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9 Snakes That Look Like Copperheads
There are nearly 50 snake species in the US, with the Copperhead being one of the most common. You are more likely to see this snake, especially if you spend more time outdoors and the weather is warmer.
Copperheads are venomous pit vipers originally from North America. These snakes get their name, unsurprisingly, from their coppery color and bronze-hued head.
Despite Copperhead’s distinctive hourglass-shaped stripes, its color and pattern aren’t unique, and there are a handful of snakes that can resemble it.
Here are nine snakes that people mistake for copperheads and are often killed because of it.
What Copperheads Look Like
This North American pit viper is a large snake, mostly found in the southern and eastern United States. It grows between two to three feet long, with stout bodies that tend to taper towards its thin tail.
Copperhead’s main body color ranges between pink, tan (copper), and gray, which is not common. Its belly usually has the same color as the body, although it can have a lighter shade. This snake also has crossbands at the back, which never extend down to its belly side.
You also can’t fail to notice its blunt snout, which tends to extend further from the mouth. This shape makes the head look so much like a triangle.
9 Snakes That Resemble Copperheads
1. Corn Snake
Corn snakes top the list as the most common snake that’s mistaken for Copperheads. These snakes come in various hues, including the rust-colored orange and reddish-brown, most often confused with a Copperhead if you see it from a distance.
Corn snakes also have crossbands like those of Copperheads, although the crossbands are much straighter and less hourglass-shaped like a Copperhead.
The Corn snake’s color is the only thing that makes them look so much like Copperheads. They have thinner bodies with angular heads.
2. Common Water Snake
The next snake to be the most confused for a Copperhead is the Common Watersnake. However, one major distinguishing factor is that Water Snakes tend to thrive more in the water while Copperheads do not.
Watersnakes differ immensely from the copperheads, though. A copperhead’s crossbands are wide in the middle and narrow at the edges, while a Water snake’s crossbands are wide at the midsection and thin at the edges. They have no distinct necks and are darker compared to Copperheads.
Water Snakes are also much more common than Copperheads, which is unfortunate because they are unnecessarily killed due to misidentification.
3. Eastern Hognose Snake
Hognose snakes get their name from their upturned pig-like snouts. They are venomous, although it’s only enough to harm small prey animals and not humans.
These snakes live in the East of North America, in the same places as Copperheads. They share a color, banded patterning, and habitat, making it even more difficult to tell the two species apart.
When threatened, Eastern Hognose snakes puff out their necks, making their heads look more triangular. This adaptation gives them a Cobra’s falsehood and makes potential enemies leave them alone. If the disguise does not work, the Hognose may roll over and play dead!
You can distinguish the Hognose by its snout, head, and the fact that they aren’t spotted at the flanks like Copperhead snakes.
4. Eastern Milk Snake
The Eastern Milk snake is a docile and non-venomous snake that just happens to look like the venomous Copperhead. You can distinguish this snake from the latter if you look closer, though.
You may notice that even if the Milk snake has a fairly consistent saddleback pattern, just like the Copperhead, its color is more intense. The Milk snake’s pattern tends to be more brilliant red, with the blotches clearly outlined in a more intense shade of black.
5. Black Racer Snake
Only baby Black Racer snakes get confused with Copperheads. Adult Black Racers are, in fact, Black and usually patternless.
However, when born, you can confuse juvenile Black Racer reddish-brown cross band patterns with those of a Copperhead at first glance. This feature changes as the snakes grow, fading and melding into a black hue, true to the snake’s name.
But, baby Black Racers are smaller in size, with a narrow head that’s not as triangular as a Copperhead’s.
6. Mole Kingsnake
Mole Kingsnakes also start life with a clear pattern that fades as they age to a uniform brown color. However, some Kingsnakes manage to keep their patterning for the long term.
You may realize that mole Kingsnakes are much more reddish-brown than rusty brown, a color variation that distinguishes them from Copperheads.
The patterned Kingsnakes also have uniform small oval spots that only cover the back. In addition, they have small dark eyes and narrow heads, unlike Copperhead’s large yellow eyes and triangular heads.
You are more likely to see mole kingsnakes out in the open after it has rained, unlike Copperheads that like it warm. Plus, kingsnakes are arguably smaller than copperheads too.
7. Diamondback Water Snake
You can guess from its name that you can find the Diamondback Water snake near water bodies. These snakes love sitting on tree branches, overhanging any water body to hunt for fish and any other nearby prey.
Diamondback Water snakes are not venomous to humans, though. The only similar thing about the two species is their reticulated patterning.
8. Black Rat Snake
Another common snake misidentified as Copperhead is the juvenile Black Rat, also known as the Eastern Rat snake. The Eastern Rat snake usually has a distinct pattern of brown or grey blotches after birth. However, the patterns fade and meld into black when the snake ages, only managing to keep its juvenile patterning.
Eastern Rat snakes look for warmer habitats during winter, preferably a human’s attic, basement, or any other crawlspace. Copperheads do not seek shelter in a human’s establishment during winter.
9. Banded Water Snake
Here’s another harmless water snake, although it resembles the venomous Copperhead. The Banded Water snake’s color is similar to a Copperhead’s, including the red, brownish, and orange hues.
The species also share skin patterns that confuse most people that come across them.
It might feel a little strange to find that someone can confuse another snake species for a Copperhead.
Well, it might interest you to know that although snake species vary genetically, these reptiles sometimes employ evolutionary tactics for survival. For example, non-venomous snakes use mimicry, a defensive tactic that helps keep predators away.
Mimicking snakes sometimes just look like the venomous snakes most predators want to avoid. So, the next time you find a similar snake, be aware that you could be killing a harmless one, thinking it’s the harmful Copperhead.
SEE ALSO: 6 Snakes That Look Like Rattlesnakes
Featured Image Credit: Kurit afshen, Shutterstock
Oliver (Ollie) Jones – A zoologist and freelance writer living in South Australia with his partner Alex, their dog Pepper, and their cat Steve (who declined to be pictured). Ollie, originally from the USA, holds his master’s degree in wildlife biology and moved to Australia to pursue his career and passion but has found a new love for working online and writing about animals of all types.