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Northern Copperhead

Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen

Common Names: Copperhead


One of the three venomous snakes that are native to PA

The various subspecies display different physical attributes that are usually reflected in the width of the hourglass-like banding patterns on the body. The Northern Copperhead ranges in size from 2-3½ feet. Body coloration is light tan with dark brown bands. The bands are narrower across the back and wider at the sides. Small dark brown spots are usually found between the bands. Which provides excellent camouflage to protect these snakes from their enemies and also to enable them to blend into their surroundings to ambush their prey.

The head is a copper color. Pupils of eyes are vertical. The young copperheads have brightly-colored yellow-green

tail tips which they use to lure in small animals such as lizards and frogs on which they feed. The tail is twitched and turned to resemble the movements of a grub or worm.

Despite their reputation, Copperheads are actually very shy and reclusive snakes. They avoid predators and other danger by remaining motionless, letting their protective camouflage hide them. If they are stepped upon or otherwise disturbed, they may attempt to strike and bite in self-defense but given the chance, will normally quickly crawl away. The bite of the Copperhead is almost never fatal but can be quite painful. Bites are rare due to the secretive nature and nocturnal habits of these shy snakes. Because they feed on rodents, Copperheads are considered beneficial animals and should not be killed when encountered. Various other animals also eat them. Eliminating overgrown areas with abundant ground debris under which they may take refuge can discourage their presence near human habitations.



In North America, there are three species and five subspecies of copperheads. They are widely distributed from Mexico north into the central U.S. and in the east from the tip of Florida to the New England states.


In Pennsylvania, copperheads are found in appropriate habitat in all but the upper portions of the northern tier counties and the extreme northwestern counties. They are found in rocky hillsides and mountainous areas.

The limit of the copperhead's range in Pennsylvania for the most part coincides with the southern limit of climate conditions. They occur in remote wilderness areas in addition to suburban and sometimes urban areas.


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