Species group: Rattlesnakes and Other Vipers
Other common names: Highland Moccasin; Beech-leaf Snake
Scientific name: Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen
The attractively-marked Northern Copperhead may reside in suburban counties adjacent to large cities, and is sometimes mistakenly described as “mildly-venomous”. As is true for all venomous snakes, it is best enjoyed in zoos and the wild, and should not be kept in private collections.
The range extends over much of the Eastern and Central United States, from southwestern Massachusetts to southwestern Illinois and south to northeastern Mississippi, northern Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina.
The Northern Copperhead favors wooded hills with rocky outcroppings, stone walls in overgrown fields, forest edges, and agricultural areas.
Appearance / health:
This stoutly built snake is copper, orangish, or pink-tinged tan in color and marked with dark, chestnut-colored cross-bands. Adults average 2-3 feet in length, with a record of 4 feet, 4 inches.
Northern Copperheads have lived to age 25+ in zoos.
Behavior / temperament:
Although generally less high-strung than their rattlesnake relatives, Copperheads are treated with utmost respect by professional zookeepers.
Venomous snake species are not suitable as pets in private collections. It is impossible for a private snake owner to adequately prepare for or treat a venomous snakebite, or, prior to a bite, to arrange for treatment in a hospital.
The varied natural diet includes chipmunks, voles, young gray squirrels, cicadas, frogs, lizards, snakes, and birds. Zoo animals do well on diets comprised of mice and small rats.
Mating occurs in April-May, and occasionally in autumn. The young, 1-14 in number, are born in August-October and are 7-10 inches in length. Sexual maturity is reached in 2-3 years.
Written by Frank Indiviglio
copperhead bite, venomous snake, caution, advanced snake, extensive experience
generally modest price
I’ve had the good fortune to work with this and other vipers in zoos for decades but, fascinating though they are, I feel strongly that they should never be kept in private collections. Unfortunately, the northern copperhead’s large populations, willingness to breed and generally modest price tag leads some to label it as an “ideal starter hot snake”. Please ignore such advice!
Snake venom is constantly evolving in response to prey animal defenses, and we know little about the toxins produced by many species. Due to these facts, and because individual sensitivities and other factors can greatly affect one’s reaction to a bite, even those species that are sometimes referred to as “mildly venomous” must be considered as capable of causing human fatalities. It is impossible for a private snake owner to adequately prepare for or treat a venomous snakebite. This, or a related species, can easily be viewed in most any major zoo – please limit your viper “interactions” to zoo visits, or seek employment as a zookeeper or herpetologist if you have a serious interest..
From findiviglio Jan 13 2016 12:48PM