Cottonmouth vs Copperhead

Due to their similar appearances, copperhead and cottonmouth snakes are frequently mistaken. They are separate species with distinct behaviors, though. The Copperhead snake has a copper-red head that is distinct from its body color, but the Cottonmouth snake has a triangular-shaped head.

Why is it crucial to distinguish between Cottonmouth and Copperhead snakes clearly?

It turns out that in the Southern region of the US, these snakes are the most poisonous and cause the most bites each year. Different medical procedures are used to treat these bites. This is why it’s so important to identify these snakes accurately.

When a snake bites you, it’s advisable to snap a photo of the snake so the hospital can accurately identify the species. This is either the Copperhead or the Cottonmouth in the majority of Southern snakebite cases.

What Is A Cottonmouth?

The southern region of the United States is the home of the poisonous cottonmouth pit viper snake. It may be found from southern Missouri and eastern Texas all the way down to the Gulf and Atlantic coasts.

Semi-aquatic snakes like cottonmouths may live both on land and in water. They thus frequently inhabit wetlands such as swamps and marshes, as well as areas close to bodies of water.

Usually brown, gray, or olive-green in hue with hazy or faint darker patterns, these snakes occasionally have a light-colored ring encircling their midsections. Although their tails become noticeably more thin, their bodies are big and powerful up front.

They are classified as medium-sized snakes since they may reach lengths of 2 to 4 feet. They feature the traditional triangular-shaped heads that pit vipers are distinguished by, and the interior of their mouths is white.

Cottonmouths are nocturnal animals that are most active, and they will consume almost anything that comes in their way. Small animals, fish, reptiles, including other snakes, amphibians, and reptiles are among of their most popular food sources.

Each year, cottonmouths mate in the spring and the fall. The females give birth to live offspring in broods, typically 10 to 20 snakes each brood.

What Is A Copperhead?

A long-lived carnivore, the copperhead snake (Agkistrodon contortrix) is a snake. The average lifespan of a Copperhead snake in the wild is said to be 18 years. It may survive up to 25 years in captivity provided there is always food available.

The snake’s copper-colored head gave rise to its name. Usually, its head is a distinct hue than the rest of its body. The snake may reach a maximum length of a few feet, but what immediately distinguishes it is its copper-red head. Typically, its body is tan in hue with hourglass-shaped brown stripes.

The length of these snakes can be used to further identify them. A Copperhead snake measuring 2-3 feet is typical to observe. The snake’s maximum length under severe circumstances is 4 feet. In addition to measuring the snake, its body form, particularly its tail, can be used to identify it. As it approaches the tail’s tip, its body gets narrower.

The Copperhead snake is a major hazard for people because of its enormous population and diverse habitat, which includes residing in inhabited areas. The snake is quite well-liked, particularly in the Southern US. It also doesn’t back down from populated regions. It is one of the most deadly snakes in the nation as a result of this combination.

Its venom seldom kills healthy people, though. Only elderly people and children are actually at risk from the Copperhead snake’s venom.

The snake known as the Copperhead eats animals. The only prey it pursues is warm-blooded. This is accomplished by modifying the indentations on its skull. Between the eyes and the nose, they are situated. Even at night, when many of its preferred prey species are most active, the Copperhead snake uses these indentations to find its prey.

The Copperhead snake’s mating season starts in the spring. High levels of aggression are seen at this period, especially among male Copperheads who are competing with other males for the female’s attention. The Copperhead snake’s mother gives birth to live snakes. The female can give birth to more than 10 snakes at a time, however it’s unknown what decides this.

After giving birth to live snakes, the snake then goes underground for the winter. During the winter, it frequently shares its subterranean habitat with other species.

Cottonmouth vs Copperhead: Size and Species

Although they are both members of the same family and genus of snakes, cottonmouths and copperheads differ significantly in terms of size. The general consensus is that cottonmouths are larger than copperheads. These snakes can occasionally be noticeably longer and broader than copperheads.

For instance, the typical cottonmouth can reach a length of five to fifty inches, but the average copperhead usually reaches a length of twenty to thirty-five inches before it stops developing. Compared to copperheads, cottonmouths also have a significantly broader body.

Are moccasins and copperheads the same?

They are not comparable, no. They may be perplexing to many since they appear to be the same shade of brown. Copperheads, on the other hand, are smaller than water moccasins and can reach a maximum length of 30 in (76.2 cm). You’ll notice that the female copperheads are longer than the males.

The water moccasin, on the other hand, typically grows to a length of 30-48 in (75-120 cm), however some do. More substantial than the females are the male moccasins.

Both of them may be found in North America and the Southeast United States, together with rattlesnakes and pit vipers. All of these snakes, along with vipers, are poisonous, and while their bites can be painful, they never result in fatalities. In contrast to copperheads, water moccasins are mostly aquatic but can occasionally be seen on land.

The Differences in the Behavior of Cottonmouth VS Copperhead

Since they are aggressive snakes, cottonmouths frequently strike when they feel threatened. Additionally, they occasionally “play dead” by floating still in the water.

Many people believe cottonmouth snakes to be particularly hazardous. Unlike their Copperhead relatives, they frequently defend their territory. They tend to be bigger snakes and have greater venom, making them extremely hazardous.

However, they are not aggressive toward people until provoked. If encountered, they’re significantly more likely to attempt to flee than to attack. When they sense danger, they coil into a ball and open their lips widely, revealing a vast range of colour within.

Because they are timid, copperhead snakes seldom bite unless they feel threatened. If they do bite, it typically won’t be fatal to people.

When danger is present, copperhead snakes seek refuge under cover and disguise. On a warm summer night, it is often not difficult to spot a Copperhead snake crossing a road. Many Copperhead snakes are killed by cars because they frequently freeze when danger approaches.

Copperhead snakes typically freeze in place and remain still until the threat has passed when they sense danger. In their native environment, this tactic is effective.

Copperhead snakes seldom bite unless someone stands on them, grabs them, or otherwise comes very, very near to them. The bite, however, will frequently be employed as a final resort. The tail of an excited Copperhead snake will shake quickly.

The eastern US has the highest rate of venomous snakebite statistics because to the relative quantity of Copperhead snakes and their proximity to human habitations.

Which is worse, cottonmouth or copperhead?

Contrasting a cottonmouth to a copperhead, you’ll find that the cottonmouth, also known as the water moccasin, has a bite that is far more toxic and deadly to humans than the bite of the copperhead, albeit it seldom results in fatalities. In comparison to copperheads, the cottonmouth is also considerably more aggressive.

They only bite when they perceive an attack or when they are actually touched. Enzymes found in cottonmouth snake toxin lead to local tissue necrosis and potentially coagulopathy. They are also capable of murdering people.

Studies show that North American cottonmouths are the poisonous snakes that people are most afraid of. They have a potent cytotoxic venom that is extremely damaging and can even consume flesh, leading to gory amputations. These snakes prefer to hide in bodies of water, and they frequently and unexpectedly bite humans.

These adults often mate in the months of April and May. At age four, they both become fully mature. They also have an autumn mating season, which takes place in September for the adults.

The male Copperhead snakes use their tongues to detect pheromones and locate their female snakes during the mating season. While the cottonmouth males use their tails to entice the female snakes. Even among themselves, these men vie for the attention of their girlfriends.

Cottonmouth Vs. Copperhead: Which Is More Poisonous?

Both copperheads and cottonmouths are deadly pit vipers. However, although cottonmouth bites commonly result in death, copperhead bites seldom occur.

Large and aggressive, cottonmouths eat red blood cells with their poison. Untreated cottonmouth bites rapidly deplete the bitten victim’s blood supply, which can result in shock and death.

The majority of tissue damage from copperhead bites is localized and seldom disseminates throughout the body. Children, the elderly, or those with weakened immune systems may die from copperhead bites if untreated, although healthy adults are seldom killed by them.

Nevertheless, they continue to be dangerous because the localized tissue damage may be sufficient to necessitate amputation.

No matter what kind of bite you receive, it’s critical that you get medical attention soon once. Your chances of achieving a full recovery without experiencing any consequences from a poisonous snake bite increase the faster you receive treatment.

If you can, attempt to take a photo of the snake if you’re unclear of what kind of snake bit you. However, don’t waste your time or put yourself at risk of getting bitten again; you should be heading to the hospital, not wasting time attempting to find the snake that bit you.

It’s crucial to be able to recognize a snake on your own (without needing to take a picture). Since copperhead and cottonmouth bites are handled differently, it saves time and enables you to receive proper treatment more quickly.

The Difference In Their Diet

The term “copperhead” refers to a type of predator known for ambushing its victim by waiting for it to hide behind bushes before biting it. The copperhead prefers to let the animals flee and perish rather than biting or scratching them. By following the scent of its prey, the snake locates them dead and prepared for consumption.

Additionally, copperheads have been known to lure amphibians into a worm-like trap using its yellowtail. Heavy bleeding is brought on by the hemolytic nature of the copperhead venom. Small animals, reptiles, and even amphibians are all prey for them.

The choosiest eaters aren’t cottonmouths. Fish, amphibians, birds, rodents, and various snakes are the main sources of their diet. Their prey might be killed by their poison. They don’t hesitate to eat the meat of even worthless creatures. Cannibalistic snakes are what these reptiles are.

Depending on their eating patterns, their skins shed at various periods throughout the year. As opportunistic feeders, cottonmouths are known to eat a variety of aquatic and terrestrial creatures, including frogs, lizards, snakes, and even smaller cottonmouths. Additionally, they eat baby alligators, animals, birds, fish, and tiny turtles.

Behavior And Aggressiveness

Although they can be aggressive, cottonmouths seldom bite people. Many dangerous snakes run away from danger, but this snake holds its ground and does not do so.

Cottonmouths coil their bodies and open their lips widely, revealing the white hue of the inside of the mouth, when they sense danger close by.

In Cottonmouths with black or dark brown bodies, the white hue may be seen rather vividly. Potential predators are warned by this defensive strategy.

When threatened, copperheads leave their territory and avoid humans entirely rather than biting them. They don’t strike as hard as Cottonmouths. However, they frequently stop moving when faced with a threat rather than slithering away like other snakes.

However, if someone inadvertently stamp on a frozen Copperhead during this period, Copperheads could bite them. When they touch humans, they exclusively attack them.

Since snakes disguise when they freeze, it is hard to see them while they are lying on dead leaves or red dirt. This species’ tail vibrates 40 times per second, which is quicker than virtually all kinds of non-rattlesnake species.

Cottonmouth vs Copperhead: Habitat

Compared to copperheads, cottonmouths have different preferred environments. Cottonmouths are typically found close to bodies of water, but copperheads tend to favor warm, dry areas.

Water moccasins are another name for cottonmouths. Its dark tan, brown, or black skin features a pattern of dark brown or black crossbands that mimic the leather stitching of moccasin shoes, earning it the moniker “water moccasin.” The only poisonous water snakes in North America are cottonmouths.

Although both cottonmouths and copperheads are adept at adapting to a variety of environmental conditions, cottonmouths are typically recognized for their watery habits. While copperheads favor hilly or forested locations, they frequently spend their time in marshes and marshy situations.

Though they frequently inhabit regions that provide them with safety, such as wood heaps or construction sites, copperheads may also be found in suburban settings.

Cottonmouths and copperheads can be found in the same places, including their preferred environment, as was previously indicated. If their marshes or wetlands dry up during the warmer months of the year, cottonmouths will flee to drier terrain for safety.


Due to their similar look and colour, copperheads and cottonmouths, both deadly pit vipers, are sometimes mistaken for one another. However, if you know what to look for, you should be able to distinguish between these two snakes based on characteristics like their skin patterns, natural habitats, and level of aggression.