Looking to get rid of copperhead snakes around your home or yard? Great!
In this Pest Strategies guide, you'll learn:
- What are copperhead snakes?
- If copperheads are dangerous?
- What to do if they're in your yard
- What you should do if they're in your home
- And much more!
Most people in the eastern United States have undoubtedly heard of the infamous copperhead snake.
This type of serpent lives in a variety of environments, including grasslands, forests, mountains—and even people's backyards.
Luckily, though, homeowners have a few options for eliminating these reptilian pests. But what should you know first?
Keep reading below for everything you never thought you needed to know about copperhead snakes...before one takes up residence in your yard!
What Is a Copperhead Snake?
The copperhead is a venomous snake which lives throughout the eastern side of the United States. Its habitat is extensive, reaching as far south as the Florida panhandle, as far north as Massachusetts, and far enough west to hit Nebraska. It is a carnivore which eats rodents, small birds, and even insects like cicadas.
Are Copperhead Snakes Dangerous?
Copperheads are venomous, which means their bites release a toxin which can be dangerous. While these snakes typically avoid humans, they will attack if they feel threatened.
Startling a copperhead or provoking it in any way is a bad idea, as it will strike. Thankfully, copperhead bites don't tend to be fatal, especially when the affected person seeks immediate medical treatment.
Copperheads vs. Other Snakes: What Are the Differences?
Copperheads look like their name suggests: these snakes feature smooth heads adorned with copper scales. Their bodies can sometimes have a reddish-blown glint to them, and each serpent has dark brown cross bands. The copperhead's body is thick, and sometimes it will emit a musk which smells like cucumbers. An adult grows to be 2-3 feet long at most. A juvenile copperhead's most distinct feature is its lemon-yellow tail, which it uses to trick and attract species of prey—namely frogs and caterpillars.
Because of their distinctive color, copperheads are usually easy to distinguish from other serpents. Below is a comparative listing of some of the most common snakes in the United States with details on how they differ from the copperhead.
Copperhead vs. Cottonmouth
The cottonmouth—also commonly called the "water moccasin"—is known by its telltale feature: the blinding white interior of its mouth, which it shows when threatened.
The cottonmouth is large like the copperhead, but has different scale colors. While the copperhead is naturally copper-colored, a cottonmouth has a muddy brown body with black or grey bands.
Some other noticeable differences include:
- Behavior. The cottonmouth is shy and prefers to spend its time hiding or swimming.
- Length. Copperhead snakes are 2-3 feet long, while cottonmouths are slightly longer at 2-4 feet.
- Habitat. Cottonmouths are native to the southeastern states, while the copperhead lives further north and slightly west as well.
Copperhead vs. Garter
Thankfully, there are very few similarities between these two types of serpents. Garter snakes are small, nonvenomous creatures which primarily live in gardens, meadows, and other grasslands. This type of snake is small, only growing to be 1-2 feet long. Its most distinctive characteristic is three long, yellow bands which run vertically down its body. Fully mature garter snakes can range in color from grey to olive green.
Due to all of these factors, the common garter snake is a stark contrast from the reddish copperhead, which is a much larger, stronger, and more aggressive snake.
Copperhead vs. Garden
- Size. Copperheads have thick bodies and grow to be 2-3 feet long, while a garden snake is slim and only 1-2 feet long.
- Color. The copperhead is copper while the garden snake can be grey, green, or black. Garden snakes have a trio of yellow stripes which run vertically down their bodies.
- Behavior. Garter snakes are shy and leave humans alone, similar to a copperhead. They rarely bite and are nonvenomous.
Copperhead vs. Black Snakes
When people think of a black snake in the U.S., they are often imagining the black rat snake. These serpents live in the same regions as the copperhead but grow to be much larger. Adults tend to be between 3-5 feet long and have similar thick bodies
Unlike the copperhead, the black rat snake is usually black (hence its namesake) and lives in swampy, woodland areas. These snakes avoid people, but will become aggressive if cornered. They shake their tails to make a similar sound to a rattlesnake in an attempt to scare away predators. Many of these snakes are unpredictable, but some of them are docile.
- Danger: The black rat snake is nonvenomous, unlike the copperhead. It instead kills its prey through constriction, wrapping its body tightly around the animal in question until it suffocates and dies.
Copperhead vs. Rattlesnakes
The most obvious difference between these two serpents is that the rattlesnake has a special end to its tail that it shakes to scare away predators. Its head is also shaped differently, resembling a diamond with flared nostrils. Some of the biggest differences between the rattlesnake and the copperhead are:
- Color. The copperhead is the color of a penny, while the rattlesnake is usually light brown or tan with darker brown diamonds on its sides and back.
- Habitat. The rattlesnake prefers dry environments like the North American southwest. People will most likely encounter one in a desert, dry land, or scrubland.
- Size. Rattlesnakes range in size from 1-8 feet, making them some of the largest serpents in the United States. Meanwhile, the copperhead is still only 2-3 feet long at most.
Where Do Copperhead Snakes Like to Live?
Copperheads are versatile snakes. They can live in both terrestrial and semiaquatic environments, which means one can survive in rocky areas as well as marshes, swamps, and near lakes. Some have even been found living in piles of sawdust or rotting wood where they can stay warm.
People who live in copperhead territory—which ranges along the eastern seaboard from Massachusetts down to Florida—can encounter one. These snakes prefer long grasses where they can easily go unnoticed, and properties which already have pest problems are prime targets for copperheads seeking an ample food supply.
How to Get Rid of a Copperhead Snake in Your Home
No one wants to relive the myth of baby Hercules, who was jolted awake by snakes slithering into his crib.
If a copperhead is in your home, there are a few options to remove it safely and efficiently in order to avoid a modern-day repeat of this catastrophe.
- Use a broom to shove it back outside
- Get a snake trap
- Call a professional pest control company
The first option is the most dangerous one and should not be attempted without prior experience. Copperheads might bite and will most certainly become aggressive, so it's important to watch your surroundings.
Using a push-broom, you can carefully move the snake out of your front door so that it is no longer inside of your house. Do NOT attempt this if you have no previous experience handling serpents.
Many homeowners prefer the option of acquiring a snake trap. These are either tough glue boards or metal cages. The snake will be attracted to the smell or bait and will become stuck in the glue or behind bars of the metal trap. You can release the snake outside a safe distance from your home, where it won't easily find its way back.
Finally, the last option: you can contact a professional. Since copperheads are venomous snake, this is the smartest option. Experienced snake handlers can eliminate serpentine threats quickly and easily, so you don't have to risk being bitten by your slippery invader.
How to Get Rid of a Copperhead Snake in Your Yard
People are much more likely to encounter a copperhead in the yard instead of the house.
Why is that?
Well, for starters, the "creature comforts" for these snakes are long grasses and bodies of standing water, which won't be found indoors. That being said, people who have ponds, pools, or weeds are likely to have a copperhead problem. Some of the ways to get rid of a copperhead are:
One of the easiest ways to eliminate snakes is to get rid of their favorite hiding places. Lawns should be kept short so that there are fewer places for the copperhead snakes to go.
In addition, when you spread a snake repellent across your yard, you establish an unpleasant environment for the snake(s) in question. In turn, this creates a chain reaction: the original snake has vanished, and new snakes are reluctant to take up residence in grasses where the repellent has been spread.
The second two options don't differ much from their previous mentions: snake traps include glue boards and cages in which a serpent becomes stuck. You can then release the copperhead at a separate location away from your property. Likewise, a team of professionals will either kill the copperhead or capture it and take it to a different place for release.
The Main Takeaway
Copperheads are alarming, but they don't have to be.
If you see a copperhead slithering through your yard, don't panic! Make sure to educate yourself early so that you can identify this type of snake, and then employ one of the above tried-and-true methods to get rid of it.
Other Snake Guides
Curious about other snake related articles? Check out our other detailed guides to help you deal with your pest problems.