It’s summer and that means critters of all kinds are out and about, including snakes. Of the 38 species of snakes in South Carolina, only six are venomous: Copperheads, Cottonmouths, Coral Snakes, Pygmy Rattlesnakes, Timber Rattlesnakes and Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes. In this blog, we’re going to focus on the Copperhead and the Cottonmouth, which are frequently confused with each other.
Copperheads are known for their typically copper colored head and a “Hershey kiss” pattern along the body. Juvenile copperheads have a bright green tip to their tail and often lighter colored markings. The copperhead can range in color from a coppery beige body with dark tan markings to a deep orange with dark brown markings. Copperheads are South Carolina’s most common venomous snake and typically reach between two and three feet in length, though some can grow to be four feet. Copperheads feed on frogs, rodents, insects and lizards.
Cottonmouths, also known as Water Moccasins, are known for the white or “cotton” color of their open mouth. Cottonmouths are typically three to four feet in length but can reach up to five feet. They are lighter colored as juveniles than they are as adults and like the Copperhead, feature a bright green tip to the tail. Cottonmouths are almost always associated with water or wetlands. The dark bands on their body are often mistaken for those of a Copperhead, particularly with lighter colored juveniles. Adults range in color from dark brown to black to olive to yellow-tan. They have irregular dark cross bands down their body, which are often less visible on adults. Cottonmouths eat amphibians, rodents, fish and other snakes. When threatened, they coil up with their head in the center and open their mouth wide to display the white “cotton” color of their mouth as a warning sign.
If you encounter either of these snakes, it is important not to interfere with them or try to relocate or capture them. They are extremely dangerous venomous snakes that can make you very sick if you get bitten. It’s also important to keep an eye on your pets while outdoors to prevent a confrontation between your pet and one of these snakes as the bite can sicken or kill your pet. The only animal immune to the venom of these two snakes is the opossum. If you have one of these snakes in your yard or near your home or business that needs to be relocated, call Pee Dee Wildlife Control. We will come out to your location, safely capture the snake and relocate it to a safe place. Never attempt to handle these snakes on your own!