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Southern Copperhead

Southern Copperhead

Agkistrodon contortrix contortrix                          Photo Fiona Sunquist ©

Copperheads are stout-bodied, pinkish grey to grayish brown snakes with reddish hourglass or saddle-shaped bands on the back and sides.  They are usually less than three feet long.  Copperheads have a triangular shaped head and a relatively thin neck. The pupils of the eyes are elliptical and there is a heat-sensitive pit between the eye and nostril on both sides of the head. Copperheads are sometimes confused with the cottonmouth, but the cottonmouth has a dark band through the eye.

These snakes are found in wet woodlands and the borders of swamps.  They become gregarious in fall and may crawl considerable distances to a shared hibernaculum.  Copperheads are pit vipers – they detect prey with heat-detecting facial pits.  They feed mostly on warm-blooded prey such as rodents, rabbits and squirrels, but they also eat insects such as grasshoppers, millipedes and dragonflies. 

Copperhead venom is dangerous, but rarely causes death except to small animals. Some symptoms of a copperhead bite may include hemorrhage, pain, swelling, breathing difficulty, vomiting, headaches, and unconsciousness. Despite these symptoms, the copperhead's venom is considered to have relatively low lethal toxicity compared with that of most other native venomous snakes.  In addition, copperheads have small fangs and they usually inflict small, shallow bites.

Copperheads spray musk when handled – some people say you can smell them when walking in the woods. 



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Wildlife of Florida 2011
Fiona Sunquist
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