Copperheads are venomous snakes that are widely spread in many parts of America, Australia, and Asia. They are a unique species for many reasons. For starters, the American copperhead and the Australian copperhead are in two entirely different snake families (pit vipers and elapids)! However, this article isn’t about copperheads- at least not adult copperheads. Instead, we’ll be taking a look at their young ones. If you’ve ever wondered when baby copperhead season starts, get ready; you’re in for a treat.
American copperheads refer to any of the two copperhead species found in America – the eastern copperhead and the broad-banded copperhead. Previously, there were 5 species of copperheads found in America. American copperheads are pit vipers. This means that they have infrared sensing pits that help them hunt.
American copperheads are venomous but their bites are hardly ever fatal due to their venom composition, venom yield, lethal dosage, and the fact that half of the time, their bites are dry or warning bites. As adults, they measure 20-37 inches in length and weigh 3.2 – 11.2 ounces.
There are three species of copperheads found in Australia, the lowland copperhead (Austrelaps superbus), the highland copperhead (Austrelaps ramsayi), and the pygmy copperhead (Austrelaps labialis). Australian copperheads are elapids. This means that they have permanently erect proteroglyphous fangs at the front of their mouths.
They measure 39 to 59 inches and weigh 4-12 ounces. Unlike American copperheads, these snakes are deadly. Their bites cause paralysis and can lead to death.
When Does Baby Copperhead Season Start?
Australian and American copperheads do not have the same reproduction timelines. Snakes, like most wild animals, live and plan their lives (breeding, hunting, hibernating, etc) according to the temperatures of their habitats. America and Australia do not have the same winter, spring, fall, and summer months due to varying temperatures. For example, winter months in Australia start from June to August, when the weather is coldest there. Here in America, winter starts from December to March.
This article takes a look at the various timelines for the American and Australian copperhead’s reproductive stages. Find out when baby copperhead season starts.
According to research scientist Cecilie Beatson, copperheads in Australia reach sexual maturity when their snouts measure anywhere from 302 – 617mm. This is variable by species. Female pygmy copperheads, for example, attain maturity when their snouts measure 304mm, while female lowland copperheads attain maturity when their snouts measure 617mm. On the other hand, copperheads in America reach sexual maturity at an average of 4 years of age when they measure about 2 feet. At these stages, both species are capable of reproducing.
American copperheads have two mating seasons. The first takes place in the spring from February to early May after the snakes emerge from hibernation. The second takes place from August to October. Australian copperheads are reported to mate in March or April.
In the case of both species, the male copperheads seek the females out. However, there are distinctions in how they do this.
At the start of the breeding seasons in Australia, male copperheads become very competitive and combative. They fight against each other by intertwining their bodies while keeping their heads apart.
In America, things happen a bit differently. Male copperheads do not become as aggressive as their Australian counterparts, but they may fight if both snakes are pursuing the same female. Some female copperheads challenge their prospective mates to combat. If the males refuse or lose the battle, they will be rejected.
Male American copperheads who fought successfully will engage in a mating dance. Both snakes will lift their head to mid regions while the male will rub his chin against the female’s back as he flicks his tongue. If the female is interested, she will raise her tail and open her cloaca, giving her consent for coitus. Otherwise, she will swing her tail back and forth continuously to signal her lack of interest and prevent coitus.
According to the Australian Museum, “Gravid females can be found from mid-spring to late summer (November-March), and wild-caught snakes have given birth in mid-summer”. However, American copperheads have a gestation period of 3 to 9 months.
In America, baby copperheads season starts around August or September, while it starts around January or February in Australia.
Both species pick warm months to lay their young.
Both snake species are ovoviviparous. This means that they give birth to their young ones alive as their eggs are hatched inside their bodies. The embryos stay inside eggs in the mother’s body and also hatch inside of her.
American copperheads will have 2 to 18 young ones, while Australian copperheads will have 7 – 20.
Newly born American copperheads measure 8 to 9 inches and are born with their venom and solenoglyphous fangs in tow. They have the same coloring and patterns as adults but they have brightly colored tail tips. Baby American copperheads eat mostly insects but sometimes go for toads. As babies, research suggests that they make use of their brightly-colored tails to hunt by waving them to lure or attract unsuspecting amphibians.
Baby Australian copperheads measure an average of 8 inches. Just like American copperheads, they are born venomous.
Care For Young
American and Australian copperheads do not care for their young after birth. They are carnivorous animals and are even known to eat their young.
Asexual Reproduction in Copperheads
Only American copperheads of the contortrix family can reproduce asexually. They do this by parthenogenesis which is a natural form of reproduction that allows the growth and development of embryos without fertilization. Australian copperheads cannot do this.
What Should I Do With A Baby Copperhead?
If you stumble upon a baby copperhead in its nest, leave it alone. This applies to all snakes at various maturity stages. However, if it is in any danger and you fear for its safety, contact the appropriate pest control services in your area. Remember that baby copperheads cannot control their venom. Consequently, their bites are usually more dangerous than adult copperheads who favor low-venom yields and dry bites.
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