It's baby copperhead season for many parts of North America.
All around the United States, baby copperhead snakes are beginning to appear as the female snakes begin to give birth.
Copperhead season is one of dread for many people as they now must avoid these venomous baby snakes that are dangerous to both humans and pets.
But avoiding trouble with this species of snake is easy this time of year and we'll tell you how to do just that.
Warnings from wildlife officials
The start of copperhead season has many wildlife and law enforcement agencies taking the opportunity to warn the public to be on guard. In Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Sheriffs and Peace Officer organization posted warnings about the arrival of the young snakes and cautioned residents about the hiding spots these serpents frequent.
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It got us to thinking. We figured it would be a good idea to clear up a few misconceptions about these tiny snakes.
When are baby copperheads born?
Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix) is a term that refers to any of five different subspecies of venomous snakes found mostly in the southern United States. They are most often encountered in states like Missouri, Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky, West Virginia, Texas, Georgia and more.
Many people get them confused with water moccasins or cottonmouths, which like the copperhead, are also pit vipers. Copperheads are also often mixed up with non-venomous watersnakes, ratsnakes or cornsnakes.
Adults usually do not grow very large, rarely exceeding three feet in length. They are usually light to dark brown with dark colored crossbands that form a rough diamond or hourglass shaped patter on their backs.
This snake species reproduces in the spring and then gives birth to live young in late August and September.
What does a baby copperhead look like?
The typical litter of copperheads is five to eight snakes, but 15-20 is possible. Thankfully, the young snakes are easy to identify.
The baby copperheads are about seven to eight inches long. The coloration is very similar to the adults in they are usually light brown or reddish in appearance. Just be warned, some younger snakes can appear dark gray. But there are some other subtle differences that make the juvenile snakes easy to spot.
For one, young copperheads have a distinct bright yellow or green tail. Copperhead babies have these yellow tail tips for roughly a year before they take a more natural color like the adults.
Keep in mind this isn't a hard and fast rule. There are some young copperheads that don't have this coloration, but it is a good thing to look out for when you encounter a snake that you're unsure about.
Some young copperheads might also have a dark head or spots on the head that give away their identify. Keep in mind many harmless snakes like rat snakes and water snakes often have the same hourglass pattern as a copperhead.
One easy way to tell if you're dealing with something venomous is to observe the hourglass. Does the pattern extend down the sides of the snake to the ground? It's likely a copperhead. If the pattern doesn't extend and is just kind of floating in the middle of the snake's back, you're likely dealing with a non-venomous look alike.
Are baby copperheads venomous?
Yep. Baby copperheads are just smaller versions of the adult snake and yes, a copperhead bite does have the potential to be dangerous. Treat them with the same amount of respect you would an adult snake.
Copperhead bites have the potential to be very painful, but thankfully, they aren't usually deadly. Rumors that baby copperhead bites are somehow more dangerous, or that the young snakes can't control their venom, are nothing more than the stuff of internet and urban legend.
Keep in mind that copperheads are a species of snake that doesn't always inject venom when biting. That doesn't mean you should ignore a bite. Seek medical attention at a hospital, just in case.
Overall, we recommend giving the adults and babies a healthy amount of respect. Keep a safe distance. If you leave them alone, chances are they will leave you alone too.
How to get rid of baby copperhead snakes
Where one encounters one baby copperhead, they are likely to encounter another one. Contrary to another popular urban legend, copperheads don't travel in pairs, but you might very well find more than one (or even a lot) in a small area after they're born.
For actual removal of problem snakes, we recommend hiring an expert if you're dealing with something venomous. Many snake bites happen when people untrained in snake handling attempt to do so.
There are "snake traps" and "snake paper" for sale online if you have a snake that frequents an area. If you decide to kill them, it's a good idea to check your local regulations before you try killing any snake, as it is not legal in all areas.
You can also take precautions to make your yard less attractive to all snakes. It starts with keeping the lawn trim and clear of fallen trees or wood that the snakes can use for cover.
Be aware of bushes, rocks, flowerpots, electrical boxes, wood piles, coiled garden hoses and other typical things you might find in yards in suburban areas that might serve as cover for serpents.
If you have children, make sure their toys are picked up when they're not using them. If you see a young snake in the yard, you might want to restrict the kids to playing inside for a while, at least until you're sure the snakes have moved on. Basically, you're looking to eliminate cover.
One thing to keep in mind to avoid bites is that humans are not a prey item for any snake, especially a copperhead. These snakes normally eat small rodents pests. If you have snakes, there is a chance you have a rodent problem too.
You can make your own yard unattractive to snakes simply by eliminating the rodents via the typical mouse/rat trapping methods.
By taking a few common sense measures this time of year and having a healthy amount of respect for the snake, you can avoid problems and bites from copperheads.