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Home » Amphibians & Reptiles » Copperhead

Copperhead

Scientific name: Agkistrondon contortix

The copperhead is one of the three venomous snakes found in the state of New York. This is not a particularly large snake, growing to two or three feet.  It is considered a pit viper, named for the pits located in front of their eyes. This enables them to see heat and sense the size and location of prey. While they do not have enough venom to kill a full size human, their venom can cause severe damage and requires immediate emergency treatment. Their bite is painful and they lack a warning rattle.

Most characteristic are the hourglass shaped markings of the copperhead which are narrower along the spine and wider to the bottom.

Note the triangular shaped head and slitted eyes. Their fangs,which are hollow, inject venom into their prey. When not in use, the fangs fold up in their head. They can replace these fangs up to 7 times in the course of their lives.

However, one is very unlikely to ever see a copperhead as they are relatively uncommon and they camouflage well. See the photo below in the gallery to see just how well they blend into the leaf litter..They will freeze if startled, maintaining their camouflage, but sometimes this results in them being stepped on!

Baby copperheads have bright green tails which they use as lures to simulate prey.

click to flip

Diet

These snakes are in the middle of the food chain. They eat rodents, small birds, frogs and insects. They are eaten by raptors like hawks and animals like the fox.

Habitat

They enjoy rocky areas and also wooded places, like a pile of logs.

Life Cycle

Females can reproduce without mating! They create mini versions of themselves. Usually, however, they breed in late summer and have 4-7 young. They are incubated in the mothers’ pouch and then are born alive.

 

Similar Species

Unfortunately, the copperhead is sometimes confused with the innocent milk snake, as in their youth they are more copper in color. Their markings are actually quite different. See the photo below.

Fun Facts

In winter, they brumate in groups. Brumation is similar to hibernation in that the body temperature goes down and the metabolism slows and they are inactive. It is possible for them to come out and sun on a warm day. Other animals like bears also brumate, rather than hibernate. They can awaken!

More on Reptiles and Amphibians in Lewisboro