, Port Arthur, Texas

March 30, 2013

Copperhead has nature's best camo

Chester Moore
The Port Arthur News


No creature has better natural camouflage than the copperhead.

These medium-sized serpents have a pattern than when hidden amongst pine straw, sticks and leaves renders them invisible. Copperheads are pit vipers (as are cottonmouths and rattlesnakes) that have heat seeking pits that allow them to sense their prey in dense cover and low light conditions.

These snakes have very small fangs and reportedly have less toxicity than rattlesnakes and cottonmouths. There are almost no fatalities related to copperhead bite and in fact I know someone who has been bitten twice and never went to the hospital.

That is definitely not recommended. Always seek medical attention after snakebite but it does go to show copperheads are not typically killers. Their venom is hemotoxic meaning that it destroys tissue and causes severe pain.

There are five varieties of copperheads in the United States and Texas is home to three of them.

The southern copperhead lives throughout East Texas west toward Austin where the broad-banded copperhead takes over. Additionally the Trans-Pecos copperhead is a resident of the arid country of West Texas.

According to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, southern copperheads are diurnal (active during daylight hours) during early spring and late fall, at which time they will generally depend on the ability of their bodies to blend in with their environment to obtain prey and avoid enemies.   

“They are nocturnal during the summer heat, actively hunting for prey during the cooler evening hours. Southern copperheads often eat one single meal every three weeks even during their most active months. Copperheads sometimes nest with other snake species during hibernation.”

There are several snakes that have at least some resemblance to copperheads.

In some cases, cottonmouths (especially those found on dry land) can look surprisingly close to copperheads and in fact, the babies can be virtually indistinguishable as both sport yellow on the tip of their tails.

The hognose snake has a blotched pattern and can vary in color and over the years I know of several killed for being copperheads. The broad-banded water snake also has a similar pattern.

While filming a television program for Animal Planet, I stepped on two copperheads in the same day and never got as much as a strike. Both of these snakes were about two feet long and did not seem to mind my rude treatment.

There is some debate over the temperament of this beautiful snake with some claiming them to be extremely aggressive and others saying they are passive. In experience, they have been non aggressive but that can vary by individual and even by area.

Snakes are out now so be cautious when navigating the woodlands and waterways of the region. Give them space and they'll leave you alone.

(To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at You can hear him on "Moore Outdoors" on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI or online at You can watch his WebTV series online at