Thursday, July 8, 2010

Northern Copperhead

One never knows what might happen along when patrolling the backwoods at night. While traveling along a rural lane in Adams County last Saturday night, I spotted the following serpentine beauty.

Copperhead, Agkistrodon contortrix. Of the three venomous snakes found in Ohio, this one is easily the most common. It is found in at least eight southern counties, and once occurred as far north as the Mansfield area and Mohican State Forest. Still, unless one lives in the heart of Copperhead country and is out and about all of the time, they are seldom seen.

I've seen quite a few over the years, and none have behaved aggressively. This one was crossing the road, and when I stopped for a look and a photo op, it raised its head to better keep tabs on me, but wasn't threatening.

If you can get past the poisonous snake stigma, Copperheads are actually very beautiful. Their markings are hourglass-shaped, and the head is burnished with a light coppery tinge. The overall effect is quite striking.

Anyone operating in Copperhead land would be wise to learn this species. While its bite would not be fatal, it'd ruin your day. They have a tendency to hole up during the day along or under logs, rocks, and other nooks and crannies, and it's never a good move to reach into such places sight unseen.

This one was near a stream, and that's the sort of habitat where I've made the majority of my observations. But they can be anywhere, and I remember a trip where we were specifically looking for snakes. While traipsing along high on a forested ridge in southernmost Ohio, three of our party - myself included - stepped over a log when the last guy across shouted to get our attention. There, lying snug against the downed tree was a gorgeous Copperhead, which all but the finder had stepped right over.

Pays to be on your toes!


Wren said...

It is a beautiful snake, but it's also one of the ones I was taught to fear as a child. I don't think I'll ever be completely comfortable around them, especially in the wild.

Anonymous said...

Awesome...only seen one myself near Macon, GA. I'm hoping to plan a trip to southern Ohio with the main target being just this species. You got some great pictures, Jim!