northern copperhead (Agkistrodon contortix mokasen)
CHARACTERISTICS: This is a heavy-bodied, medium-sized ven-
omous 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 dor-
sal 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 differ-
ences 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 Octo-
ber. 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.
DISTRIBUTION: 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.
FOODS: 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.
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