How To Identify A Copperhead Snake: What Makes It Unique?

Copperhead snakes are probably one of the most typically known venomous snakes all over the southeastern part of the U.S. But, unlike any other species present in the country who can’t cope up with human habitats, these snakes can survive in disturbed lands.

Their bites are also dangerous. However, fatalities due to their bites are rare. Shy copperheads will only tend to bite you when you step on them. But, the question is: how to identify a copperhead snake? Let’s find out how you can recognize them.

​Copperhead Snake Overview

 Identify A Copperhead Snake

Copperheads have five various sub-species that inhabit the northern part of America. The Agkistrodon Contortrix Mosaken live all throughout the piedmont and mountains of the southeastern U.S. On the other hand, copperheads found in the southern United States dwell in the coastal plain of the southeastern area.

​When you head to the western portion, an Osage copperhead snake can live throughout Kansas, Missouri, and some parks found in Oklahoma. But, the broad-branded copperheads can also replace the Osage copperhead snakes to the southern parts. Moreover, the Trans-Pecos copperheads can dwell in the southwestern Texas.

​Copperhead Snakes Encounter With People

​Copperheads are very common species found in the United States. They are often responsible for a lot of cases of snake bites in the country. In fact, hundreds and thousands of humans get injured by their bites annually. They have a huge population in the U.S. So, it is normal for people to encounter these snakes.

​Most of them get bitten by these species. In fact, there were over 5,000 snakebites from these snakes in the country per year. It is the huge part of the total 55,000 cases of the snakebites in the United States every year.

Where Did Copperheads Get Their Name?​

​According to experts, copperhead snakes obtained their name from its copper red head. There are also other snakes that got the same name, but they got the different common name. Australian copperheads, sharp-nosed vipers, Water Moccasins, and radiated rat snakes are also copperheads. However, they are not similar to the North American copperhead snakes.

Experts also call the North American copperheads as the Agkistrodon Contortrix. These species also make up the pit vipers, including the rattlesnakes and water moccasins.

Natural Habitat of Copperhead Snakes​

Natural Habitat of Copperhead Snakes

​Experts also claim that the natural habitats of copperheads are in a few states in the U.S. These species can be found in Virginia and West Virginia. You can even observe them in areas like Tennesee, Texas, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

​Some snakes are in New York and Pennsylvania. You can also look for copperheads in Nebraska, New Jersey, and Kansas. Also, you can look for them in Massachusetts, Missouri, Maryland, Mississippi, and Oklahoma.

Other states like Ohio, Kentucky, Louisiana, Indiana, Iowa, Illinois, and Floria have these species. Georgia, Connecticut, Delaware, Alabama, and Arkansas also have copperhead snakes. You can also spot these species in Chihuahua and Coahuila in Mexico.

These snakes live in various natural environments within its reach. In Northern America, the love to dwell in combined deciduous forests and woodlands.

Experts also suggest that you can look for these species in rock outcroppings and ledges. Also, they sometimes creep in swampy areas and lowlands.

Plus, they tend to hibernate within the limestone cracks with rattlesnakes and Black Rat snakes. Around the United States and the Gulf of Mexico, copperhead snakes stay in coniferous forests.

So, if you are planning on a camping adventure, you must watch out for copperhead snakes.

How To Identify A Copperhead Snake​

​Identifying Copperheads From Afar and Close View

Copperhead snakes have facial pits, elliptical eyes, and a row of subcaudal scales. However, for you to notice these characteristics, you have to have close encounters with the dangerous reptile.

To identify these snakes in the safest distance, you may just use their color pattern. Plus, you may notice their body shape, tail tip, head, eyes, and behavior. So, humans should not approach copperhead snakes in a closer view.​

​Color Pattern of Copperheads

Copperhead snakes have brown, tan, or beige colors. On top of these hues, you can find dark brown markings that are triangular in shape in most subspecies of copperheads.

​These triangles touch the middle part of the back, which creates an hourglass figure. Southern copperhead snakes are the palest. Plus, they have the thinnest hourglass-like pattern of them all.

On the other hand, Northern copperheads are the darkest of the subspecies. Moreover, they have the thickest hourglass figure that joins more frequently in the midline.

The Osage’s color is usually a combination of both the southern and the northern sub-species. However, their darker hues come with white borders.

Also, the triangles of the Trans-Pecos and broad-banded copperheads have turned into broken and full bands. So, it won’t be too difficult for you to differentiate the from one subspecies to another.

Color Pattern of Copperheads

Tip of the Tail​

Younger copperheads have brighter yellow tail tips compared to adults. The young reptiles put their tails into good use. They often camouflage with the leaves of the plants.Also, they can trap insects, lizards, and frogs by wiggling their tails.

Their tails turn brown as they mature. Plus, their potential to hunt for prey continue to increase. Copperheads, whether old or young can vibrate their tails quickly when they get anxious. But, this is also common to other snake species.

Body Shape​

Although copperhead snakes do not have long bodies, they are enormous and stocky. But, they can only reach up to 3 feet or less. Their heads are a diamond in shape, and they set off very distinctively from their necks.

A lot of these snakes engage in the body to the skull when they become frightened. So, people can make this as a vital clue or identification for copperheads.

Head of Copperhead Snakes​

Head of Copperhead Snakes

The reptile’s head does not have color patterns. The only distinct feature found in this area are their dark spots. However, experts say that these snakes often have copper-like heads.

​They are also arrow-shaped or triangular in form. They have a unique ridge on the top of their skull, just between their eyes and nostrils.


Their eyes have vertical pupils, which somewhat look like that of the cat’s pupils. Their irises are tan, orange, or reddish-brown in color.

Young copperhead snakes have grayish eyes. However, you can still identify them with the similar features with the adult snakes.

Behavior of Copperheads​

Behavior of Copperheads

Copperhead snakes can protect themselves by camouflaging. Their level of aggressiveness among people may vary from direct biting when they become threatened not to bite at all. Shy snakes, in particular, just want to stay out from people.

​They only get triggered when humans disturb them while resting or on a hunt. Once you stimulate them, copperheads will try to vibrate their tails rapidly and give off that strong odor.

Also, studies have claimed that these snakes roam around during the day, especially in spring and fall. However, they become nocturnal when summer arrives. But, they like to go out when it's humid and hot after rainy days.

While copperhead snakes live mostly on the ground, some choose to climb bushes and trees to look for their prey. You can even find them swimming in the water.


Copperheads are distinct snakes. However, amateurs may misidentify them with other venomous snakes out there. You should alarm yourself that copperheads cause a lot of snake bites in the U.S. than any other species.

They often strike fast in random directions when scared and when trying to escape. Thus, you need to find out their distinctive characteristics and features mentioned above.

By getting acquainted with them all, you will have a worry-less trip in the forests and wilderness.​

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