COPPERHEADS

The copperhead is the most common venomous snake in North Louisiana, and, in my experience, the most aggressive. These guys and gals tend to be quick to strike, but their warning strikes are usually off target. Come to think of it, except for the time I was bitten, I don't think any of the copperheads I've come across have actually aimed for me. I’ve had a few bluff, popping his or her fangs out and showing me the full glory of its teeth. Of course, in every encounter that I’ve intentionally had with a copperhead, I’ve stayed well out of the snake's strike range.

As with all wild animals, please do not try to handle or kill this snake. Most of the time, if you leave a copperhead alone, it will not bite. If you attack one, you increase the likelihood that it will bite in defense.

If you’re going to meet a snake in Louisiana, this is the one you’re most likely to meet. Keep in mind that nonvenomous snakes are far more numerous than venomous snakes – but copperheads and people just like the same hangouts. For example, copperheads, more so than any other snake, like to lay in the middle of a warm road at night. People like to drive down these roads…

Other snakes are often mistaken for copperheads. Nonvenomous snakes such as the northern and southern brown water snakes and hognose snakes have similar coloration to copperheads. In addition, juvenile cottonmouths often look like copperheads.

The most common advice I heard as a kid was look for the arrow-head or the pit to identify a pit viper. Lots of snakes that I later found out were harmless looked like they had an arrow-shaped head as I was fleeing from them, and most people don't want to get close enough to a copperhead to see whether it's sporting the infamous pit diagonal to its eye, so I look for other markings.

One way to tell other snakes from the copperhead is the pattern found on copperheads. Whereas the pit might be obstructed, you can generally spot the pattern from a safe distance. A cottonmouth and other water snakes will generally have evenish bands, while the copperhead will have an hourglass pattern. In addition, water snakes tend to have thicker bodies than copperheads.

Young copperheads, like young cottonmouths, have green tails that they use to attract small animals that they can hunt. Dangling their tails is tantamount to tossing a baited hook into a lake to attract fish.

These snakes bite more people than other venomous snakes in the U.S. Part of the reason for this distinction is because their range exceeds the ranges for other venomous snakes. But part of their reputation may be due to their quick-strike strategy. My goal in giving you this information isn't to scare you. Despite their strike-happy attitudes, copperhead venom is not as potent as rattlesnake or cottonmouth venom. From my research, their venom is so weak that hospitals usually don't administer antivenin for copperhead bites. However, that does not mean you should ignore a copperhead bite. These bites can be painful, can result in secondary infection scarring, and/or loss of mobility in the affected area. The CDC's website on venomous snakes contains a section on copperheads. IF YOU ARE BITTEN BY A COPPERHEAD, SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION.

Copperhead venom is used in cancer research. The venom is specifically being used in a possible treatment for breast cancer. The next time you think about killing a copperhead, remember the important role it plays in both the ecosystem and in medical research.

Where to Find North Louisiana Copperheads

Copperheads are found almost anywhere in North Louisiana, which is why they are such a problem for pets and children. Copperheads tend to hide under porches or even in yards as well as in wooded areas. Copperheads are often seen in roads on hot summer nights.