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

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Updated: September 11, 2022
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Key Points

  • Rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, coral snakes, and copperheads make up the venomous snake species in the state.
  • Copperheads of Texas inhabit mixed pastures, wooded lowlands, and desert areas.
  • In the state, on average, about 1 or 2 people die from venomous snake bites each year.

Texas is home to more than 105 snake species, four of which are venomous. They include rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths, and coral snakes, which are Texas’ most dangerous snake species. Among these, copperheads are one of the most commonly seen.

Copperheads are medium-sized snakes. They have heat-sensing pits that look like a second set of nostrils, located between their actual nostrils and their yellow cat-like (elliptical pupil) eyes. The species is known to have thick bodies and ridged or keeled scales. There are five subspecies of copperheads scattered around America, but not all appear in Texas. This article takes a look at the copperheads in Texas, where they live, and how often they bite.

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Types of Copperheads in Texas

The Copperhead’s scales are keeled, and their eyes have vertical pupils that make them resemble cat’s eyes.
There are three types of copperhead snakes in Texas.

Creeping Things/Shutterstock.com

Copperheads are pit vipers which makes them venomous. Their venom contains hemotoxins that damage tissues temporarily. Their bites are often painful. Copperheads have solenoglyphous fangs that could measure anywhere from 0.04 inches to 0.3 inches, depending on the snake’s size. Luckily, most copperhead bites do not result in deaths. However, even baby copperheads are capable of injecting venom.

Texas is home to three subspecies or types of copperheads. They are:

  • Southern Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix contortrix)
  • Broad-banded Copperhead (Agkistrodon Laticinctus)
  • Trans-Pecos Copperhead (Agkistrodon Pictigaster)

Southern Copperhead (Agkistrodon Contortrix)

copperhead camouflaged in leaves
Copperheads are easily hidden on the ground because of their color.

iStock.com/JasonOndreicka

Southern copperheads are usually pale brown or light tan and may have a hint of pink. They have hourglass-shaped bands that form a pattern on their rough scaled bodies. The hourglass-shaped bands are wider closer to their tails and become narrow around their necks. Southern copperheads usually measure anywhere from 24 to 26 inches in length. 

Broad-banded Copperhead (Agkistrodon Laticinctus)

copperhead vs rattlesnake
Broad-banded copperheads measure 20 to 36 inches long.

Scott Delony/Shutterstock.com

Also known as the Texas copperhead, the broad-banded copperhead’s colors are on the darker side and vary depending on where they are found. Generally, they have light tan bodies and crossbands that could be dark brown, gray-brown, or red-brown. Adult broad-banded copperheads measure from 20-36 inches in length.

Trans-Pecos Copperhead (Agkistrodon Pictigaster)

What Does a Copperhead Snake Look Like
Trans-Pecos Copperhead, Agkistrodon contortrix pictigaster, lying on gravel.

Breck P. Kent/Shutterstock.com

The Trans-Pecos copperhead is also known as the western copperhead. Just like the broad-banded copperhead, they are usually a light shade of brown and have dark similar crossbands. It can be a bit difficult to differentiate the Trans-Pecos from the broad-banded copperhead. The best way to do this is to look out for an elaborately patterned underside.

Trans-Pecos copperheads have white and black elaborately patterned undersides, especially when compared to broad-banded copperheads. They have plain white undersides with little or no patterns.

What Parts of Texas Have the Most Copperheads?

Copperheads are scattered all around Texas. However, some areas are heavily more than averagely populated by copperheads. Here are the three parts of Texas with the most copperheads:

  • Eastern Texas: The eastern part of Texas is heavily populated with southern copperheads. They can be found in mixed pastures as well as wooded lowlands.
  • Central Texas: Central Texas is heavily populated with broad-banded copperheads. This species picks habitats that aren’t too far from water. Typically, they prefer wooded areas that have ground debris.
  • Western Texas: Western Texas is another area known to be populated with broad-banded copperheads.
  • Trans-Pecos: The Trans-Pecos region is located in the north-central part of New Mexico and is placed west of the Pecos River. It is the only part of the state that has desert habitats and mountains. It is known to be heavily populated with Trans-Pecos copperheads, which are native to the region.

When Are Texas Copperheads Most Active?

Texas copperheads aren’t huge fans of the sun’s heat. They are most active in the later afternoons and into the evening. They prefer to stay in cooler areas but that is not to say that they like the cold, either. They are known to hibernate through the winter.

Snake Bite Statistics

As we stated above, copperhead bites rarely result in deaths. Here are some important and official statistics about snake bites in Texas.

  • On average 1 to 2 people die each year from venomous snake bites in the state of Texas.
  • 1 in 500 bites from venomous snakes results in death.
  • About a half of snake bites are dry bites. Dry bites occur when a snake doesn’t inject its victim with venom when it bites.
  • Each year, about 7,000 people get bitten by venomous snakes in the US.

Statistics show that around 3,000 people are bitten by copperheads in the U.S. annually. Out of the 50 states, Texas comes in 6th for top number of copperhead bites per million population. Surprisingly, most bites occurred in the victims’ own backyards.

How to Avoid Copperheads in Texas

Although snakes are an important part of the ecosystem, some people fear them. If you suffer from snake phobia or ophidiophobia, you probably want to know how to avoid copperheads in Texas. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Keep your lawns trimmed. Snakes like to hide in grassy areas.
  • Ensure that your surroundings are not littered with piles of rock, debris, wood, or grass.
  • Plant snake-repelling plants that really work.

What to Do if You See a Copperhead in Texas

If you end up seeing a copperhead in Texas, do not panic. Exit as calmly as possible and reach out to any pest control service. Do not kill any copperhead or snake in Texas. Copperheads are not known to attack humans. When they are spotted, they freeze in hopes of not being seen. If you spot a copperhead, simply contact the appropriate authorities.

What to Do if You Get Bitten by a Copperhead in Texas

If a copperhead feels threatened, it can spray its attacker with musk. According to multiple reports, their musk smells like spoilt cucumbers or rotten eggs. Another means of defense that copperheads use is their venom. If you get bitten by a copperhead in Texas, get as far away from the copperhead as possible, stay calm, and seek medical help immediately.

Other Venomous Snakes in Texas

Copperheads aren’t the only venomous snakes found in Texas. Here are some other venomous snakes found in the state.

  • Cottonmouths: Cottonmouths are semi-aquatic snakes. This means that they live both on land and on water. These snakes are very easy to identify. Adult Cottonmouths are colored yellowish-olive to darker shades of black and gray.
  • Rattlesnakes: Known for their rattling tails, these pit vipers are found all over Texas. Texas has two subspecies of rattlesnakes which are the western massasauga and the desert massasauga.
  • Coral snakes: Texas is home to the Texas coral snake. This venomous species of snake is found in coastal plains, canyons, and Texas’ southeastern woodlands.

Up next…

Snake bites can often be overlooked and even forgotten. It is definitely important to take these secretive serpents in mind when outdoors. Check out these articles on other venomous snakes, how to get rid of snakes in your yard, and what to do if your pup gets bitten:

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