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northern copperhead

(Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen)


This is a heavy-bodied, medium-sized venomous snake that grows to a length of 24-36 in. (61-90 cm). The head is triangular and coppery-red with an hourglass pattern. There are dark, rounded spots on the sides of the belly and the scales are weakly keeled. The upper side of the body and tail are pinkish tan to dark brown, with hourglass-shaped crossbands colored chestnut to dark brown; most dorsal scales are sprinkled with black flecks. Juveniles have the same color patterns as the adults, except that the tip of the tail is a sulfur yellow and juveniles lack the black flecking of the adults. There are regional differences in body color and pattern throughout Virginia. This species mates in April or May and 1-17 young are born from mid-August to early October. The copperhead will often hibernate in the company of other snakes. It is a sluggish snake that relies on camouflage to escape detection. It may vibrate the tail rapidly when alarmed.


This snake is found statewide, with the exception of the barrier islands. It occurs at elevations below 910 meters in a wide variety of terrestrial habitats, including wetlands, forests, fields, and edge areas of all types. The copperhead is found in open areas with higher rock densities, and uses all types of structures for cover, including abandoned buildings, brush piles, and stone walls.


The prey eaten depends on the size of the snake, with juveniles taking more invertebrates and adults eating more small mammals such as rodents. Mice are the primary prey, but they also take lizards, small snakes, amphibians, small birds, and insects.