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Species Description

Copperhead

Agkistrodon contortrix


Species Image

Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Viperidae

Description

The Copperhead can vary in color from grayish-brown to light brown or even pinkish. It has 10 - 20 hourglass-shaped dark crossbands which are chestnut brown or reddish brown to brown. The head can vary from gray to brown to reddish. The belly can be light brown, pinkish, or cream, with black, brown, or dark gray blotches. Average adults range in length from 610 - 900 mm (24 - 36 in). This is a stout-bodied snake. The scales are weakly keeled. As in all pitvipers there is a pit on each side of the head between the nostril and the eye.

Life Cycle

Most Copperheads breed in the spring months of April and May, but mating may also take place in the fall in September and October. After a gestation period of 105 - 150 days the young are born alive and ready to feed. This snake is active from March through November in the South. In rocky, mountainous regions, it will congregate in rock crevices to hibernate for the winter months.

Natural History

The Copperhead can be found in a variety of habitats, from bottomland hardwood forest along the coastal plain to rocky hillsides in the Piedmont and mountains. Adults feed primarily on small mammals, but a wide variety of prey has been recorded, including various insects such as cicadas, grasshoppers, beetles, and caterpillars, and also birds, snakes, and amphibians. Young Copperheads have a bright yellow tail tip which is used to help them attract food. A young Copperhead will coil itself up on the forest floor and extend the bright yellow tail tip, then slowly wiggle it to mimic the movements of a worm. When a small frog or lizard comes close to investigate, the young Copperhead strikes and gets a meal. Predators of the Copperhead include the Indigo Snake, kingsnakes, hawks, owls, the Opossum, the Coyote, and the Bobcat.

Range

Copperhead Region Map The Copperhead can be found from Connecticut southwest to Eastern Kansas and across to southwestern and south central Texas. It is absent from almost all of Florida and from the southern one-quarter of Georgia.

Conservation Status

Copperheads are not uncommon in the state of Georgia.

Similar Species

The Cottonmouth is darker in color and has a broad dark band along the side of its head.