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How to Identify a Copperhead Snake?

Copperhead snakes were first discovered around Northern America by a famous biologist known as Carl Linnaeus in 1766. Currently, you can find various Copperhead species in different parts of the US but mainly in the Central and Eastern regions.

One of the most notable Copperhead features is the pit between the nostrils and eyes, which is highly responsive to heat. Amazingly these sensory heat points enable them to detect small temperature changes, which instantly guide them to warm-blooded prey.

Some commonly used nicknames on this beautiful serpent include hazel head, copper adder, highland moccasin, red adder, and poplar leaf snake.

Even if Copperheads snakes are venomous, they are rarely aggressive unless threatened. Still, the venom supply can incapacitate smaller prey but have minimal effect on a human. Before investing in a Copperhead snake, join us as we guide you on how to discern copperhead snakes from the rest.

In addition, we will dissect some of its unique, distinctive features that make Copperhead an ideal reptile pet.

Head color

The most outstanding feature of a Copperhead is the coppery brownish redhead. As a common trait with other pit vipers, Copperheads have triangular-shaped heads. For this reason, it is common to hear some experts refer to these serpents as arrow-headed snakes.

Usually, Copperheads have a slightly larger head compared to their narrow necks. Mainly, the broader head portion shelters the snake’s venom glands and fangs. Other than that hand, Copperhead snakes have a discrete ridge between the nostrils and eyes that separates the upper and lower part of the head.

Additionally, they have vertical slit-like eyes with tan, reddish-brown, or orange irises. Amazingly, this is a standard feature found in the cat family.

Spots on the Head

Compared to their patterned bodies, the head is reasonably plain apart from tiny spots on the crest. Uniquely, the dots are dark in color compared to the copper tan color on the rest of the body. Apart from giving the Copperheads a distinctive look, the black dots adorn the fascinating serpent more.

Blotch Pattern

Copperheads have unique hourglass marks across their bodies. This stands out as one of the most indicative traits of the scaled pet reptile. The imposing pattern design widens from one side of the body.

Then it becomes thinner in the middle only to widen again as it progresses to the opposing side of your snake’s body. Typically, the hourglass pattern touches both the right and left sides of Copperhead snakes.

Mostly, the crossbands have bright collateral centers and dark margins. The design may disconnect from the usual vertical shape and progress downwards facing the tail in rare cases. Also, the blotches may appear broken with tiny dark specks in between the bands. These blotches patterns make up the entire skin pattern giving the snakes a dark brownish to tan color.

Copperheads living in the mountainous regions often have plenty of darker specks on their bodies which come in handy when shielding from predators in leafy environments.

Body Shape

An adult Copperhead snake measures 2-3 feet lengthwise. In contrast with other snake species, they have thick muscular bodies and weigh about 4-20 ounces.

According to an expert’s analysis in the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, female Copperheads are usually longer. Nonetheless, the makes have longer proportioned tails compared to the opposite sex.

Yellow Tipped Tail

Soon after birth, baby Copperhead snakes have green yellow-tipped tails. The bright color mainly lures and attracts prey within easy reach. Given that baby snakes require a constant supply of food to grow healthy, a yellow-tipped tail plays a significant role in their existence.

However, by the time the younglings hit one year and the food demands decline, the tail tip may turn black or dark brown.

Are Baby Copperhead Snakes Poisonous?

Copperheads are some of the few snake species that give live births. Right from their mother’s body, baby Coppers come with fully functioning venom and fangs. Naturally, snakes do not feed or take care of their offspring.

Soon after birth, female Copperheads simply slither away and leave the babies on their own. Luckily, the venom and fangs come in handy as baby snakes can attack and kill prey right after birth. The poison is not as toxic as an adult bite, but it is strong enough to immobilize small prey before plunging them.

Even though your baby pets may appear all tiny and harmless, it is still unsafe to mishandle them because they can attack when agitated.

Fortunately, Copperhead venom does not have significant detrimental effects on humans and is presently researched by scientists as an ideal treatment option for diabetes, stroke, and cancer.

Can You Keep a Wild Copperhead Snake as Pet?

Copperhead snakes are fascinating pets because of their hardy nature and unconventional body markings. It is vital to note that beginner keepers shouldn’t invest in a venomous snake pet without proper guidance.

Although Copperhead’s venom is relatively mild, it requires a professional approach for a safe coexistence. Besides, these serpents have an unpredictable inclination to strike their owners without prior warning. Often wild copperheads thrive better in their natural surroundings.

Furthermore, wild snakes become excessively stressed when placed in captivity. What is more, they are more prone to parasites and life-threatening infections, which can quickly spread to other pets in the house. As a result, it is prudent to buy your pet snakes from reliable breeders only.

Other Snakes Similar to Copperhead

Several snake species share the same Copperhead’s striking patterns and colors. For this reason, several people struggle to differentiate coppers from other snakes. Below is a list of snakes that physically resemble your hourglass patterned friend but differ in other ways.

– Corn Snake

While Corn snakes come in several skin variations, there are specific species with red and copper colors like Copperheads. Probably, this is the only distinguishing feature that brings these two species together.

However, for individuals unfamiliar with snakes, the color similarity can lead to confusion or mistaken identity. Unfortunately, there are cases where non-venomous Corn snakes suffer wrath when people consider them dangerous.

That said, Corn snakes are harmless and measure two to four feet in adulthood. You can easily spot them all across the US in Florida, Indiana, and Louisiana.

– Black Racer Snake

An adult Black racer snake barely resembles a Copperhead because they are purely black with no patterns on their skin. However, in their earlier days, juveniles are brightly colored with reddish-brown marks on their back.

Without any doubt, an inexperienced eye may instantly classify Baby black racers as Copperheads. Nonetheless, Black Racers are scientifically recognized as Coluber constrictors and grow to an adult length of two to five feet. On the contrary, there are non-poisonous and more widely distributed in the US rocky mountains.

– Mole Kingsnake

Most Juvenile Kingsnakes have a brownish pattern on their skins. Sometimes the specks may fade down to a plain brown color as they age. Still, you can spot few adult Mole Kingsnake serpents with tan, brownish patterns that resemble the Copperheads.

All in all, Mole Kingsnakes rarely venture out in the open and mostly hide under rocks, woods, and other surfaces. On average, they grow to a maximum length of two to three feet.

– Northern Water Snake

Young Northern Water snakes have a distinct color pattern that can differ from reddish-brown to dark gray. Brownish-colored Northern water snakes significantly resemble the Copperheads.

Yet, with a closer look, you may notice that the patterns on the Northern Water snakes become narrower as they progress to the sides and widen by the backbone.

This is quite the opposite of the hourglass patterns found on Copperheads. Similar to other water snakes, they do not release venom and live close to water sources.

– Eastern Rat Snake

Contrary to Copperheads, adult Eastern rat snakes are usually longer and measure three to seven feet long. Formerly referred to as the black rat snakes, they have shiny black scales and white chin, throat, and belly. You may find them in yellow, white, orange, and reddish colors in baby rat snakes.

Some have blotchy patterns that resemble the Copperheads. Some rat snake species like the Black King usually attack and kill the much smaller Copperhead in territorial brawls in the wild.

– Eastern Milksnake

Usually, Eastern Milksnakes are harmless and docile compared to the Copperhead. Although they resemble Copperheads, the patterns are more brilliant. Additionally, the black outlined patches resemble Copperhead snake’s patterns back, leading to frequent misidentification.

Although Eastern Milksnakes are prevalent in all states, they are more common in mountainous regions. In adulthood, most of them reach two to three feet in length.

Final Words

Copperheads are some of the snake species that pet owners overlook for more vibrant counterparts like moccasins and rattlesnakes. Whereas they are pretty unpopular with breeders, they are less demanding and easy to keep in captivity.

As a matter of fact, this is a perfect choice for experienced snake handlers not afraid of their mild venomous bites. Likewise, they are not bulky like the Cobras and only require an average-sized enclosure.

Snakes - Updated: July 8, 2021
avatar I’m Noah, chief editor at VIVO Pets and the proud owner of a playful, energetic husky (Max). I’ve been a volunteer at Rex Animal Rescue for over 2 years. I love learning and writing about different animals that can be kept as pets.

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