Copperheads as a liability to pets in residential areas

Residential Copperheads

Copperheads live around people, with no problem because we attract the rodents that they love to eat so much. Their favorite is a mouse, perhaps a second favorite would be a chipmunk, and then a rat.

Since copperheads can live where it is dry or wet, even living in the water on a rare occasion, it stands to reason that where they live has everything to do with what they eat. If a copperhead has grown up eating frogs, it is going to end up living closer to the water, whereas most copperheads live near the house where mice and rats may drink.

If I needed to find a copperhead on your property, I would go where water seems to be dripping slowly over time, for example near the air conditioning condenser outside by the house. When a mouse comes to drink, the copperhead gets his dinner.

If I had to trap a copperhead, I would lay a piece of plywood on the ground in moist leaf litter somewhere within 50 yards of standing water, especially a creek. I would come back several months later and expect to find a copperhead curled up underneath that piece of plywood.

Herpetologists use big sheets of roofing tin in suitable environments to catch the various snakes that they are wanting to study.

To recap let me mention that copperheads go where the food is. And they tend to like it moist and humid. While it is true that they do not much like the water, and would avoid swimming if possible, they like the various food that lives near the water and depends on it, so the further you get away from water, the less likely it is that you will see a copperhead.

Their biology specifies that they should like to be very warm at all times, so you may find them laying on the road at the end of the day enjoying the heat and to the converse, one of the reasons that so many copperhead bites occur in the spring and the fall is because the copperheads may be lethargic in temperatures closer to 50 and 60 in which case they do not effectively evade their so-called predator, your dog If they’re not hidden by the time it cools off.

Invariably, a copperhead would rather stay out of the way and be undetected, then stand and fight.

I am including a picture of a copperhead so that you can recognize it.

Features that identify a copperhead include hourglass shaped markings on the back, a pleasing pink and orange color, usually, a broadhead that does not taper into the body, slit like pupils, and Copperheads will often have a yellow tail. The snake is usually very thick in the middle, if it is an adult.

What about copperheads living in the water? I have seen it asserted that copperheads are not water snakes but that is not universally true and it nearly got me bitten one time. It is true that 98% of the “copperheads” that you see living in the water are actually banded watersnake’s, also called northern watersnake’s. These may be quite orange in color and resemble a copperhead considerably, except their heads are typically narrow and their pupils are big and round.

One time, I was reaching for a so-called watersnake except I noticed it’s markings were distinctly hourglass shaped and the snake was far more coral colored and what I have been catching earlier. Before I put my hand on it I realized I was looking at a coil of an actual copperhead who I guess, was down at my creek catching a frog for breakfast.

Northern Banded Water Snake note the narrow head and by the way Copperheads hate swimming.

The copperhead does have a few natural predators*, perhaps the largest of which is the king snake. That’s a large black snake with thin yellow bands, it really loves eating copperheads and can survive the bite of a copperhead with no problem somehow. It is not at all uncommon to find one snake completely engulfing another snake. And it is always the big black snake that is swallowing the orange and coral colored copperhead. Pretty cool, and a good argument to let those king snakes live around your house.

The eastern king snake is a Hunter of copperheads.

The eastern king snake is a Hunter of copperheads.

*besides us

Besides laying a piece of plywood in a strategic location in order to gather up the specimens in your area, it is possible to trap copperheads, ( and every other kind of snake ) by making a 12 inch tall fence at the edge of your woods with bird netting. The snakes will try to push their way through a 1 inch mesh and when it hits the mid body it will trap them, and they will not be able to back out because their scales fold back in one direction. Sadly this will catch and kill most snakes.

Perhaps as a parent you will have to make a decision regarding this if you have three and six-year-olds wandering the yard who may be vulnerable to a snakebite. I would never set a fence trap like this at the expense of beneficial snakes because I personally do not still have small children without the sense to avoid them.

Reprehensible because it kills good snakes as well as bad.
Reprehensible because it kills good snakes as well as bad.

To close my discussion of copperheads in residential environments and as a liability to your pet, let me advise you that if you carry your dog or cat to the vet with a copperhead bite, please inquire as to the application of something called DMSO, which is a topical liniment that I have found very valuable and limiting the damage to the tissue as done by a copperhead bite. I, professionally, would never treat a copperhead bite without it. I am also a big fan of steroids in large doses to minimize the lytic damage to the tissues near the bite.

Secondary infections in the area of the bite are also common, especially bites to the face, bacteria seem to enjoy the necrosing tissue in the vicinity of the strike and so I believe that antibiotics are indicated in the case of most bites.

Enter your email address for a free PDF of this article including its images.

Enter your Email Address

My Favorite Amazon Recommendations

Items and content will not show in "Reader View" check your browser.

This is The LCD Screen Scope
We Did The Tutorial With. I did a twenty page tutorial (Here's the tutorial) with video, audio, images and even little parasite movies to show you how to use a microscope. 

This Filter is Good For BIG Dirty Tanks
I've been wrestling with water quality with the turtles. The sponges work GREAT, but in THOSE turtle systems where they eat MICE the poops are bulky. This filter can handle it. In "Tortu's" tank, it's got an 800 gph pump and it rocks. 

PraziPro for Flukes
They nailed it. Figured out the solubility and worked out the dosing. It works. 

Buy Some Good Koi?
No, this isn't really for the 'high end' collector y'all. But for someone who isn't near a decent garden center, here are "good-to-quite-good" Koi you will like at a very good price. I know these guys personally.

Best Food, Ever
It's made for (and I discovered it for) my Blood Parrots but the small size, intense color enhancers and excellent formulation make it superb young-Koi food. Oh, and it's AMAZING on color-cichlids like Flowerhorn and Blood Parrots. 

Pro Air 60 Aerator is a VERY high output air pump pushing my whole fish room (17+ drops), and I have one at home driving everything there, and I have one as a back up. 

Formalin Malachite (Not dilute)
There are formalin malachite preparations at 10%, 22% and 37%. There's economy in the concentrates. Hard to get Prime shipping because air transport is curtailed. This is a good value on 32 ounces. 

Topical For Koi and Pond Fish Ulcers
I like 7% tincture of iodine because it stains but it's hard to hurt anything with it. Used with a WOVEN gauze, this works well to clean and disinfect a wound. Only use ONCE. Do not 'repeatedly' scrub wounds. 

Confectioner's Glaze 
Is the way to bind a medication to fish food. Gone are the days of paste food and oil. The write up is done, it's RIGHT HERE.

Koi Health & Disease
Hopefully this link takes you to the newest edition by PRIME to get it to your house the fastest. 

I have over ten of these Titanium Heaters in my fish room and at home. They're a paradigm shift in aquarium heating. They're titanium and 400W for under $30! Whaaaaaaaaat?

CyroPro by Hikari is safe and easy for Anchor Worms and Fish Lice.

Whatever heaters you use, back yourself up with a temperature controller, it'll turn on, and off your heaters. If your heater seizes "on" at least the thermostat will stop a tragedy. 

LifeGuard by Tetra is a tablet version of a tame 'chloramine-t' or 'halamid' compound that's easy to get and good on bacterial infections, in baths. 

If you're making medicated feed for a larger group of fish, this will come in handy. Dosing is available in the site. 

For me, filtration-of-choice
For aquariums, even small Koi holding facilities or small ponds. These sponge filters are cheap, easy to clean, and they clear hazes very well when used with some Accuclear or similar.

Rubber sided, round, nettable tanks
Make great hospital or quarantine facilities. They SHOULD cost about $200-300 depending on size, but this, lower quality unit (while panned in some reviews) may be good. Don't overfill and make sure it's propped up.

1200 Watt heater, on a thermostat held securely above the waterline, works GREAT as a large tank heater. That's all I'll say because there's risk of electrocution and all that. But then, even in a bucket you could get killed. Sound like fun?
I have several of these ALLIED PRECISION stainless ones that are a couple years old. Working still. 

Potassium Permanganate 
500 grams could be a lifetime supply but it's 50% more than the 100g cost wise, for 500% more amount. Dosing is in the site and the book.

What Does Ajax Eat?
I looked for something well formulated, with meat as the first ingredient. Something UNDER $2/lb and something they could deliver for free. And this was it. He looks and feels great on it.