Is That a Copperhead?

by Ann Barnes, EMGV

Recently, my colleagues and I were surprised by a copperhead curled up in our compost bin. Fortunately, nobody was bitten, and we were able to move the snake to a safe location. Harmless snakes are often mistaken for copperheads. Take a look at this excellent site from the Virginia Herpetological Society and learn to spot the differences.

Copperheads are found throughout North Carolina. They are carnivores, eating mice, birds, lizards, frogs, and some insects. Copperheads live where their prey is plentiful – wooded areas, near streams and ponds, and around covered areas such as wood piles, rock walls, compost piles, stumps and debris. During summer, copperheads are more active at night and hidden during the day. Their coloring provides excellent camouflage.

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, most snakes that are approached by people will first try to escape. If escape is not a possibility, most venomous snakes will 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. Many copperhead bites occur when people step on or accidentally touch a snake. 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.

https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/gaston/Pests/reptiles/copperhead-1.htm

https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/gaston/Pests/reptiles/copperhead.htm

https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/northern-copperhead

https://wordpress.com/post/durhammastergardeners.wordpress.com/1054

 

 

Avoid Copperheads

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:
babycuhdYoung Copperhead – adults have similar markings but dark tails.

babyratYoung 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
Jason Allen
336-524-9801–Office
336-514-0306 –Cell

NC Wildlife …. 919-707-0010
www.ncwildlife.org

Federal Wildlife … 800-344-9453

For further reading: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/gaston/Pests/reptiles/copperhead-1.htmhttp://www.ces.ncsu.edu/gaston/Pests/reptiles/copperhead.htm