Snakes were here first.
Although snakes have
walked trotted slithered around on Earth for around 100 million years, it’s easy to dislike snakes. It’s a distaste tattooed into humans (Garden of Eden, dragons, Nüwa in Chinese creation myths, etc.) thousands of years ago. An innate fear that’s likely a holdover from our prehistoric ancestors (ophidiophobia or “fear of snakes”).
However, we now know that without snakes, human civilization would be overrun by rodents…disease-carrying rodents. We really should thank the snake! After all, we’re intruding on their territory. And they’ll be here long after we’re gone.
Copperhead territory is expanding.
It’s true. Even if you don’t believe in climate science—and one day you will, whether you like it or not—but warmer, wetter conditions are presenting the copperhead with more places to call home.
Now more than ever, we need to respect our legless friends’ place in nature as master rodent killers. While raptors may snatch mice and rats from the sky, only snakes can slither their way into burrows and really thin those numbers.
Over the last year I collected a pile of hidden copperhead snake images and boiled it down to my favorite dozen. These are all copperheads, which can be found across much of the South and Midwest. Take your time and I promise, there are no trick images. Each and every photo has a venomous copperhead waiting for you. Good luck!
An easy one.
Copperhead Fact: Not only do these pit vipers wipe out infestations of mice and rats, but they eliminate the ticks these rodents often carry. Ticks that cause things like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
Solution to “An easy one”
Copperhead Fact: Many snake species seem cosmetically similar, but only copperheads have the distinct hourglass-shaped markings. Look for that shape while identifying one, but don’t look too closely.
Another easy one (building your confidence).
Copperhead Fact: Pit vipers like copperheads derive their name from a heat-sensing organ located between the eye and nostril. This provides location of prey regardless of light conditions, a very useful tool when hunting in lightless burrows or nests.
Solution to “Another easy one.”
Copperhead Fact: Unlike most venomous species, copperheads do not generally flee when approached. Instead, they rely on their remarkable camouflage to blend in with their surroundings. However, if a threat approaches too close, copperheads will strike.
Getting a little more difficult…
Copperhead Fact: Despite their defensive aggression, copperheads often deliver a “dry bite,” or bite which contains a small amount of venom. It requires time to and energy to produce venom, so copperheads won’t waste it. While a bite from these pit vipers is painful, it is rarely fatal to a healthy human adult.
Solution to “Getting a little more difficult.”
Copperhead Fact: During the summer months, copperheads become nocturnal hunters, particularly on humid summer nights after a hard rain. They’ll even boldly venture onto low trees and bushes to ambush prey, a tactic they rarely employ in the spring.
Watch the water’s edge.
Copperhead Fact: A copperhead bite comes with a pretty hefty price tag. In 2019, a 9-year-old bite victim was rushed to an Indianapolis hospital and charged almost $17,000 per vial of anti-venom, with four vials in total. Her family received a bill of $143,000. Today, an effective copperhead antivenom made in Mexico, but approved for use in the US, costs $1220.
Solution to “Watch the water’s edge.”
Copperhead Fact: Indiana state law regarding venomous snakes is vague, which means you can own one, but it’s discouraged. Once upon a time, owners of any venomous species had to have training and experience with venomous species before owning such an animal. That’s over. However, Indiana’s DNR prohibits the sale of any species collected in the wild. Please don’t bring a copperhead into your home.
Copperhead Fact: Of the five subspecies of copperhead, only the northern copperhead* is native to Indiana. This subspecies can grow to over three feet in length, topped by a distinctive, spade-shaped head slightly wider than its body.
*Illinois is home to both the northern and eastern copperhead.
Copperhead Fact: The copperhead gives birth to young while still inside their amniotic sacs. These “infants” quickly escape the mother’s den, who provides no care once born. Only a fraction of the young survive to adulthood, but the species makes up for that with its productive birthing cycle: up to 60% of a population’s female give birth every summer!
Copperhead Fact: The average litter size for copperheads ranges between 6 and 9 young, with some producing as many as 17! Much of it depends on precipitation. The size of copperhead litters are directly related to the year’s rainfall. More rain, more babies.
This guy’s very hard to spot, but it’s easy to find his tail. Work forward from there.
Copperhead Fact: Venomous snakebites are fairly common throughout the world. Almost two million people suffer snakebites every year, mostly in desert, tropical, or subtropical climates. Of those, over 100,000 bites are fatal, typically from a lack of available medical care.
Copperhead Fact: In 2019, a Tennessee hunter came across a massive roadkill copperhead which measured 49.5 inches, a foot larger than the average adult copperhead.
Copperhead Fact: Once reaching adulthood, the northern copperhead has a good chance for a long life. This subspecies lives an average of 18 years in the wild, but specimens in captivity live around 25 years.
Copperhead Fact: Every year, the Carolinas Poison Center in Charlotte, North Carolina reports over 10 times as many calls for copperhead bites than all other snakebites combined. However, copperhead bites are rarely dangerous (but can hurt badly) for any healthy adult.
Copperhead Fact: Copperhead bites are extremely rare in Indiana or Illinois. These bites are most common in these five states (in descending order): North Carolina, West Virginia, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Virginia.
Copperhead Fact: If a snake has slithered onto your property, you can always call on a professional snake remover. However, it isn’t cheap: non-venomous snakes only cost $100-$200 to remove, but pros often charge over $500 for a single venomous snake. Hazard pay.
Copperhead Fact: People commonly confuse the words poisonous and venomous, but they are not the same thing. Professor Bryan Fry of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Queensland offered an easy distinction: “If YOU lick it or eat it and you die, it’s poisonous. If IT bites you and you die, it’s venomous.“
Pretty sure you can spot that rattlesnake. It’s no joke either. Some kid in Texas discovered this big boy flopping around in his toilet, then his family another two dozen living under the house. Apparently Texas does everything BIG, including snake infestations.
Copperhead Fact: there are three categories of snake venom—hemotoxic (affecting red blood cells), neurotoxic (affecting the nervous system), and cytotoxic (affecting any living cells). Copperheads posses hemotoxic venom.
Copperhead Fact: Another venomous snake, the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, has an ingenious hunting technique. While biting prey, it injects far more venom into birds than any other animal (by body weight). Instead of chasing the prey, this allows the snake to lazily follow its trail until the bird succumbs. This prevents energy being wasted in chasing a panicked, possibly dangerous bird.
Copperhead Fact: These American snakes stay hidden and motionless for a good reason. Every year, copperheads only consume about 125% to 200% of their body weight (a human eats around 2,000 pounds or 10x their average body weight annually). Even during their most active time of the year (spring/summer), copperheads will only enjoy around eight meals.
*Four snakes in this photo, but it only counts as ONE.