Copperhead Snake: Key Facts

Have you ever heard that copperhead snakes smell like cucumbers? Did you know that these venomous pit vipers can live for up to 25 years? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll discuss these and other copperhead snake key facts.

Quick Facts About Copperhead Snakes

Scientific Name:Agkistrodon
Number of Subspecies:5
Type of Animal:Reptile; pit viper
Physical Description:Medium-sized snake with a distinctive pattern on its back. Pattern alternates between beige and brown markings, with each brown marking looking like an hourglass wrapped across the back. They often have a more reddish coloration on their heads, hence the name “copperhead.” Copperheads have thick bodies, triangular heads, slitted eyes, fangs, and pits behind their nostrils. Juvenile copperheads are more gray in tone and have yellow or lime green tails.
Distribution:Central and eastern United States and northern Mexico.
Habitat:Live in a variety of habitats such as swamps, woodlands, forests, glades, and urban areas.
Average Size:2 to 4 feet long; weighs ½ to ¾ of a pound.
Average Lifespan:12 to 25 years (shorter in the wild, longer in captivity)
Diet:Carnivore; food groups include:
– Rodents
– Amphibians
– Small reptiles
– Birds and bird eggs
– Insects

What is a Copperhead?

A copperhead is a venomous pit viper snake. There are five subspecies of copperhead that can be found from parts of New England down to Florida and extending west to Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and northern regions of Mexico.

These snakes have a distinctive hourglass pattern on their backs. Their brown and beige coloring allows them to camouflage well to their surroundings.

Juvenile copperheads have bright yellow or green tails which they use to attract prey. They can dangle their tails in front of small frogs and insects, encouraging them to get close enough so the young snake can strike.

According to the Smithsonian National Zoo, copperheads live to be about 18 years old, though their average lifespan can vary widely depending on if they are wild or kept in captivity. The average range is from 12 years up to 25 years.

Copperheads produce a venom that breaks down blood and blood vessels. This venom kills small prey when the copperhead is hunting and can also produce local tissue damage and a host of other unpleasant symptoms in humans.

How Long Does a Copperhead Get?

Copperheads are medium-sized snakes with thick girths. This means that they may look shorter and stouter than other snakes that are the same length but may be skinnier.

On average, copperheads grow to between 2 and 3 feet, though they can reach lengths of up to 4 feet. The longest copperhead on record was 53 inches, or 4 feet and 5 inches.

Check out this video to see just how large copperheads can get.

What Does a Copperhead Smell Like?

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, copperheads produce a musky odor when they feel threatened. Some people have compared this smell to cucumbers, though many others simply agree that it smells bad.

You shouldn’t rely on this odor to let you know when a copperhead is near, as you won’t smell it unless you’re very close to a threatened copperhead. If you’re close enough to smell it, you’re close enough to be bitten–and copperheads rarely hesitate to bite when they feel threatened.


Copperheads are venomous snakes living throughout much of the central and eastern U.S. as well as northern Mexico. Their hourglass pattern makes them easy to recognize but also helps them camouflage to their surroundings. Here is the comparison of copperhead vs corn snakes, and here against cottonmouth.

Read also about other forest reptiles – here are our guides about iguanas, komodo dragons, rattlesnakes.

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