If you live in a region with both copperheads and corn snakes, you’re going to want to learn how to tell them apart. But what if you’ve never seen either kind of snake before? Do they look alike? What are some ways to tell them apart? In this article, we’ll compare the copperhead snake vs. the corn snake. We’ll also talk about some other look-alikes of both of these snakes.
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Do Copperheads and Corn Snakes Look Alike?
Copperheads and corn snakes have confused plenty of novice snake hunters, and for good reason. These two snakes can be quite similar in appearance.
Fortunately, they also have plenty of distinct differences, so you can easily learn to tell them apart.
Being able to distinguish between copperheads and corn snakes is an Important skill, as they both live in many of the same regions. If you live in these regions, you’ll want to be able to tell copperheads and corn snakes apart because copperheads are venomous while corn snakes are not.
Let’s take a look at some common ways of distinguishing the two snakes.
Copperhead Snake Vs. Corn Snake: The Differences
- Color and pattern: Copperheads and corn snakes have similar skin patterns which alternate between lighter and darker markings. However, their coloring is usually quite different–whereas copperheads typically have beige and brown bodies with copper-colored heads, corn snakes are more reddish over their entire bodies.
If you look closely enough, you will also notice differences in the pattern itself. Copperheads have a distinct hourglass pattern that looks a bit like rows of Hershey’s Kisses along each side of the body; corn snakes typically have a more splotchy, undefined pattern.
- Head shape: Copperheads are pit vipers, so they have a distinctive triangular-shaped head similar to other venomous snakes. Corn snakes are non-venomous, so their head shape is more rounded.
- Eyes: Copperheads have narrow slits for pupils, while corn snakes have large, round pupils. This is an easily recognizable difference, but if you’re close enough to a snake to get a good look at its eyes, you’re probably too close.
- Body thickness: Generally speaking, copperheads have thicker bodies, while the bodies of corn snakes are more long and narrow. This isn’t true across the board though–for example, a juvenile copperhead may look skinnier than an adult corn snake.
- Scales: Corn snakes tend to have smoother, flatter, and shinier scales, while copperheads will have more drab, hexagonal-shaped scales (especially around the face). Again, though, if you’re close enough to get a good look at a snake’s scales, you’re close enough to be bitten.
To help you tell the difference between these two commonly-confused snakes, check out this video.
What Other Snakes are Mistaken for Copperheads?
As it turns out, the corn snake isn’t the copperhead’s only look-alike. According to experts, there are actually quite a few snakes that tend to be mistaken for copperheads.
Let’s take a look at some of these snakes:
- Banded water snake: This snake’s natural habitat and distribution often overlaps with the copperhead, as both snakes tend to live near bodies of water throughout the southeastern United States. Banded water snakes are non-venomous, and though they have patterned bodies that sometimes resemble copperheads, they are usually darker in color.
- Diamondback water snake: This nonvenomous water snake (not to be confused with the venomous diamondback rattlesnake) is found throughout the central and southern United States, so its native territory often overlaps with some subspecies of copperhead. Though its patterned body may be similar in color to that of the copperhead, a diamondback’s pattern tends to be less defined and has a more pixelated look.
- Common water snake: The nonvenomous common water snake, found throughout the United States, is more often confused with the venomous cottonmouth (water moccasin), but it is sometimes confused with the copperhead as well. Its body has a pattern similar to the diamondback and is usually darker in color.
- Black racer: Black racer snakes are nonvenomous and found throughout the central and eastern United States. Though they are all black and usually patternless as adults, juvenile black racers look much different–their brown and beige pattern looks very similar to that of a young copperhead.
- Rat snake: Juvenile rat snakes are similar to black racers in that they have a brown and beige pattern that looks similar to that of a copperhead, though they grow out of this stage and become black with cream-colored bellies as adults. These snakes are found throughout the central and southern United States.
- Eastern hognose: The eastern hognose is an odd-looking nonvenomous snake with a thick, patterned body and a squat-looking face. Their brown pattern is sometimes confused with that of the copperhead, but it tends to have a more checkerboard-like appearance.
- Milk snake: Milk snakes tend to be much skinnier than copperheads, and their skin pattern is often bright orange and cream-colored. That said, some milk snakes are more drab, closer in color to the copperhead, and these may display a pattern that is strikingly similar to that of the copperhead.
What Other Snakes are Mistaken for Corn Snakes?
The copperhead isn’t the only snake to be confused with the corn snake. Let’s take a look at some of the corn snake’s look-alikes.
- Milk snake: Because most milk snakes are orange and white in color, they may be easily confused with corn snakes. However, most corn snakes don’t have any white markings in their skin patterns.
- Coral snake: The highly venomous coral snake is often confused with the milk snake, making it fairly easy to confuse with the corn snake as well, especially since both are found in many regions of the southern U.S. However, coral snakes have a distinctive banded pattern that alternates between black, orange, and yellow–this pattern is much more defined than that of the corn snake.
- King snake: The nonvenomous king snakes are widely distributed throughout the U.S., and their striped pattern often leads to their being confused with corn snakes. However, most king snakes are more brown to black and white in color.
Copperhead snakes are often confused with corn snakes, and vice versa. However, it’s important to learn to tell these two snakes apart, as copperheads are venomous and corn snakes are not.