Copperhead snakes are some of the most widespread venomous snakes that live in the United States. They are beautiful, a bit mysterious, and responsible for their fair share of bites! Today, we are going to take a look at these snakes and find out if they live in Kentucky. Let’s discover copperheads in Kentucky, where they live, and how often they bite.
Let’s get started!
Where do copperheads live?
Copperheads are among the most widespread venomous snakes in the United States. There are currently two subspecies of copperhead, although there used to be five. These two subspecies of copperhead are the eastern copperhead and the broad-banded copperhead.
The eastern copperhead includes the previously recognized subspecies, the southern copperhead, the northern copperhead, and the Osage copperhead. The broad-banded copperhead is comprised of the broad-banded copperhead and the Trans-Pecos copperhead species. All copperheads are pitvipers, meaning they are related to the other venomous pit vipers that live across the United States. The other pit viper species include the cottonmouth and the rattlesnake, plus all their associated subspecies.
Both species are native to the eastern United States but have respective ranges within it, plus a small hybrid region where they interbreed. The eastern copperhead is found from Texas to Georgia and forth into Connecticut and New York. The broad-banded copperhead is primarily found in Texas and Oklahoma, although small populations exist a bit further north into the midwest.
Do copperheads live in Kentucky?
Copperheads live throughout the entire state of Kentucky.
The eastern copperhead is the primary subspecies that can be found within the state. These snakes are reported to live in every county, although they are most common along the perimeter of the state and generally avoid the bluegrass interior.
Identifying an eastern copperhead
The eastern copperhead is a coppery brown snake with hourglass patterning and a triangular head. Generally, copperheads grow to two feet long, although they have been recorded within the state at four feet. Their bodies are light to reddish-brown and have a darker pattern that resembles hourglass shapes. The thin portion of the hourglass is situated on their spine, with the larger “reservoir” sections along their sides. Their eyes are bright yellow or golden and resemble a cat’s eye, including a vertical slitted pupil.
As members of the pit viper family, copperheads have small pits on their snout, usually between their eyes and their nose. These pits help to identify them as venomous, but the snake uses them to sense the heat profile of potential prey.
What habitat do copperheads prefer?
Copperheads are quite dispersed, but they have a preferred habitat. You are most likely to encounter a copperhead in Kentucky in rocky hillsides, woodlands, and lowland regions near streams. They are most often seen near brush piles, rocky outcroppings (usually basking), and around mulch and woodpiles.
Even though these snakes have a preferred habitat, they can still be found in other regions and habitats. They are generally the most common venomous snakes to be found in backyards or around human establishments, although they remain hidden most of the time. Despite being venomous, copperheads would prefer to hide and never interact with a potential threat like a human.
When are copperheads most active?
In regions where the weather drops during the winter, copperheads enter a state of hibernation known as brumation. Brumation is a similar state to hibernation, but it is only for cold-blooded animals. During this period of brumation, copperheads are less active and hide away in burrows and dens in order to conserve energy during the cold season.
Most copperheads are in a state of brumation from October through March. During the early spring, they begin to emerge from their burrows and start looking for prey. Most snake populations begin this process in early March but become significantly more active around May. When the weather begins to get cold again in October, copperheads will find a hole or crevasse to brumate. Often, they partner with black rat snakes and rattlesnakes in order to conserve more energy during the winter.
How often are people bitten by copperheads?
Copperheads are usually the most commonly encountered venomous snakes in the state of Kentucky. As a result, they make up a majority of all venomous snake bites in Kentucky by percentage. Each year, an average of 2,920 people are bitten by copperheads across the United States. While this may seem high, only 16.4 people per million are bitten in the entire country per year.
Part of the reason that copperhead bites are so common is their camouflage. These snakes are extremely well camouflaged and can be tough to spot even if you are looking for them. Additionally, they tend to freeze instead of running or warning like other snakes. Most bites occur when both the human and the snake are surprised and don’t see one another. When a human reaches to grab a ball in the woods, a piece of wood from a pile, or clean up trash in the yard, a hiding copperhead could get spooked and bite.
Are copperheads dangerous?
Thankfully, the most common venomous snake bites in the United States are also some of the least dangerous. Copperheads have venom, but it’s generally considered the weakest of all the pit vipers in the United States. Still, a bite is a medical emergency and should receive immediate treatment to prevent any potential complications.
Of all copperhead bites, about .01% are fatal. Of that number, many of the fatalities aren’t necessarily from the venom itself but from an allergic reaction to it (similar to a bee sting).
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Scott Delony/Shutterstock.com
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