All you need to know about copperheads

by Tammy McCormack. 0 Comments

June is already here and the days seem to be flying by thanks to the snakes keeping me so busy. It seems like most days I can't get away from the phone because so many people have questions about the snakes either around or in their home.

I know I stated that this week's article would be about Maryland's two venomous snakes. I am writing today about the copperhead and next week we will learn about the timber rattlesnake.

Maryland only has two venomous snake species we do not have water moccasins or, as they are often called: the cottonmouth.

The copperhead is one of my favorite snakes that lives in the wild. The copperhead is a very stout-bodied snake and can reach a length of up to 4 feet. Its colors are copper and orange with chestnut or reddish-brown crossbands constricted on midline of back. This snake gives live birth and mates between spring and fall, with peak time from April to May.

The young are born between August and early October and the snake matures in about three years. Copperheads can give birth to anywhere from one to 22 babies. The babies will usually shed their skin within the first week of birth and they have a yellow tip on the tail which they will twitch to lure prey. The yellow tip on the tail will fade within the first month.

Copperheads love to bask during the day in spring and fall, but become more active at night as the days grow warmer. They love to live in old stonewalls, wood and compost piles, rotting logs, flat stones near creeks and streams and wooded hillsides.

Copperheads eat small rodents, lizards, frogs and, of course their favorite, cicadas. But now they will have to wait quite a few more years for this delicacy.

Copperheads can be a lazy hunter and can lay dormant for hours just waiting for its prey to walk by. This snake will hibernate with timber rattlesnakes in the winter.

Copperheads to me are very majestic due to their colors. They fascinate me more than any other snake species, perhaps because, like all snakes, they are mysterious and misunderstood. But their color markings remind me of something expensive like pure gold. Or a fresh copper penny that is shiny to a child and makes them smile.

Copperhead bites are painful and rarely fatal. So do seek medical attention right away if you are bitten. Copperheads are more toxic in a nest.

If you disturb a nest the snakes become very excited and scared. They may act like a spring and literally can spring right onto you. Believe me, this does happen; I deal with it all the time during snake season.

But, I must honestly say, most bites are dry bites. They don't want to use their venom on you, they have better things to do with it such as seeking food.

Like with any snake, be sure to observe it from a distance and respect its space because in today's society all animals seem to be losing more and more space.

Until next week ... thank you for reading and please if you have a comment or question don't hesitate to post it.

Tammy McCormack is a professional snake trapper. She writes a regular column for

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