First of all, it’s worth noting that, like shark bites, snake bites are extraordinarily rare. More often than not, snakes sense humans coming from a long way away, and they wisely steer clear. Unlike many sharks, we are far too large for all (but a couple of non-venomous snakes) to be seen as a viable meal.

In other words, snake bites occur because snakes feel threatened and are attempting to protect themselves. And, they have good reason to be afraid. Much more regularly, snakes are on the losing end of an encounter with humans.

That said, a snake bite can be quite serious, and about 7,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes each year, with only around five of those dying from it. Over half of those bites are people who are handling snakes. Frankly, honey bee stings and lightning strikes kill more people every year, a lot more people, so our fear is slightly misplaced.

Furthermore, for those of us in the US, the snake with the most bite offenses is the copperhead. While not a fun experience, it is the snake with the least venomous bite that tends to deliver “dry” bites, and rarely do victims not survive. Nonetheless, we don’t want them around if possible.

Source: WBIR Channel 10/Youtube

Preventing Copperheads

Copperheads aren’t native throughout the US. They tend to stay along the eastern coast, from Northern Florida to New England, but they can be found as far west as Texas. Knowing this is a good start because it eliminates a lot of places as a worry (you’ve got more rattlesnakes, so don’t feel cheated.)

If you are in copperhead country, there are several ways to make a yard less habitable for copperheads.

  1. Keep the yard well-maintained. They like to have good cover, so short grass and trimmed shrubbery help to make a location less attractive for copperheads.
  2. Know the riskiest spots. Wood piles (particularly on the ground), rockeries, flowerpots, and water sources like little ponds are places that might attract copperheads.
  3. Create clean compost bins. It’s important to compost, but it’s equally important to do it well. A messy compost bin attracts rodents, and that’s a copperhead’s favorite dinner. Pet food is another thing that commonly causes rodent problems.
  4. Use a snake repellent. There are natural snake repellents (Havahart Snake-A-Way or Solar-Powered Snake Repellent) that can be purchased and applied in the yard to make the space less hospitable. Garlic, onions, and lemongrass are all repellent plants for copperheads.

Source: The Wild Report/Youtube

Identifying a Copperhead

Adult copperheads are very easy to identify. Usually, they have light brown bodies with dark, hour-glass brown splotches and, of course, their heads are distinctly copper-colored. Adults tend to stay less than three-feet long, have heavy bodies, and sport the classic triangular head that the pit vipers, like rattlesnakes, have, and their pupils are vertical.

Copperheads can be troublesome because they are well camouflaged, especially in brown leaves, and they usually freeze with frightened. This means people can accidentally step on them or reach toward them without knowing they are around.

Baby copperheads are generally around in early fall. They look similar to the adults, but they are maybe eight inches long and come in groups of between five and fifteen snakes. Their heads can be darker or spotted, and the tip of their tails is usually bright yellow or green. And a bite from one of them is just as unpleasant as a bite from an adult. Even so, less than 1/10 of one percent of bites are fatal.

Source: Ocho Verde Wildlife Channel/Youtube

Getting Rid of Baby Copperheads

In the instance that baby copperheads, or adult copperheads, are around, there are plenty of ways to remove them humanely. For the average person, this begins with never touching the snake, which will put both humans and reptiles in danger. Remember, the snake, not wanting an encounter, is as stressed as you are (if not more). Instead, try one of these options.

  1. Find a long-handled item (at least three feet) like a broom or shovel to move the snake away or into a bucket. With baby copperheads, it’s important to remember that there is likely more than one.
  2. Use snake traps and snake bait. They can help when copperheads have been conclusively detected. Glue traps, of course, are inhumane, but minnow traps can be used to capture copperheads and move them somewhere more appropriate.
  3. Call a professional. While lots of people see snakes and think kill, there are lots of people out there that want to protect them, even copperheads. This might cost over $100, but that can be worth it for peace of mind.

Cool with Copperheads

Overwhelming odds are that most of us, even those of us who love being outdoors and getting dirty, will never be bitten by a copperhead. Nevertheless, knowing how to first prevent them from coming around, how to actually identify them, and ultimately being prepared to deal with one makes the odds even better. There’s no reason we can’t all share the planet.

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