You may have heard that there are copperhead snakes living in your area. Copperhead populations can fluctuate from year to year, and if there is a plentiful amount of prey for the snakes, then chances are, you’re going to see an increase in baby copperheads, especially toward the end of the summer. In this article, we’ll talk about how to identify a baby copperhead snake, as well as when you should be on the lookout for them.
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How to Identify Baby Copperheads?
Copperhead snakes are easily confused with many other types of snakes. Their brown coloring and banded pattern makes them easy to misidentify.
The same is true whether you’re trying to identify an adult or baby copperhead. If you think you’ve spotted a venomous snake, your best bet is to get away as fast as possible; but if you can learn the identifying features of a copperhead, you should be able to make a quick and accurate identification before making your getaway.
It’s important to know how to identify baby copperheads because their bite can cause just as much harm as the adults. Though copperhead snake bites are rarely deadly, they can cause nerve and tissue damage without proper medical treatment–and if you’re able to identify what snake bit you, the medical staff will be able to administer the proper treatment more quickly.
Baby copperheads look like miniature versions of adult copperheads, except for one feature. Let’s take a look at how to identify these venomous snakes–juvenile ones in particular:
- Green or yellow tail: This is the most obvious distinguishing feature between juvenile and adult copperheads–the babies have bright green or yellow tails, while the adults do not. There are other snake species that have this same coloring, however, so you may need to confirm your identification by looking for other physical features as well.
- Hourglass pattern: All copperheads, whether adult or juvenile, have a unique pattern on their back. Some people have compared the alternating light-dark pattern to looking like rows of hourglasses, while others have compared the dark shapes to Hershey’s Kisses.
- Copper-colored head: Copperheads get their name from this unique coloring, which both adults and juveniles possess to varying degrees. Most juveniles have muted brown and gray patterns on most of their bodies, but they will likely have a more reddish-colored head.
- Triangular head and thick girth: Copperheads are a type of venomous pit viper, and like other pit vipers, they have triangular heads with distinctive pits behind their nostrils. They also tend to be thicker and stouter than non-venomous snakes, though this may not be so obvious when the copperhead is young.
- Elliptical pupils: Copperheads, like other venomous snakes, have narrow, slit-like pupils. Their eyes look somewhat similar to those of a cat.
The easiest way to learn to identify copperhead snakes is to become familiar with how they look before heading outside. To do that, you can check out this helpful field guide from the State of North Carolina, or watch the video below.
What Do Copperhead Snake Eggs Look Like?
Copperhead snakes don’t lay eggs. They are one of many species that give birth to live young–in fact, about 25 percent of the world’s snake population have live babies rather than laying eggs.
That said, the baby copperheads still form and develop inside eggs; but these eggs remain inside the mother snake until the babies are born. The babies hatch from the eggs and leave the mother snake, while the soft eggshells are left behind inside the mother.
How Many Babies Does a Copperhead Have?
The number varies depending on a variety of conditions and variables, such as food availability and environmental factors during breeding season.
On average, copperheads give birth to between four and 8 babies each season. Sometimes they may have as many as 21 young at a time, while other years they may not have any.
For example, if food is scarce, copperheads may “skip” breeding to focus on their own survival. There are times when they simply cannot support developing babies because there is not enough food to go around, and copperhead populations may diminish during these periods.
On the other hand, if food is plentiful, more copperheads may mate during breeding season, and their mating may be more successful. This can lead to more snakes producing a greater number of babies in a single season, temporarily increasing the copperhead population in a given area.
When is Copperhead Mating Season?
The exact season when copperheads mate may vary from region to region, and it can depend on when there is the most food available. Mating season may begin earlier in southern parts of the U.S., while it may begin a little later further north.
Copperheads appear to be migratory snakes–they hibernate in one location through the winter but move to a different location during the summer. Their summer home tends to double as their breeding grounds.
Therefore, the copperhead’s mating season tends to last from early to late summer depending on region and climate, as well as on food availability.
Baby copperheads are born after a gestation period of about 83 days, so you are most likely to encounter these juveniles between the months of August and October each year.
If you know you have copperheads in your area, then pay attention to yearly fluctuations in insect, rodent, and frog populations. If you notice a high number of these prey animals, then chances are, you’ll notice an increase in copperheads within the next several months.
It’s important to be able to identify baby copperhead snakes because their bite can cause as much damage as the bite of an adult.
Fortunately, baby copperheads look very similar to adults, only they are smaller and have bright green or yellow tails. The most important thing is to familiarize yourself with the hourglass pattern and other distinctive copperhead features so you can distinguish both adult and juvenile copperheads from other types of snakes.