Species group: Rattlesnakes and Other Vipers
Other common names: Copperhead; Highland Moccasin; Chunkhead
Scientific name: Agkistrodon contortrix contortrix
The Southern Copperhead is the USA’s most abundant venomous snake. This fact, and a mistaken-belief that it is only “mildly-venomous”, sometimes tempts snake enthusiasts to maintain them in captivity. However, as is true for all venomous snakes, the Southern Copperhead is not suitable for other than zoo collections.
The range extends over much of the Southeastern and South-Central United States, from southern Delaware and Maryland south to northern Florida and west to southeastern Missouri, southeastern Oklahoma and eastern Texas.
The Southern Copperhead favors moist lowland habitats such as marsh edges, cypress swamps, and streamside thickets, but also frequents lightly wooded hills, overgrown fields, and agricultural areas.
Appearance / health:
The background color is pale copper-orange or pink-tinged tan with chestnut colored, hourglass-shaped cross bands. Southern Copperheads average 2-3 feet in length, with a record of 4 feet, 4 inches.
Southern Copperheads have lived to age 25+ in zoos.
Behavior / temperament:
These rattlesnake relatives often adjust well to captivity if provided large, stress-free exhibits, but they 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 natural diet is extremely varied, including chipmunks, voles, cicadas, caterpillars, frogs, lizards, snakes and birds. Zoo animals are fed 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
venomous snake collection, expert snake handler, stunning snakes, beautiful snakes
venomous, fast strike, bite, special heating needs, strong cytotoxic venom
Hot Herp Society, ambush predator, snake hook, water snakes
Common and Beautiful - but Not a Pet!
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 southern 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 23 2016 12:45PM