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Copperhead Snakes - Agkistrodon contortrix

leaf2Stout-bodied, copper, orange, or pink-tinged, with bold chestnut or reddish-bron crossbands constricted on midline of the back. The top of the head is unmarked. Facial pit between the eye and the nostril. The scales are weakly keeled in 23 to 25 rows and the anal plate is single.

There are several species/subspecies of Copperhead found up and down the eastern United States. These include the Northern Copperhead, Broadband Copperhead, Southern Copperhead and the Trans-Pecos Copperhead. Many reports of copperhead sightings are usually watersnakes or water moccasins (cottonmouths). The Copperhead's bite is less severe then the Cottonmouth's bite. The copper-colored head is wider then the neck. The average adult size is 22 to 36 inches.

Subspecies Description and Range

Southern Copperhead: Hourglass shaped crossbands, narrow across the midline of the back, 2 halves often fail to meet. Range - eastern North Carolina to Fllorida panhandle, west through southern Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, north through southeastern Oklahoma, Arkansas, western Tennessee, southern Missouri to southwestern Illinois.

Broad-Banded Copperhead: dark crossbands are much wider that the light interspaces and nearly as wide across the midline of the back as on the sides. Range - southern Kansas through central Okalhoma to southcentral Texas. Note: I added the Broad-Banded Copperhead to this site due to the interbreeding with the Northern Copperhead in the wild. This extends their range more easternly then what is list above.

Northern Copperhead: dark hourglass shaped crossbands, wide portion on the sides, narrow across the midline of the back, with small dark spots between the bands. Range - southwestern Massachusetts to southwestern Illinois, south to northeastern Mississippi, northner Alabama, northern and central Georgia, and peidmont of South Carolina.

Osage Copperhead: Maximum total lengths of 990/723 mm for males/females, while mentioning that other sources give a maximum total length for this subspecies of 1,016 mm regardless of sex. The color pattern is similar to that of A. c. mokasen, except that the dark bands are in sharper contrast to the lighter ground color, and that there are no smaller dark spots between them.

Trans-Pecos Copperhead: This subspecies is typically a light tan in color, with darker brown, wide crossbands. Their actual color varies by locality, varying from a red-brown, to a gray-brown. The species can be difficult to distinguish from the Broad-banded Copperhead, A. c. laticinctus. The only notable physical difference between the subspecies is that the Trans-Pecos Copperhead tends to have an elaboratedly patterned underside, often being an irregular, white and black pattern whereas the Broad-banded tends to be plain white, only have minimal patterning, or have elongated random blotching instead of a distinct pattern. The subspecies intergrade where their ranges overlap, further confusing identification. It is easily distinguished from other subspecies of copperhead, in that other species typically have banding that narrows at the spine, creating hourglass shapes, whereas A. c. pictigaster has bands that do not narrow at the spine. They grow to approximately 20-36 inches in length. As juveniles, all species of Agkistrodon have a bright green-yellow color to their tail tip believed to be used as a lure to attract prey items to approach within striking range. The color fades to a grey or brown at about a year of age.

Venomous or Harmless - The Look-a-Likes

HN_copperhead.jpg Copperhead Snake
Venomous
HN_Watersnake.jpg Northern Watersnake
Harmless

Geographic Range & Habitat

Found in the United States in the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. In Mexico it occurs in Chihuahua and Coahuila.

Within its range it occupies a variety of different habitats. In most of North America it favors deciduous forest and mixed woodlands. They are often associated with rock outcroppings and ledges, but are also found in low-lying swampy regions. In the states around the Gulf of Mexico, however, it is also found in coniferous forest. In the Chihuahuan Desert of west Texas and northern Mexico, it occurs in riparian habitats, usually near permanent or semipermanent water and sometimes in dry arroyos

More Notes

Although venomous, these snakes are generally non-aggressive and bites are almost never fatal. Bite symptoms include intense pain, tingling, throbbing, swelling, and severe nausea. Damage can occur to muscle and bone tissue, especially when the bite occurs in the outer extremities such as the hands and feet, areas in which there is not a large muscle mass to absorb the venom. A bite from any venomous snake should be taken very seriously and immediate medical attention sought.