Copperhead snakes are the most common type of venomous snake encountered in South Carolina. Naturally, because they are more plentiful than any other snake, more people and pets experience copperhead bites than any other type of snake in the area. Thankfully, bites are rarely deadly because there is anti-venin available to counteract their venom, however that doesn’t mean the bite is painless.

Copperheads 101

Copperheads get their name from the coppery color of their heads, though their coloring can vary throughout their range. The best way to identify them is by the pattern on them. From the top, their markings look like an hourglass while from the side, their markings look like Hershey kisses. Copperheads are pit vipers like cottonmouths and rattlesnakes. They have heat sensitive pits between the eye and the nostril on each side. This heat detection helps them be more accurate when they strike. In most cases, they will only strike when they feel threatened.

Copperheads average two to three feet in length with females being longer than males. Juvenile copperheads have a bright yellow or green tip to their tail. This colored tip generally shifts to the color of the rest of the snake by around one year of age. Juveniles and babies are just as dangerous as adults because they are born with fangs and venom that is just as potent as adult copperheads. They have two mating seasons: February through May and August through October. The eggs incubate inside the female’s body and the snakes are born live.

Copperhead Range and Habitat

Copperheads have a fairly large range extending from southern New England throughout the southeastern US and down into northern Mexico. They can thrive in a variety of habitats but prefer forested or wooded areas, where they are masters of camouflage. Copperheads are semi-social snakes and will often be found denning down with other species during brumation, such as rat snakes and timber rattlesnakes. It’s important to note that they brumate rather than hibernate. During brumation, they can emerge on warm days during the winter to sun themselves and drink water to avoid dehydration. Technically, “snake season” in the Carolinas is March through October when the snakes, including copperheads, are most active.

If you have a problem with a copperhead (or any venomous snake) on your property endangering people or pets, call Pee Dee Wildlife Control for safe and humane removal and relocation.