CacheCrazy.Com: They're Out And About!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

They're Out And About!


Grab a cup of coffee, or tea, sit back and listen carefully.

With the onset of warmer weather there are some critters that are beginning to come out and about. Of these critters there are a few that are in need of some respect. The first of these critters is the Northern Copperhead.

The Northern Copperhead is one of three poisonous rattlesnakes of PA. It is also PA's most abundant rattlesnake.  They range in size from 24 inches to 36 inches. Here is some interesting reading on them.

Factors That Limit the Northern Copperhead in Northern Pennsylvania
By: Philip Dunning

The Northern Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen) is a medium sized stout bodied snake in the family Viperidae, subfamily Crotalinae, which is the same subfamily as the timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus). The dorsal surface has 12-21 reddish brown hourglass bands which narrow at the midline of the back and widen towards the ventral scales. The background color is paler than the crossbands and ranges from brown to pink.

Neonate northern copperheads have a yellow to yellowish green tail used for caudal luring; this coloration darkens with growth (Gloyd and Conant 1990). Preferred habitat for the northern copperhead is open rocky slopes on the south side of steep inclines (Reinert 1984). They can also be found on wooded hillsides with some open rock and summering in valleys and rocky meadows or powerlines. The annual activity cycle extends from late April through October.

The copperhead has a large range within Pennsylvania. They can be found in scattered populations throughout much of the lower two-thirds of the state. They are not found in the northern tier counties.

range map

A total of 34 copperheads were observed at field sites during this study. Most copperheads were seen in June or July, with a noticeable decline in August and September. Snakes were seen most frequently under partly cloudy conditions. A total of
16 snakes were caught and processed. Females (N=9) were captured more frequently than males (N=7). Males were larger than females in length, weight, and tail length. All copperheads were found on south/southeast facing slopes. Elevations that copperheads were found ranged from 600-1200 feet, with most being seen from 900-1000 feet. The “ideal” condition, which is the averages of all data gathered, that copperheads were observed would be June 21st, at about 2:08 PM. The average temperature would be 26.2 degrees Celsius, and the weather would be partly cloudy. This “ideal” situation was used to rank each outing and rank each site based on standard deviations away from this
average.  Once sites were weighted based on this model, the carbon county sites were ranked highest, with the northern sites of wyoming and pike counties being ranked the lowest.

Brattstrom, B.H. 1965. Body Temperature of Reptiles. The American Midland Naturalist, 73 (2): 376-422.
Gloyd, H.K., and R. Conant. 1990. Snakes of the Agkistrodon Complex. The Society for the Study of Amphibian and Reptiles, Oxford, Ohio.
Reinert, H.K. 1984a. Habitat separation between sympatric snake populations. Ecology 65: 478-486.

If your out caching, or hiking, please beware that this snake could be out there too. Show them some respect and never try to handle them or disturb them in any way. You can read about my other adventures in Red Next To Yellow.  Be Safe everyone.


Heather Cook (Lady-Magpie) said...

Snakes, not my favourite creature and seeing photographs of them make me shiver. I'm so pleased that in the UK we only have a couple, the grass snake (harmless)and the adder (mild poisonous). You would have to have some underlying illness to be really effected by the poison, perhaps unwell for a time. Please keep your lovely creatures over there, across the pond. Interesting post thanks.

Dave DeBaeremaeker said...

Snakes... why does it have to be snakes...

Don't like em. The existence of poisonous snakes in my play areas is one of the few things I do not like about living in the US. That and Kim Kardassian. Please remove both. Thanks!


The copperhead always intrigued me. I have personally never seen one but I hear they are quite a sight. They are pretty aggressive as compared to their co-mates here in the Northeast. I'm happy to read about them just fine. I'll pass on a personal introduction, lol!

Unknown said...

"The Northern Copperhead is one of three poisonous rattlesnakes of PA."
But... it's not a rattlesnake. It has no rattles. It's a distant cousin. Both are pit vipers. Both are venomous, and inject their venom (not poison) with their fangs. But copperheads are much more closer relatives to cottonmouths (AKA water moccasins) than to rattlesnakes.
I don't mean to be a jerk or a know-it-all :) I was just looking for a nice photo of a northern copperhead and I was really surprised to see them called rattlesnakes!

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