How To Identify A Copperhead Snake – The Important Features You Need To Spot
Many people have a primal fear of snakes but this phobia comes mainly from a misunderstanding of this much-maligned creature. There are many species of snakes in North America but there are only around sixteen poisonous species in the US.
Copperheads can be found on trails and campsites as well as near to people’s homes. For these reasons, it is important to know how to identify a copperhead so that you know what to do if you ever come face to face with one.
Introducing The Copperhead
The copperhead is a poisonous pit viper, endemic to the eastern states of the US. Pit vipers are a group of snakes that are found throughout much of the world and are so named for a pair of pits located between the eyes and nostrils which give them the ability to “see” infrared heat.
Copperheads are masters of camouflage and are very hard to spot. They are not aggressive but when they are disturbed they tend to freeze rather than flee and as they are so difficult to see when they are immobile, they can bite people who unsuspectingly tread on them or walk near them.
This means they are responsible for the highest number of bites in the US – but despite this, they have only been implicated in a handful of deaths over the last hundred years as their venom is one of the least potent of the poisonous snakes found in North America.
How To Identify A Copperhead Snake
It is important not only for hikers and campers to learn to identify the copperhead snake correctly, but, as it is such a common snake, also for anyone who lives within the natural range of the copperhead. This will allow you to deal with it properly if you find one or if you are ever bitten.
There are at least five subspecies of copperheads and their appearance varies but there are some features that all subspecies of copperheads share and which should give you a clear indication of whether it is a copperhead you are faced with.
Snakes Commonly Misidentified As Copperheads
There are a number of snakes commonly misidentified as copperheads but actually belong to other harmless species. Here are some of the most common ones and how to distinguish them from the copperhead.
What To Do If You Come Across A Copperhead
The most important thing to remember about copperhead snakes is that they are not aggressive. They will not attack you and will not try to bite you unless you provoke them or step on them accidentally.
If you see a copperhead on a trail or on a campsite, just give it a wide berth and don’t bother it and it will probably leave on its own. They don’t want to be around humans any more than humans want to be around them.
If you see a copperhead in your garden or on your property, you should not try to kill it. These snakes are excellent rat catchers and will keep vermin under control much more effectively than a cat. If you want to remove it from your property, you can call a professional.
Remember, most snake bites occur when people try to capture or kill snakes so if you leave them alone, you will most likely be safe.
What To Do If You Are Bitten By A Suspected Copperhead
If you are bitten by a snake, it is important to identify the species as this will help with the treatment you will need to receive. If you can, try to take a photograph of the snake which will help to identify it.
The first thing to remember in a snakebite scenario is not to panic. It is important to relax and get medical assistance for the person who has been bitten as soon as possible. The person affected should remain immobile and wait for help to arrive. Do not try to suck the venom from the wound.
If possible, apply a pressure immobilization bandage to the place where the person was bitten and keep them still and calm until help arrives. If the person moves around or is agitated, the heart rate will increase which will increase the rate at which the venom moves through the bloodstream.
The symptoms of a bite from a poisonous snake are intense pain, swelling, reddening or bruising of the wound, nausea, vomiting, lack of sensation around the eyes, quivering eyelids, increased heart rate, trouble breathing and problems with coagulation around the wound.
If someone who has been bitten by a snake shows any of these symptoms, you should seek medical help immediately. Even though copperhead venom is relatively mild, you should seek help in every case as the venom can continue to destroy tissue and may result in the eventual loss of a limb.
Copperheads are shy and unaggressive snakes but which are nonetheless responsible for the highest numbers of bites in the US due to their excellent camouflage coupled with their tendency to freeze when in danger which means people can easily step on them without realizing.
There is no need to kill snakes on sight. If you know how to identify a copperhead snake and you give them the personal space they require, they will not attack you. Snakes are beautiful creatures and if you try to understand them and treat them properly, they shouldn’t give you any problems.
Have you ever come across a copperhead on a trail or campsite or maybe at your house? Are you afraid of snakes or are you fascinated by them like me? Please feel free to leave me a comment as I’d love to hear your stories – and if you enjoyed my article, please don’t forget to share!