Copperhead vs Eastern Fox Snake: What’s the Difference?

Written by Brandi Allred
Updated: December 7, 2022
© Dennis W Donohue/
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If there was a snake beauty contest, and your contestants were the copperhead vs eastern fox snake, it’s difficult to say who would win. On one hand, copperheads have beautiful, copper coloring. But, on the other hand, eastern fox snakes have a fetchingly symmetric pattern.

Here, we’ll look at more than just looks. We’ll take a closer look at just what sets these species apart, and how they’re similar. After learning about all that, you’ll be an expert on just what makes a copperhead a copperhead, and an eastern fox snake an eastern fox snake.

Comparing Copperhead vs Eastern Fox Snake

Copperhead kills with venom, while the eastern rat snake kills by constriction.


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CopperheadEastern Fox Snake
Size24-40 inches long36-63 inches long
AppearanceCopper to tan with hourglass shaped crossbandsYellow to brown body with dark blotches on the back and sides
Location and HabitatSoutheastern United States; grasslands and rocky hillsidesEastern Great Lakes area; wetlands and near freshwater
BehaviorVery shy, will shake their tail in mimicry of a rattlesnakeWill shake their tails in mimicry of a rattlesnake, will bite in self defense
Lifespan15-29 years14-17 years

Key Differences Between Copperhead vs Eastern Fox Snake

The body of the Copperhead ranges from 2 to usually less than 4 feet, but it is robust.
The copperhead’s scientific name is Agkistrodon contortrix.


The key difference between the copperhead and the eastern fox snake is that copperheads are venomous, while eastern fox snakes lack venom. Eastern fox snakes grow larger, but copperheads present more of a threat to humans. Copperheads can be found throughout the Southeastern United States, but eastern fox snakes occur only near the Great Lakes. Eastern fox snakes kill their prey through constriction, but copperheads kill their prey using venom.

Let’s take a closer look at the exact differences between copperheads and eastern fox snakes.

Copperhead vs Eastern Fox Snake: Size

Eastern Fox Snake (Pantherophis gloydi)
Eastern fox snakes grow much larger than copperheads.

©Ryan M. Bolton/

Both the copperhead and eastern fox snake are medium bodied, terrestrial snakes. They’re not as heavy as the gigantic green anaconda, or the Burmese python. And, they’re not nearly as light as the green tree snake. Copperheads are relatively small snakes that average 2-3 feet long. However, the largest copperheads out there grow to about 3.5 feet long. Eastern fox snakes average 3-4 feet long, though the largest specimens may reach 5.5 feet long.

Copperhead vs Eastern Fox Snake: Location and Habitat

Northern Copperhead (agkistrodon contortrix mokasen) on leaf litter - taken in New Jersey. Its ground color is pale brown to pinkish-brown, and it has darker, hour-glass shaped bands down its body.
Copperheads are more widespread than eastern fox snakes.

© Kenny

Copperheads are native to North America. Their range extends as far north as coastal New York, and as far south as the northern tip of Florida. Interestingly, there are only a small number of copperheads found in the Florida panhandle. They occur as far west as Texas and Nebraska. Locally, they’re almost always found on rocky slopes, hiding under building debris, or in dry fields. Copperheads prefer dry areas with plenty of rodents and places to hide.

Eastern fox snakes may also live in North America, but that’s about where their similarities with copperheads end. These snakes live exclusively in the eastern Great Lakes region of the United States and southern Ontario. Their range does not overlap with that of the copperhead. Eastern fox snakes like the water; they’re almost always found near wetlands or other sources of freshwater. Locally, they inhabit a wide variety of habitats, including rocky hillsides, meadows, and marshes.

Copperhead vs Eastern Fox Snake: Appearance

Juvenile Eastern Fox Snake
Eastern fox snakes have narrow heads and round pupils.

©ML Howard/

Copperhead snakes are most famous for their copper colored heads. The rest of their bodies are generally tan to light brown, with darker hourglass shaped crossbands. Baby copperheads have bright green or yellow tails, which they lose by the time they’re about one year old. But, perhaps the most striking feature of the copperhead is its head. These snakes have wide, triangular heads characteristic of pit vipers (like cottonmouths and rattlesnakes). 

Eastern fox snakes get their striking appearance largely from the symmetrical, stark contrast of their patterning. These snakes have light tan to brown bodies with small, regularly spaced dark blotches on their sides. On their backs are larger, dark blotches. Unlike copperheads, eastern fox snakes have narrow heads only slightly wider than their bodies. They also have round pupils, and lack large, venom delivering fangs.

Copperhead vs Eastern Fox Snake: Behavior

Venomous Copperhead Snake ( Agkistrodon contortrix)
Copperheads and eastern fox snakes both mimic rattlesnakes as a means of self defense.


They might be scary, but neither the copperhead nor the eastern fox snake want to get in a fight with a human. While copperheads have a potentially serious bite, eastern fox snakes must rely on constriction to kill their prey. Both snakes are active, ambush hunters. Copperheads eat mostly rodents, like rats and mice. Eastern fox snakes eat rodents, birds, amphibians, and any other small creature they can catch. Both species rattle their tails to warn potential intruders, though they lack rattles.

Copperhead vs Eastern Fox Snake: Lifespan

Fox snake in a tree
Eastern fox snakes live longer, on average, in captivity then they do in the wild.

©Ryan M. Bolton/

Copperheads live between 18 to 29 years, while eastern fox snakes live for up to 17 years. However, these numbers change in captivity. And, there have been few long term studies done on the exact lifespan of either species.

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Broad Band Copperhead Snake
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About the Author

Brandi is a professional writer by day and a fiction writer by night. Her nonfiction work focuses on animals, nature, and conservation. She holds degrees in English and Anthropology, and spends her free time writing horror, scifi, and fantasy stories.

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