Copperhead – Agkistrodon contortrix

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According to, Copperheads are medium-size snakes, averaging between 2 and 3 feet in length. Young copperheads are more grayish in color than adults and possess “bright yellow or greenish yellow tail tips.” According to Beane, “this color fades in about a year.”
They are happy in “an extremely wide range of habitats,” though usually “at least some semblance of woods or forest habitat is present.” They are “particularly fond of ecotones,” which are transition areas between two ecological communities.

Copperheads love to eat mice and other small rodents, and enjoy eating “birds, lizards, small snakes, frogs, salamanders and certain large insects (especially cicadas and large caterpillars).

According to North Carolina State University, Copperheads bite more people in most years than any other U.S. species of snake. But , fortunately, their venom is not very potent.

Unlike most venomous snakes, copperheads give no warning signs and strike almost immediately if they feel threatened. Copperheads have hemotoxic venom, said Beane, which means that a copperhead bite “often results in temporary tissue damage in the immediate area of bite.” Their bite may be painful but is “very rarely (almost never) fatal to humans.” Children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems may have strong reactions to the venom, however, and anyone who is bitten by a copperhead should seek medical attention.

  1. According to the National Library of Medicine, you should consider the following steps in first aid: Keep the person calm. Reassure them that bites can be effectively treated in an emergency room. Restrict movement, and keep the affected area below heart level to reduce the flow of venom. 
  2. If you have a pump suction device (such as that made by Sawyer), follow the manufacturer’s directions.
  3. Remove any rings or constricting items, because the affected area may swell. Create a loose splint to help restrict movement of the area.
  4. If the area of the bite begins to swell and change color, the snake was probably venomous.
  5. Monitor the person’s vital signs — temperature, pulse, rate of breathing, and blood pressure — if possible. If there are signs of shock (such as paleness), lay the person flat, raise the feet about a foot, and cover the person with a blanket.
  6. Get medical help right away. 
  7. Bring in the dead snake only if this can be done safely. Do not waste time hunting for the snake, and do not risk another bite if it is not easy to kill the snake. Be careful of the head when transporting it — a snake can actually bite for several hours after it’s dead (from a reflex).

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