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American copperhead snake – how to identify, avoid their habitat, and treatment for their bite.

Close-up of Copperhead Snake

American copperhead
Agkistrodon contortrix

Description: Small Copperhead SnakeCopperhead snakes, also known as death adder, highland moccasin, red snake, and oak snake, have a chestnut color that dominates overall, with darker crossbands of rich browns that grow darker towards the edges and become narrower on top and widen at the bottom.  Their pale to pinkish tan color grows darker towards the midline.  The crossbands often are divided at the midline and alternate on either side of the snake’s body.  Adults grow to a length of 2-3 feet in length although some may exceed 3 feet.  The head is broad with a snout that slopes down and back.  The top of the head is a coppery color.

Characteristics: Coiled Copperhead SnakeThe Copperhead snake is nocturnal in the summer but becomes active during the day in the Spring and Fall seasons.  They are ambush predators.  They take up a suitable position and wait for their prey to travel past them.  Copperhead’s coloring provides them with a natural camouflage ability to blend in the environment. Copperheads prefer to avoid humans but will defend themselves vigorously.  Unlock other vipers, Copperheads will often remain very still when threatened.  Bites occur when the snakes are stepped on. A copperhead lying on a bed of dead leaves becomes nearly invisible. Its venom is hemotoxic.

Symptoms: Copperhead bites typically result in extreme pain, tingling, throbbing, bruising, swelling of the bite area, rapid heart rate, an unusual metallic taste in the mouth, nausea, and sometimes vomiting.  Damage occurs to both the muscle and bone tissue, but Copperhead bites are rarely fatal.  Its venom is the weakest of all pit vipers.

Treatment: Copperhead Snake on streetCopperheads often employ a warning bite that contains little of no venom (dry bite).  Wash the infected area and follow these directions for treating snake bites.

Habitat: Found in wooded and rocky areas and mountainous regions but can also be found in low-lying swampy regions.  During the winter the Copperhead snake hibernates in dens, crevices, or under heavy logs.

Length: Average 60 centimeters (24 inches), maximum (47 inches) 120 centimeters.

Distribution: Texas, Oklahoma, Illinois, Kansas, Ohio, most of the southeast United States, and along the Atlantic coast from north Florida to Massachusetts.

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