What kind of snake?

Asked May 3, 2018, 5:08 PM EDT

Hi! I came across this baby snake walking the trails near my home. Almost stepped on him. I live in the western region of North Carolina and was just wondering what type of snake it is. Sorry for the blurry picture...I didn’t want to get to close because I had my dog with me. Thanks!

Cleveland County North Carolina copperhead agkistrodon contortrix

1 Response

Thank you for your question. Good thing you or your dog didn't get too close. It's safer to observe this guy from a distance. The snake in your photograph is a copperhead, scientific name (Agkistrodon contortrix). This is a venomous species. Typical length is a little over two feet, and maximum length can be slightly longer than four feet.

Copperheads are common throughout North Carolina, as well as most of the eastern United States. Their range extends west into Texas and, from there, north into parts of Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. They can be found is just about any habitat, including suburban areas.

Copperheads have a varied diet that includes voles, mice, birds, frogs and other snakes. Juvenile copperheads use their tail, which has a greenish-yellow tip, as a lure to attract lizards and frogs into striking range. As the juvenile snake ages they lose the yellow coloration on their tail, and it matches the background color of the rest of the snake.

Copperheads have excellent camouflage which allows them to easily blend in with leaves and surrounding brush. People probably walk close to countless copperheads each season, and never realize it. Often copperheads are content to depend on their concealment to protect them. If they feel threatened, however, they may vibrate their tail and strike. They may strike while you are still a considerable distance away, and not in any danger of being bitten. Scientists believe this is a threat display, basically used as a warning not to come any closer.

More people are bitten by copperheads in the eastern U.S. than any other venomous snake. Many times venomous snakes don't inject any venom when they bite, and there are no symptoms. If the snake does inject venom, the bite of a copperhead can be very painful, but very few deaths have been recorded. Anyone bitten by this or any other venomous snake should contact their Poison Control Center and seek immediate medical attention. Do not attempt any of the old snake bite remedies. These treatments, at best, won't help, and, at worst, can cause more damage. Your best first aid is a phone and someone to drive you to the hospital.

You can find additional information on this species at the Amphibians and Reptiles of North Carolina website at:

http://herpsofnc.org/copperhead/

Here is a list of excellent field guides you can use to learn more about snake species in North Carolina:

Beane, J. C., Braswell, A. L., Mitchell, J. C., Palmer, W. M., & Harrison III, J. R. (2010). Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Dorcas, M. E. (2004). A Guide To The Snakes Of North Carolina. Davidson: Davidson College.

Gibbons, W. & Dorcas, M. (2015). Snakes of the Southeast. Athens: The University of Georgia Press.

Gibbons, W. (2017). Snakes of the Eastern United States. Athens: The University of Georgia Press.

Hope this answers your question, and thank you for contacting Ask
an Expert.

Jim