Agkistrodon contortrix


Photo by JD Willson

Description: The copperhead is a pitviper and the most common venomous snake in most parts of North Carolina. Copperheads are rather heavy-bodied and are beautifully marked with dark brown, hourglass shaped crossbands on a light brown or gray background. The belly is a mix of white and black markings. Baby copperheads look like their parents but have yellow or green tails that they wiggle to lure lizards and frogs within striking range.

Feeding/Diet: Adults often use ambush tactics to capture a variety of prey including mice, small birds, insects, and frogs.

Activity/Behavior: Copperheads are usually active at night but can often be found moving around or basking during the daytime. In the mountains, they sometimes hibernate with timber rattlesnakes.

Habitat/Range: Copperheads are common in many forested areas but sometimes venture into open fields. They are rather tolerant of human development and can often be found in established, wooded neighborhoods.

Reproduction: Copperheads mate during the spring and fall and give birth to 3-14 young during the late summer or early fall.

Miscellaneous: When disturbed, copperheads will frequently vibrate their tail and release musk from glands at the base of their tail. If severely threatened, copperheads will usually bite to defend themselves. Fortunately, though their bite may be very painful, it is rarely fatal to humans.

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The shaded region represents the range of the copperhead in North Carolina.

Photo by RW Van Devender Photo by Eric Stine Juvenile copperhead.
Photo by JD Willson

Head of a copperhead, note facial pit and vertical pupil.
Photo by RW Van Devender

Juvenile copperhead, note yellow tail tip.
Photo by Eric Stine

This website created by: J. Willson, Y. Kornilev, W. Anderson, G. Connette and E. Eskew.
For comments or questions contact M. Dorcas:
M. Dorcas homepage:
Davidson College, Davidson, North Carolina 28035-1719.

Text and maps from: Dorcas, M. E. 2004. A Guide to the Snakes of North Carolina. Davidson College - Herpetology Laboratory, Davidson, NC. – Copyright by Michael E. Dorcas.

Partial Funding for this website provided by a Associate Colleges of the South, National Science Foundation, and Duke Energy.