The Copperhead is one among the most prevalent of the US’s almost 50 snake species. Particularly if you spend more time outside and the weather is warmer, you are more likely to observe this snake.
Pit vipers with venom, called copperheads, are native to North America. Unsurprisingly, the name of these snakes refers to their coppery tint and bronze-colored head.
Although Copperhead has distinguishing stripes in the shape of an hourglass, its color and pattern are not distinctive, and there are a few snakes that can mimic it.
Here are nine snakes that are frequently killed as a result of people mistaking them for copperheads.
What Copperheads Look Like
Large North American pit vipers are mostly found in the southern and eastern parts of the country. It has a sturdy body that tends to taper towards its narrow tail and a length of two to three feet.
It’s unusual for a creature to have a major body hue that alternates between pink, tan (copper), and gray. Although it occasionally has a brighter tone, its belly often has the same color as its body. Additionally, the crossbands on this snake’s back never descend to its belly side.
Its blunt nose, which tends to stick out further from the mouth, is another thing you can’t help but notice. The head seems to be a triangle because of its form.
Snakes That Resemble Copperheads
Some of the snakes on this list may have similarities to Copperheads in their patterns, coloring, or both, which might cause individuals who are not familiar with snakes to mistake them for Copperheads.
Keep in mind that people typically assume the worst about snakes. In some circumstances, the snake doesn’t even resemble a copperhead, but ignorant people still mistake it for one.
In any event, the most crucial thing you can do if you think you’ve discovered a poisonous snake is to keep your distance from it.
The Corn Snake
The top of a list of snakes that are mistaken for copperheads naturally includes the corn snake. Although the scales of both of these snakes are reddish, those of a corn snake are more intensely colored.
They both have have a series of black bands arranged in a pattern down their backs. You will notice a difference if you examine the pattern carefully. A copperhead has an hourglass-shaped pattern on its back whereas a corn snake has a sequence of black splotches.
The form of these snakes’ heads is one of its most distinguishing characteristics. A corn snake has a narrow, thin head, but a copperhead has a triangular-shaped head. Remember that despite their resemblance in appearance, corn snakes are not dangerous while copperheads are toxic.
Many of the locations where copperheads are found are also home to common water snakes. This is terrible for Common Water Snakes since people frequently kill Copperheads out of fear, which might cause people to mistake them for Common Water Snakes and kill them unnecessarily.
The Common Watersnake is the next snake that people mistake the most for a Copperhead. However, one key distinction between the two is that Copperheads do not often survive in the water whereas Water Snakes do.
But water snakes are very different from copperheads. The crossbands of a water snake are wide in the centre and thin at the margins, in contrast to those of a copperhead, which are wide in the middle and narrow at the edges. They are darker than Copperheads and lack a prominent neck.
Unfortunately, owing to misidentification, water snakes are killed unnecessarily more frequently than copperheads.
Northern Water Snake
It might be simple to mistake a Northern water snake for a copperhead when looking at a photograph of the two snakes. Similar to copperheads, northern water snakes have scales that are gray, brown, or reddish. Additionally, the scale pattern on their backs is similar. But there are certain distinctions to be aware of.
A copperhead typically has a length of 20–27 inches, whereas a Northern water snake has a length of 24–42 inches. A Northern water snake lives close to lakes, rivers, and streams in its natural environment. The majority of a copperhead’s time is spent on land. Despite biting, Northern water snakes are not as poisonous as copperheads.
Learn more about northern water snakes by looking at these details.
The Northeastern United States, particularly the areas surrounding Maine, Minnesota, and Iowa, as well as some Southern states like Georgia and Alabama, are where milk snakes are most commonly found.
Another type of snake that poses no threat to people in any form is the milk snake. Their teeth are so tiny that you can hardly even see them, and they do not possess venom.
If one does bite you, which is normally only possible if you manage to pick one up, it will just leave a little scratch.
Despite this, keep in mind to thoroughly clean and sanitize the bite and cover it with a bandage to prevent infection.
Milk Snake VS Copperhead – You can really distinguish a milk snake from a copperhead rather simply by observing the colors and body patterns of the snake.
Generally speaking, milk snakes have sleeker bodies and tend to develop longer than Copperheads, which have larger, more muscular bodies.
Milk snakes often come in red, black, and white, but Copperheads don’t have similar patterns.
These snakes will have white and red stripes on either side of black bands around their bodies.
Depending on the environment they are inhabited, milk snakes can be found anywhere, although forests are where you’ll most often encounter them. They occasionally even may be seen crawling over a wide plain.
Eastern Hognose Snake
Hognose snakes are named because their upturned snouts, which resemble those of pigs. They are poisonous, but their venom is only potent enough to damage small prey animals—not people.
These snakes are found in the same regions that copperheads do in the East of North America. Even more difficult to distinguish between the two species is the fact that they have similar coloring, banding patterns, and habitats.
Eastern Hognose snakes puff out their necks, giving them a more triangular appearance when they feel threatened. Potential adversaries will stay away from them thanks to this alteration, which gives them a Cobra’s deception. The Hognose may collapse and act dead if the disguise fails.
The Hognose may be identified by its head, snout, and the absence of spots on its flanks, unlike Copperhead snakes.
Black Racer Snake
A copperhead and an adult Black racer snake have relatively few things in common. However, young Black racer snakes and copperhead adults look very similar. The back of a young Black racer snake is covered in light-colored scales with a pattern of dark blotches. They are mistaken for copperheads because of this.
A juvenile Black racer snake can easily be distinguished from an adult copperhead by its significantly shorter length. The Black Racer is not venomous, which is another significant distinction between these snakes.
Click here to read more about Black racers.
Rat snakes may be distinguished from Copperheads relatively easily, but occasionally someone will mistake one for the other, particularly if it’s a grey ratsnake.
It’s unfortunate because the rat snake is one of the non-venomous snake species that doesn’t harm people.
By eating any pests they may come across, like rats and mice, they actually tend to benefit humans more than anything else.
The most that could happen if you get bitten by a rat snake is that you would feel some pain and swelling in the affected area.
It’s crucial to treat the wound as soon as possible, and consulting your local physician about your options would also be a wise move.
As you can see, these snakes are generally beneficial to have around, especially considering that they don’t actually need to worry humans.
Copperhead vs. Rat Snake
Simply look at its color and keep in mind that Copperheads typically come in shades of a reddish-brown color with a little bit of tan if you happen to see one and are unsure if it is a Copperhead or a rat snake.
The rat snake in front of you will most likely be a dark color, typically black or dark grey with a hint of white in between the scales, if you happen to live up in north Alabama.
The snake will generally seem dark grey-brown if you dwell in south Alabama, with black spots running around its back.
Look at how much darker the rat snakes are compared to both of these snakes to tell them apart from a Copperhead.
Eastern Milk Snake
A calm, non-venomous snake with the appearance of the deadly Copperhead is the Eastern Milk snake. The later snake may be distinguished from this one, though, if you pay closer attention.
You may have noticed that the Milk snake’s color is more vibrant even though it shares the Copperhead’s generally constant saddleback pattern. The Milk snake’s design is typically more vividly red with sharply defined blotches in a darker, more intense shade of black.
Texas Brown Snake
Someone who witnesses a Texas brown snake vanish behind a boulder could mistake it for a copperhead. A Texas brown snake has black blotches on its back in addition to the same brown and reddish scales as a copperhead.
Texas brown snakes, however, are both shorter and slimmer than copperheads. Additionally, Texas brown snakes are more common in urban areas than copperheads and are non-venomous.
Click here to learn more about the Texas brown snake.
Black Rat Snake
The young Black Rat, commonly referred to as the Eastern Rat snake, is another snake that is frequently mistaken for a Copperhead. After birth, the Eastern Rat snake typically develops a distinctive pattern of brown or grey blotches. When a snake ages, the patterns vanish and blend into black; only the juvenile patterning survives.
In the winter, eastern rat snakes seek to warmer environments, preferably in people’s attics, basements, or other crawlspaces. In the winter, copperheads don’t go for shelter in human-made structures.
Banded Water Snake
The Banded Water Snake is another non-venomous snake that frequently misidentifies as a Copperhead.
The Midwest and Southeast of the United States are where you may find these snakes the most.
Banded water snakes have hefty bodies and may reach rather large lengths.
Since they can genuinely have different hues, some water snakes may be mistaken for Copperheads while others may not.
Copperhead vs. Banded Water Snake
The water snake’s hue is often a light brown, although it can sometimes occasionally seem more reddish-black with darker crossbones around its body.
Normally, these water snakes can coexist peacefully with people and a variety of other animals and will frequently flee as soon as there is a threat. But on occasion, if they feel threatened, they may bite you and exude a pungent, musky odor.
As they get older, Mole Kingsnakes lose their distinct pattern and become a uniform shade of brown. Some Kingsnakes are able to maintain their patterning throughout time, though.
You may have noticed that mole Kingsnakes differ from Copperheads in color, being considerably more reddish-brown than rusty brown.
The backs of the patterned Kingsnakes are uniformly covered with little oval patches. They also have narrow heads and small black eyes, as opposed to Copperhead’s wide yellow eyes and triangular heads.
Instead of Copperheads, which prefer it warm, you are more likely to see mole kingsnakes out in the open after it has rained. Additionally, kingsnakes and copperheads may also be smaller.
The fact that there are many species of “chicken snake” is fascinating. The term actually refers to a number of snake species that frequently eat rodents, eggs, and tiny birds like chicks.
Rat snakes, corn snakes, and pine snakes are examples of snakes that fall within the “chicken snake” classification.
The non-venomous snake species that is most frequently encountered in the hotter, southern regions of the United States is the chicken snake. Because of the colors and patterns on their bodies, many people mistake these non-poisonous chicken snakes for the venomous Copperhead snake.
A chicken snake may occasionally be seen hanging out near a chicken coop in your backyard, waiting for its opportunity to get one of those delectable chicken eggs.
If you see a drop in egg production and a gradual disappearance of your hens, you will know that chicken snakes have been sneaking into your chicken yard.
Diamondback Water Snake
Given its name, it should come as no surprise that you may encounter Diamondback Water snakes close to sources of water. These snakes like perching on tree branches that hang over any body of water to forage for surrounding food, including fish.
However, diamondback water snakes do not have venom that may harm people. The reticulated patterning is the only similarity between the two species.
Finding that someone may mistakenly identify another snake species as a Copperhead may seem a little unusual.
You might find it interesting to know, however, that despite the genetic diversity across snake species, these reptiles occasionally use evolutionary strategies to survive. For instance, non-venomous snakes adopt mimicry as a defense strategy to deter would-be predators.
Sometimes mimicking snakes are just poisonous snakes that most predators wish to stay away from. The following time you encounter a similar snake, be mindful that you can mistake it for a dangerous Copperhead and end up killing a harmless one.