American Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix)
One must be careful when exploring the wilderness because it is
these same beautiful markings that give the Copperhead its natural
camouflage. When a Copperhead snake coils up on a bed of fallen
leaves they become virtually invisible. Like most snakes, the preferred
snake habitat for Copperheads is wooded hillsides, the cover of
dense forest edges and overgrown thickets where there is plenty
of ground cover with rocks and fallen debris. The snake
the American Copperhead is hemotoxic with most snake
when the snakes are stepped on accidentally or by campers bedding
down right next to one. Copperheads, not known to be aggressive,
normally have a quiet disposition but when threatened or startled
they will vigorously defend themselves from danger.
The American Copperhead snake, more commonly referred
to simply as a "Copperhead" is one of the most
well known poisonous
snakes of North America. Mother Nature
has made a blueprint for us to follow and both the novice
and seasoned herpetologist alike will immediately recognize
this poisonous snake by the prominent copper color of its
head. The American Copperhead is overall chestnut in color
with dark brown bands crisscrossing the length of its rust
and copper colored body forming a striking geometric cross-band
pattern. This pattern is wider in the center of the body
narrowing towards each end.
Pictures of American Copperheads >>
TO SEE ANIMAL WEBCAMS
The American Copperheads, including the Northern Copperhead & Southern
Copperhead subspecies, are common over much of their range. These
Copperhead snakes are found most often in rocky, wooded and mountainous
regions throughout the Eastern Gulf States, Texas, Oklahoma,
Illinois, Kansas, Ohio and most of the southeastern United States
extending from northern Florida all the way into Massachusetts.
Average length of the American Copperhead is 60 centimeters,
but some specimens have been recorded to reach 120 centimeters.
are members of the Viperidae (Pit
Viper) family of snakes
having folded-fangs classified in the
group solenoglypha. Pit Vipers are thick bodied and characterized
by a triangular shaped head that is quite wide in relation
to their necks. All Pit Vipers have heat sensitive "pits" on
each side of their face positioned between the nostril
and eye which they use to locate prey. Snakes in the
Crotalidae family, like the Cottonmouth and Rattlesnakes are broad spectrum carnivores performing a task very
beneficial to mankind by consuming many small mammals,
particularly rats and mice, a very important factor in
natural rodent population control. Snakes help us sustain
a healthy balance of life in natural ecosystems by eating
a variety of prey including small rodents, birds, frogs,
large insects, lizards and often other snakes.
One interesting trait common in all young Copperhead
species is the young have light green to yellowish tipped
tails - see Pictures of Copperheads. When hidden among
the brush and fallen leaves, baby Copperheads use this
brightly colored natural decoy to simulate the movement
of a worm or grub. Nature's very clever way for the young
snakes to lure potential predators close enough for them
to devour for their own meal! This yellow-green tail
decoy disappears as the snake matures and becomes more
proficient at feeding.
Poisonous snakes have eye pupils that are elliptical,
a special nocturnal vision adaptation for night hunting.
Like all snakes in the Pit Viper family, Copperheads
are ambush predators surprising prey from a vantage point.
American Copperheads are venomous with a very efficient
hollow fang venom delivery system. Copperheads are responsible
for inflicting numerous recorded snake bites. Equipped
with long fangs curved to the back for holding onto prey,
Copperheads are efficient predators but their bite is
rarely deadly to human victims. Many snake
bites delivered by snakes in the Copperhead family occur on the outer
extremities such as hands and feet where there is little
muscle tissue to absorb the envenomization. These hemotoxic
snake bites usually result in severe swelling, throbbing
and nausea to the victim. An effective Copperhead Antivenom
exists, but is only administered as a last resort because
the threat of allergic reaction is usually more dangerous
to the victim than the snakebite itself.
Wilderness exploration is a valuable and enriching experience.
The most avid naturalists believe that wilderness is
best viewed from a distance and left undisturbed the
way nature intended. It is best before venturing out
on your explorations to become educated about Wilderness
Survival to be able to appreciate the wonder of its beauty
but be aware of the potential dangers that come with
Common Name: American Copperhead
Scientific Name: Agkistrodon contortrix
Snake Family: Viperidae
Description: Chestnut in color with dark brown bands
crisscrossing the length of its rust and copper colored
body with prominent copper head color.
Characteristics: Not known to be aggressive but will
defend themselves when threatened.
Reproduction: Copperheads are viviparous (bearing live
young) and breed from spring to fall giving birth to
as many as 14 young from late summer to early fall.
Length: 50 - 100 centimeters (Approx. 1 1/2 - 3 ft)
Habitat Distribution: America - Eastern Gulf States,
Texas, Oklahoma, Illinois, Kansas, Ohio and throughout
most of the southeastern United States from north Florida
and into Massachusetts
Northern Copperhead (A. contortrix mokasen)
Southern Copperhead (A. contortrix contortrix)
Broad-Banded Copperhead (A. contortrix laticinctus)
Trans-Pecos Copperhead (A. contortrix pictigaster)
The genus Agkistrodon includes 10 species. Not known
to be overly aggressive Copperheads are one of the 4
species native to North America. Another native North
American species is the Cottonmouth or "Water Moccasin".
Remaining Agkistrodon subspecies are found in Asia and
the Asian islands and include the Himalayan Viper, Okinawan
Habu and Siberian Moccasin. The three known Australian
Copperhead subspecies, although similarly named, are
members of the Elapidae family of snakes and not related.