SOUTHERN COPPERHEAD


Scientific name: Agkistrodon contortrix contortrix

Size

The average size of a mature Southern Copperhead is 2.5 - 3 feet in length. Some reach up to 4 feet in length, with a record length of 53 inches. The Southern Copperhead is generally larger than the other Copperhead subspecies.

Description

The Copperhead gets it name from the copper-red color of the top of its head, similar to the color of a penny. The body of the Southern Copperhead is generally a light tan to pinkish-tan, with dark brown to reddish-brown bands. These bands are hourglass shaped, being obviously thinner across the spine and wider on the sides of the snake. The two halves of the hourglass often do not touch each other on the Southern Copperhead, which gives the appearance of dark brown or reddish-brown triangles on each side of the Southern Copperhead, rather than the complete hourglass. The inside of the hourglass pattern is usually lighter on the sides of the body. There may sometimes be one or two darker brown marks between the bands on the back of the body, and one inside the bands on the sides of the body. These spots are not as obvious as the banding, and are many times fainter in color or non-existent.

Young Southern Copperheads are patterned like mature Southern Copperheads, but are often grayer in color, and the tip of the tail on young Southern Copperheads is yellow. The yellow tail is used to attract food. It is wiggled in a motion imitating a worm or caterpillar, which attract frogs, lizards, or other prey that the young Southern Copperhead eats.

The Southern Copperhead has elliptical pupils that look like cat's eyes and like all pit vipers, has a heat-sensing pit between the nostril and eye on each side of its head. The Southern Copperhead has a large, triangular head that is wider than the neck when viewed from above.

Distribution

In the United States, the Southern Copperhead is found in the southeastern states. These include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.
Map of US states the Southern Copperhead is found in.
Map does not show area of true distribution, only the states in which there is a population.
Actual distribution in any highlighted state may be limited.

Notes

When the Southern Copperhead is disturbed or feels threatened, it will often coil up its body, and raise its head at a 45-degree angle from the ground in a defensive posture. It will often vibrate its tail when disturbed as well.

The Southern Copperhead is born with the ability to bite and inject venom, and is fully capable of inflicting a venomous bite from birth.

Southern Copperhead
Photo © 2003 David W. George

Southern Copperhead
Photo © 2003 David W. George

Southern Copperhead Closeup
Photo © 2003 David W. George

For more information on venomous snakes, please see the Venomous Links page.


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