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The Northern Copperhead Snake is a very venomous snake. It is highly dangerous to people and their pets. If you think one of these snakes has bitten someone, seek medical help immediately.

Northern Copperhead <image courtesy of Ohio Department of Natural Resources>
  • Adult body length: 24 - 36 inches
  • Body length at birth: 8 to 10 inches
  • Breeding period: August to October, and February to April
  • Young per year: 3 to 10 live young
  • Typical foods: Small rodents, small birds, insects, lizards and frogs
  • The Northern Copperhead Snake is closely related to the dangerous Eastern Cottonmouth Snake, a venomous snake that does not live in nature in Ohio.

The Northern Copperhead Snake has a stocky body that may be copper, orange or pinkish in color. Dark, chestnut-colored bands cross the body, breaking the color pattern into alternating bands of darker and lighter color. Young copperheads are lighter in color than the adults, and they have a yellow-tipped tail that they often flick. This habit is believed by some to lure prey to them.
The non-venomous Eastern Milk Snake has similar coloring and is sometimes confused with the adult Northern Copperhead Snake. The Eastern Fox Snake does not live in the same part of Ohio as the Northern Copperhead Snake, but it resembles this venomous snake and sometimes is mistaken for it.

Overall Range
Eastern United States, from southern New England westward through southern Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, and southward in the upland interior to northern Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.

Range in Ohio
In Ohio this snake has been found in southern counties in the western half of the state, and in all but the northern counties in the eastern half.
Copperhead Ohio Map

Local Habitat
The Northern Copperhead lives in rocky and wooded parts of hilly and mountainous areas. It often is found in piles of rotting wood slabs or sawdust that remain from former sawmills. It often occurs on farms, and sometimes people find it in towns or cities.

The Northern Copperhead Snake's coloration helps it with camouflage because it resembles fallen leaves and other debris on a forest floor.
Although shy and seldom seen, the native Northern Copperhead Snake has the "honor" of having bitten more people than any other venomous snake in the United States. However, there have been very few deaths attributed to its very painful bite. Still, this snake should be considered dangerous. When encountered, it will normally remain still or move away. If it feels very threatened, it will shake its tail and strike out in self-defense. The Northern Copperhead Snake has no rattle, but the sound of a vibrating tail in dry leaves may make a person think that this is a rattlesnake.
Northern Copperhead Snakes are gregarious. During the winter they hibernate with other snakes, sometimes even with other species of snake. As with many snakes, the Northern Copperhead Snake is diurnal in the spring and fall but becomes nocturnal during the summer. People sometimes see one of these snakes at night after a summer rain shower, lying on warm, wet road pavement.


ODNR, Division of Wildlife, "Species A-Z Guide"

Ohio History Central, "Northern Copperhead Snake"

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The Ohio Historical Society (OHS)
Date of last revision: 06/25/2003
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