Critter Corner - Copperhead Snake
(Agkistrodon contortrix)

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.

EATING HABITS:

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.

THE YOUNG:

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 older.

HABITAT (HOME):

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.
 

DEFENSIVE HABITS:

the copperhead relies on its coloration to help it hide.  Its pinkish-tan with brown hourglass pattern helps it blend with the shadows 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 this picture.)

UNUSUAL FACTS:

  • 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

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(Photo credits: Copperhead snake in grass and leaves, Mississippi Genome Lab; All others from National Parks Service )