Northern Copperhead
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Online Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Connecticut

Northern Copperhead - Agkistrodon contortix mokasen

Venomous

 

Description

A medium-sized snake reaching 2 to 3 feet as an adult (61 to 90 cm). The body is usually tan or orange-tan (sometimes silvery) with dark brown to reddish brown bands. The head is usually yellowish or orangish, hence the common name. The eyes have vertically slit pupils; a loreal heat-sensing pit can be found just behind, and slightly below, the nostril. The subcaudal scales are in a single row with an undivided anal plate. Its scales are keeled.

The Northern Copperhead is venomous.

 

Reproduction

This species is a live-bearing, with between 3 and 10 young are born usually in late summer.

 

Juveniles

Juveniles (at right) have yellow tails, but otherwise look similar to the adults.

 

Habitat

Rocky ledges, usually in low-lying areas near water. They are often found on south-facing rocks.

 

Food

Like most snakes. they are opportunistic feeders. They eat mainly rodents, but also amphibians and other reptiles. Birds and insects can also be taken if available.

 

Range

In Connecticut the Northern Copperhead occurs mainly to the west of the Connecticut River. Klemens (1993) lists it as occurring in nearly every county of Connecticut, with the greatest abundance in Hartford, Middlesex and New Haven counties. Outside Connecticut, the species is found throughout much of the eastern half of the United States.

 

Status

Common.

 

Comment

Many other species of snake are often confused with the Northern Copperhead, most commonly the Northern Water Snake, Eastern Milk Snake and the Eastern Hognose Snake.

Reminder: A wild snake should never be handled if it cannot be readily identified. Venomous snakes should not be handled by the novice under any circumstances. If left alone and unharmed, even the most venomous species will pose no threat to humans. It is only when threatened by a human that a snake will bite, and then only in self-defense. The Northern Copperhead is venomous.

 

References

Conant, R. and J.T. Collins. 1991. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians: Eastern/Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 450 pp.

Klemens, M.W. 1993. Amphibians and Reptiles of Connecticut and Adjacent Regions. Hartford, CT: State Geological and Natural History Survey of Connecticut Bulletin 112. 318 pp.

Petersen, R.C. and R.W. Fritch II. 1986. Connecticut’s Venomous Snakes: The Timber Rattlesnake and Northern Copperhead, 2nd edition. Hartford, CT: State Geological and Natural History Survey of Connecticut Bulletin 111, 1986. 48 pp.

 

Credits

Text by Gregory J. Watkins-Colwell.
Photographs © Twan Leenders. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Animals featured on this page are from Connecticut.