Have you seen a copperhead recently? These snakes give birth to between 1-14 live babies (rather than laying eggs) in late summer and early fall, before beginning hibernation in October. Because of this, you may be seeing more copperheads now than you have earlier in the year. Copperheads feed on mice, lizards, frogs, birds, and some insects. They live in wooded areas, near ponds and streams, around rocks, and other places where prey may hide. These snakes will also hide in mulch and compost piles, overgrown areas, wood piles, and similar debris. Keeping grass cut and weeds controlled will make your home less attractive to copperheads, as will removing piles of wood, bricks, rocks or debris from your yard. Any vegetation, structure, or item that provides cover for prey such as mice will also attract snakes that prey on them.
While copperhead bites are seldom fatal to humans, they are painful and require medical attention. According to Dr. Whit Gibbons of the University of Georgia, snakes that are approached by people will first try to escape. If escape is not a possibility, most venomous snakes will first give a warning – such as a rattlesnake’s tail vibration or a cottonmouth’s open mouth – before striking. Copperheads react differently: they tend to strike without a warning if unable to escape human contact. Experts recommend avoiding these snakes and allowing them to escape. Use caution when doing yard work (especially in overgrown areas) or participating in outdoor activities such as hiking.
Young rat snakes resemble copperheads, as seen in these photos from NC Cooperative Extension:
Young Copperhead – adults have similar markings but dark tails.
Young rat snake – adults are black in color. Rat snakes are not harmful and are good pest control.
For questions about snakes or other wildlife, please contact:
NC Wildlife Resource Commission
District Wildlife Officer
NC Wildlife …. 919-707-0010
Federal Wildlife … 800-344-9453
For further reading: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/gaston/Pests/reptiles/copperhead-1.htm, http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/gaston/Pests/reptiles/copperhead.htm