Snake season is upon us! As we inch closer to summer, the likelihood of seeing a snake increases exponentially. Thankfully, most of the snakes that we see in our yards are harmless. Still, there is the occasional scaly visitor that stops by to say hello that is less than friendly. There are four kinds of venomous snakes in Texas, and one of the most common is the copperhead. Today, we will be exploring Copperhead Snakes in Texas in terms of appearance and habitat. By the end, you should be able to identify if that snake you just saw was indeed a copperhead or something harmless!
Let’s get started.
Do Copperheads live in Texas?
Yes, there are three subspecies of copperhead in Texas, all of which are venomous.
Copperheads belong to a group of snakes known as “pit vipers” that get their name from the heat-sensing pits between their eyes and nose on both sides of their heads. Texas has three species of pit viper, the copperhead, cottonmouth, and rattlesnake. The fourth venomous species of snake is a coral snake, but it is less common and belongs to the cobra family.
This guide will help you identify a copperhead and the subspecies it belongs to in case you stumble upon it in your yard!
Identifying the 3 subspecies of Copperheads in Texas
There are three subspecies of copperhead in Texas, but all belong to the same species, Agkistrodon contortrix. While these snakes are remarkably beautiful, they are all equally dangerous and deserve the respect that any dangerous animal warrants. Let’s examine below.
Southern Copperhead: Appearance and Habitat
Southern copperheads are characterized by their light tan body that often has a slight pinkish undertone. Their bodies are covered in rough (keeled) scales and have a characteristic hourglass pattern spreading down the back. The middle of the hourglass shapes usually rests along the spine, with the wider ends resting on either side of the snake towards the belly. Their eyes are yellow and appear feline. They always have discernable “pits” that rest between their nose and eyes on both sides of their heads. Adults usually reach 20-30 inches long and are somewhat stockier than other harmless snakes.
Southern copperheads live in the eastern third of Texas and are generally found near pastures, woodlands, and a source of water.
Broadbanded Copperhead: Appearance and Habitat
Broadbanded copperheads are characterized by their light tan body but with an undertone that borders more on the red side than the pinkish side. Their bodies are covered in keeled scales but don’t have the clear hourglass shape that copperheads are known for. Instead, these individuals have a thick band that doesn’t narrow as it reaches the spine. They have the characteristic yellow eyes and pits that all copperheads do, making the banding the easiest way to distinguish these subspecies. Adults usually reach 2 feet in length.
Broadbanded copperheads live throughout central and western Texas and prefer lightly wooded areas not far from water.
Trans-Pecos Copperhead: Appearance and Habitat
The Trans-Pecos copperhead is characterized by its light tan body and colorations that can be red-brown or gray-brown. It is incredibly similar to the broadbanded copperhead, with the primary difference being its belly. Trans-Pecos copperheads usually have an irregularly patterned underside with black and white designs, while the broadbanded copperhead has a minimally patterned white belly. Broadbanded and Trans-Pecos copperheads often interbreed, making identification even tougher. Adults usually reach 20-30 inches in length.
Trans-Pecos copperheads live near springs near the southern part of the Trans-Pecos region in the western part of Texas.
Snakes Commonly Mistaken For Copperheads in Texas
There are many snakes in Texas, some of which can look a bit like copperheads. Here is a list of some of the potential lookalikes, plus a quick way to identify them.
There are a few species of rattlesnake in Texas, all with their patterning and colors. The best way to tell the difference between a rattlesnake and a copperhead is by their rattle. Rattlesnakes have rattles on the ends of their tails, while copperheads do not.
Bull snakes (Non-venomous)
Many bull snakes resemble rattlesnakes and can have a similar body type to copperheads. Their main defense mechanism is actually looking like a rattlesnake as they can flare out their heads to make them look more triangular. The best way to differentiate the two is through the patterning (hourglass or banding on the copperheads) and the lack of pits on the bull snake.
Water snakes (Non-venomous)
Water snakes resemble cottonmouths (water moccasins) more than copperheads, but their body shape can be similar. The best way to tell the difference is through their round eyes (copperheads have feline eyes) and clear black stripes on their jaws.
Discover the "Monster" Snake 5X Bigger than an Anaconda
Every day A-Z Animals sends out some of the most incredible facts in the world from our free newsletter. Want to discover the 10 most beautiful snakes in the world, a "snake island" where you're never more than 3 feet from danger, or a "monster" snake 5X larger than an anaconda? Then sign up right now and you'll start receiving our daily newsletter absolutely free.
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.