Copperheads in Delaware: Where They Live and How Often They Bite

Written by Brandi Allred
Published: July 21, 2022
© iStock.com/David Kenny
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It’s true, there are copperheads in Delaware. But, these famously copper-colored, venomous snakes don’t live in just any part of the state. In fact, they live only in a few secluded corners of Delaware. Across the United States, copperheads are responsible for many of the thousands of snake bites that occur every year. However, although copperhead bites can be extremely painful, and may even lead to serious complications, they’re almost never fatal. 

If you want to learn more about copperheads in Delaware and how to avoid their painful bites, keep reading!

Copperhead Background

Venomous Copperhead Snake ( Agkistrodon contortrix)
The copperhead snake is one of the most common snakes in the midwestern and eastern parts of the United States.

©Mark_Kostich/Shutterstock.com

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Copperheads in Delaware stick mostly to the ground. They’re not tree climbers, like brown tree snakes or golden lanceheads. They’re medium-sized snakes that would be dwarfed by giants like the black mamba and green anaconda. But, their bite, like that of the western diamondback rattlesnake and inland taipan, packs a wicked punch. Luckily, they’re slow to bite, and their venom practically never causes human fatality.

Appearance and Size

Copperheads are some of the prettiest snakes in Delaware. As their name suggests, they have wide, leaf-shaped triangular heads. Their bodies are generally a light brown base color, with darker brown hourglass-shaped markings along the back. The hourglasses are narrowest at the spine and widen out along the sides. Copperhead snakes are pit vipers, have cat-like eyes and heat-sensing pits just behind their noses.

Adult copperheads grow to a maximum length of about 40 inches. They may be as small as 24 inches long when fully grown. The easiest way to tell a juvenile copperhead from an adult is to look at the tail. Until they’re around a year old, copperheads have bright green or yellow tails. When fully grown, they have heavy bodies reminiscent of rattlesnakes.

Habitat and Range

When Does Baby Copperhead Season Start Poster Image
Copperheads live throughout the East and Midwest but are absent from much of Florida.

©iStock.com/JohnPitcher

Native to North America, copperheads inhabit a wide variety of habitats. They’re found as far west as Texas and as far north as New York State. They’re only found in the northwestern-most part of Florida and are absent in the Great Lakes region. They’re also not found in much of New England.

Locally, copperheads prefer rocky hillsides without too much moisture. They also live in woodlands and are conspicuously present in suburban and urban settings. Copperheads in Delaware may also be found in agricultural areas or hiding under unused outbuildings or building debris. They like to hide, so use caution when poking around under things. 

Behavior and Diet

Copperheads are both diurnal and nocturnal, depending on the time of the year. In the height of summer, when temperatures are at their highest, they become nighttime hunters. Often, they spend their winters in a form of stupor known as brumation. They can be found in large groups sleeping the cold months away in dry dens. Their coloring and patterning give them excellent camouflage for both hunting and hiding.

Copperheads are medium-sized snakes that use their venom to bring down prey. They eat small mammals, like mice, rats, and chipmunks, as well as birds and insects. They also eat other snakes, lizards, and amphibians. 

Where do Copperheads in Delaware Live?

Like most snakes, copperheads don’t like to be out in the open.

©Daulton Moore/Shutterstock.com

Copperheads are one of two venomous snakes in Delaware, the other being the timber rattlesnake. Luckily, they’re only found near Wilmington and in the southern parts of Sussex County. Often, people see watersnakes, rat snakes, or even eastern hognose snakes and mistake them for copperheads. One helpful way to determine whether or not a snake is a copperhead is to look at the pattern. Copperheads are the only snakes in Delaware with an hourglass pattern.

Do Copperheads Bite?

Copperheads are nonaggressive. However, like all wild animals, they will act to defend themselves if threatened. Bites from copperheads in Delaware are pretty uncommon, but when they do occur, they should always be treated with prompt medical care. Copperheads have only a mild venom, which almost never results in death. Further, up to 25% of self-defense bites are classified as ‘dry’ bites. That means that, although they sink their fangs in, they don’t inject any venom. Regardless, every bite should be treated as a ‘wet’ bite.

Are there Other Venomous Snakes in Delaware?

There are many species of snakes in Delaware, but only two of them are venomous. These are the copperhead and the uncommon timber rattlesnake. Other snakes in Delaware include garter snakes, watersnakes, black racers, eastern rat snakes, and eastern hognose snakes. 

Like copperheads, timber rattlesnakes are pit vipers. They’re easily recognizable by the rattles on the tips of their tails, as well as the diamond-like pattern of their scales. Like copperheads, timber rattlesnakes have heat-sensing pits and large, leaf-shaped heads.

How to Stay Safe Around Snakes

One of the easiest ways to stay safe around copperheads in Delaware is to maintain a healthy respect for these legless predators. If you encounter a copperhead, don’t try to pet it. Similarly, don’t attempt to pick it up or bother it in any way. Studies show that any interaction with a venomous snake only increases your chances of sustaining a bite. If the snake is in a problematic area—like your backyard—call in animal control or another professional pest service.

Remember, copperheads are fond of hiding under things. This includes piles of wood, thick foliage, brush, piles of leaves, house foundations, or any other item left out. To minimize your yard’s attractiveness to copperheads, reduce the number of places they can hide. When out hiking or camping, remember to look before you reach.

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The Featured Image

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.
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.
© iStock.com/David Kenny

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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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