most common venomous snake bites in the eastern United States but are seldom life-threatening.

Where can you find Copperhead snakes?

Copperhead snakes are endemic to the eastern United States, ranging from southern New England to West Texas and northern Mexico. They prefer deciduous forests and mixed woodlands, often near rocky areas and streams. They are also increasingly found in suburban areas, where development encroaches on their natural habitats.

What do Copperhead snakes eat?

Copperheads are carnivorous and primarily feed on rodents, small birds, lizards, and insects. They employ a "sit-and-wait" hunting strategy, using their cryptic coloring to ambush prey. They are capable of detecting and striking at warm-blooded prey with remarkable accuracy, thanks to their heat-sensing pits.

How can you identify a Copperhead snake?

To identify a Copperhead, look for a heavy-bodied snake with a distinctive copper-colored head and hourglass-shaped bands on its body. The bands are typically darker than the rest of the body and narrow on the sides. Juveniles have a yellow-tipped tail, which they wiggle to lure prey. Always observe from a safe distance to avoid any risk of a bite.

What should you do if bitten by a Copperhead?

If bitten by a Copperhead, seek medical attention immediately. Remain calm, immobilize the bitten area, and keep it below heart level. Do not attempt to suck out the venom or apply a tourniquet. According to medical experts, prompt treatment with antivenom, when necessary, is crucial for effectively managing a venomous snakebite.

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    • Copperheads eat frogs.
      By: andrewburgess
      Copperheads eat frogs.
    • Copperheads are found from Texas to the East Coast of America.
      By: Hamik
      Copperheads are found from Texas to the East Coast of America.
    • Both the copperhead and moccasin are of the Agkistrodon genus.
      Both the copperhead and moccasin are of the Agkistrodon genus.