Keep an eye out: It’s copperhead season in Virginia

As the weather warms up, venomous copperhead snakes are out and about.

Identifying venomous snakes

There are 30 native species of snakes in Virginia, but only three are venomous, according to the Wildlife Center of Virginia: Northern Copperheads, Timber Rattlesnakes, and Cottonmouths.

Here are some ways to identify a venomous snake in the Commonwealth, officials said:

  • Vertical pupils,
  • A heat-sensing “pit” near their eye, which is larger than their nostril,
  • A single row of scales under their tail.

The center said non-venomous snakes have round pupils, no pit, and two rows of scales under their tails.

“Identifying some of these traits from a safe distance can be challenging; being familiar with the overall appearance of these species will help you to identify a venomous snake more reliably and safely,” the center said.

Some other characteristics that are widely known to look out for, like head shape, patterns, and tail rattling, can sometimes be misleading, according to officials.

Where to look

According to the Virginia Department of Wildlife, copperheads can typically be found in gardens and woodlots.

If it gets too hot, snakes will look for cooler places like piles of leaves or inside your house.

In fact, VDR said the presence of the snakes may indicate a rodent problem. Here’s what you can do to reduce your chances of seeing snakes on your property or inside your home, according to VDR:

  • Remove all rock and brush piles and keep grassy areas mowed short near the house – this will eliminate the attraction for mice and cover for snakes.
  • If a snake is known to have entered the structure, examine the foundation of the house thoroughly. Seal all areas where snakes or rodents may be able to get in.
  • Check your roof for overhanging vegetation. Snakes can also enter through the attic where trees or shrubs provide access.
  • If a snake is found in the house, identify the snake (A Snakes of Virginia guide is available from the Department). Once it is known to be non-venomous, carefully place a bucket or wastebasket over the snake. Then slip a board carefully under the bucket or basket and carry the snake outside and release it.
  • Have your house checked for rodent problems. If you can eliminate the food source, the snakes will go elsewhere.

What to do if you see a copperhead

Despite the danger of venomous snakes, the Wildlife Center of Virginia says copperheads are not aggressive to humans if you leave them alone.

“The species of snakes, that venomous species that we have in Virginia, all three of them rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cottonmouths. Deaths from bites from those snakes are incredibly rare. Now they can be painful, and they can cause some damage,” Alex Wehrung with the Wildlife Center of Virginia said.

The center says if you are bitten by a copperhead, you should get medical attention quickly.

Wondering what you should do if you see a snake? Watch the Wildlife Center’s YouTube video below to learn more.

You can read more about snakes in Virginia and see pictures of each species here.


About the Author

Alli Graham came aboard the digital team as an evening digital content producer in June 2022.

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