Critter Corner -
DID YOU KNOW:
Missouri is home to more than
40 kinds of snakes and only five are venomous. The
copperhead, though rarely seen, is common in our area.
Copperheads, like many
snakes, help control rodent populations. Mice are their
most important food, though they also eat lizards, frogs and
salamanders. Juvenile copperheads eat insects and small
frogs. The baby copperhead's tail is yellow and green and
looks like a little worm. When a small frog comes close to
eat the worm, the copperhead grabs the frog. The
copperhead's fangs inject venom (poison) into the prey to kill
it before eating it.
Mother copperhead is a
live-bearer, which means each baby snake is born in a
thin, clear sack. The mother does not lay leathery eggs
like many other snakes and turtles. Mating occurs in the
spring. In late summer, four to eight babies are born.
The yellow-green tail tip of the babies fades as they grow
Copperheads live in remote,
wooded areas. Rocky hillsides with
lots of places to sun,
hide and hunt offer prime habitat. Like other snakes,
copperheads are shy and try to live away from people.
Protecting our forests allows the copperhead and other forest
creatures to have safe places to live.
the copperhead relies on its
coloration to help it hide. Its pinkish-tan with brown
hourglass pattern helps it blend with the
and leaf cover on the forest floor. If a copperhead needs
to protect itself, it will deliver a venomous bite.
Although the bite is painful and requires immediate medical
attention, it is not usually fatal. Most copperhead
bites occur when the snake is accidentally
stepped on or if someone reaches under a rock or log without
looking. (You have to look really hard to see the snake in
In bright light, the
pupil of the eye is shaped like a cat's eye. In dim
light, the pupil is round.
Like other venomous
snakes, copperheads are pit vipers. A small hole, or
pit, is located between the eye and nostril which senses
heat. This helps the snake find warm-blooded animals
(like mice) even in total darkness.
To learn more about
the copperhead snake
(Photo credits: Copperhead
snake in grass and leaves, Mississippi Genome Lab; All others
from National Parks Service )