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American Copperhead

Updated on February 26, 2016

Scientific Name: Agkistrodon contortrix

Description

The American Copperhead does create venom but it isn’t a powerful as many other snakes. Still, three are 5 sub species and they can all create painful bites and inject venom to make a person sick. It is always a good idea to take care when you handle any snake or when you may be in a place where they can see you but you don’t see them.

The males are longer and wider than the females, with an average size of about 3 feet. The females can be a ½ foot or a foot shorter than that and they aren’t as wide. Both genders feature a very wide head with a snout that turns down. This is a distinct look that you can use to identify them from other snake species.

Most of the time they will offer some types of tan coloring. They are usually darker on the ends of the body with a lighter shade in the middle. They have cross bands too but they blend into the surroundings so they may be light or dark in color. Like any snake the colors offered are going to be strongly influenced by where they live. Survival for the American Copperhead involves not readily being seen by predators.

Behavior

Don’t be surprised if you see this type of snake out during the daylight hours. Most of the time they will be active at night. However, when the temperatures are getting cooler they will come out during the day when they can rely on the sunlight to help warm them up. Snakes are cold blooded so they don’t have a way to regulate their body temperature internally.

They will be hiding out when the temperatures cool off and so you need to aware of that. People have been bitten when they try to move boxes from storage, when they are playing with piles of leaves in the yard, and when they are out hiking.

The cold weather also causes the American Copperhead to take part in a very unusual type of behavior. They have been seen gathering with each other instead of remaining along. Experts believe this helps them to all stay warm. In addition to gathering with their own species they have been found with the Black Rat Snakes as well.

Habitat and Distribution

Most of these snakes are living in the United States. However, there are a few sub species now in Mexico. The Gulf of Mexico is a place where you will find plenty of the various species living. They no extend far to the East including New Jersey and New York. They also are found along the Midwest with high numbers in both Illinois and Iowa.

They are also high in numbers in areas of Florida, Kansas, Georgia, and Texas. They will live around water, in the dry areas, in the forests, and in humid areas. They are highly versatile and can live just about anywhere. With humans destroying common locations where they live they continue to be emerging in new environments all the time. The sells of them on the black market also account for the diversity of locations where they are found to inhabit.

American Copperhead Video

Diet and Feeding Habits

There are plenty of insects out there that this snake feeds upon. They will also find rodents, lizards, and frogs to consume. They are well known for being patient hunters. They blend into the surroundings and literally hide right in the line of vision. Then they are able to spring on prey that comes along.

They will inject the venom and then let go. For larger prey they may have to follow it a short distance before the flow of the venom through the body works its magic. Even then they are very patient as they know it is all a matter of time. Like all snakes they can’t consume solid food so they have to swallow all of it and then allow the digestion process to occur.

Reproduction

They only have from  4 to 7 young which is very low for a snake. They are also one of the few species that give birth to live young. The males will start to look for females to mate with in late summer. The females don’t always want to mate. They are extremely selective so they may mate annually or not at all for several years at a time.

Even though the young are born alive the mothers don’t nurture them in any way. They are born and she leaves them alone. They do have a great method of getting food though. When they are small they tip of the tail is yellow. As it moves back and forth it looks like a worm. There are predators out there that will come to it thinking they have found food – and then they become a meal for this young snake.

Predators

There are couple of different predators out there that the American Copperhead has to contend with. It really depends on the size of them and the location. There are various birds that will feed on the young but not try to take on the larger ones. Raccoons, possum, and the fox can also be predators. The Northern Ringed Neck Snake is also known to be a predator on occasion.

The destruction of habitat by humans though is the biggest problem they have to deal with. Humans will take over land for construction, to farm, and they will just kill these snakes to get rid of them. Large numbers are taken from the wild to sell to pet owners as well.

American Copperhead Video

Venomous Bite or Danger to Humans

The fact that this is a very aggressive type of snake means you really should take your time to consider getting one as a pet. Think about the risks and the long term care of it. Don’t focus on having something rare and exciting as it can bite you or your family in an instant.

They are known to bite out of instinct but they can be controlled about it. They will often bite as a warning which is going to be felt but it isn’t the most damage they can do. The second bite though will be harder and that is also when they are going to start releasing the venom. They are able to bite several times in just a few seconds so it can be hard to move away fast enough to avoid more than that initial bite.

When venom has been released into the body a person will start to feel very ill. The most common effect is nausea followed by vomiting. Medical care should always been sought after such a bite. If all they did was bite there is still the risk of an infection occurring. Antibiotics can be offered to prevent it.

If there is venom the vomiting can be severe enough to cause dehydration. IV fluids can help to prevent that. Observation to ensure the person doesn’t have an allergy to the venom is also a good idea. Anyone with such an allergy could end up with the airways being closed. Antihistamines are effect for treating such swelling but they should be offered early to reduce the damages.

Comments

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  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 

    7 years ago from London, UK

    Thank you for the wonderful read of so much detailed information

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