Venomous Copperheads

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In the eastern range of the United States, venomous copperheads are commonplace in the spring, summer and fall. The broad-banded species – like this snake, pictured – have dark, reddish brown cross bands that wrap around its body, a triangular-shaped head, heavy body, and tail tips with a grayish-green or even turquoise hue.

As pit vipers, copperheads have small holes (called loreal pits) on their heads. These special sensors detect the body heat of other animals. Copperheads are generally opportunistic hunters, patiently waiting for the perfect moment to ambush prey like lizards, frogs and birds, but they will also forage for quarry. Young copperheads have brightly-colored tail tips, which they wiggle like a caterpillar to lure prey into their strike zone. These pit vipers then swallow prey whole and head-first, even while they wiggle with life.

Although copperheads are active hunters in their range, they have their own share of predators to worry about, including kingsnakes, milk snakes, racers, hawks, opossums and cottonmouths.

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As the weather cools and winter nears, copperheads will gather with other snakes in the same den to hibernate through the winter.  

While copperheads are sometimes found living near human settlements, bites are rare, usually occurring due to improper handling or accidental contact. These pit vipers prefer to escape than strike, but will bite if cornered or threatened. Symptoms from a copperhead bite can include swelling, weakness, vomiting and breathing difficulty.

Watch Ultimate Viper, Tuesday, November 9th at 7P et on Nat Geo Wild and check out this photo gallery of beautiful snakes.

Video Preview: One group of snake hunters in India is working to provide the country with enough anti-venom to prevent snake-bite fatalities.

Photo Credit: Jodi Kendall


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    […] Image above of a copperhead snake taken from National Geographic […]