- (Linnaeus, 1766)
Other English Common Names: copperhead
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s):
Agkistrodon contortrix (Linnaeus, 1766) (TSN 174296)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.103250
Element Code: ARADE01010
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates
Genus Size: C - Small genus (6-20 species)
Check this box to expand all report sections:
Concept Reference: Collins, J. T. 1990. Standard common and current scientific names for North American amphibians and reptiles. 3rd ed. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. Herpetological Circular No. 19. 41 pp.
Concept Reference Code: B90COL01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Agkistrodon contortrix
Taxonomic Comments: Keratin biochemistry suggests that New World members of genus Agkistrodon may not be monophyletic (if such genera as Deinagkistrodon and Calloselasma are recognized as valid) (Campbell and Whitmore 1989). See Chiasson et al. (1989) for information on scale morphology and its implications concerning relationships among Agkistrodon and closely related genera. According to Crother et al. (2008), evidence from MtDNA data suggests that this single species may be composed of multiple independently evolving lineages not concordant with traditional subspecific designations (Guiher and Burbrink, pers. comm.).
Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 28Aug2006
Global Status Last Changed: 31Oct1996
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Nation: United States
National Status: N5
U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Alabama (S5), Arkansas (SNR), Connecticut (S3), Delaware (S1), District of Columbia (S1), Florida (S2), Georgia (S5), Illinois (S4), Indiana (SNR), Iowa (S1), Kansas (S5), Kentucky (S5), Louisiana (S5), Maryland (S5), Massachusetts (S1), Mississippi (S5), Missouri (S5), Nebraska (S2), New Jersey (SNR), New York (S3), North Carolina (S5), Ohio (SNR), Oklahoma (S4), Pennsylvania (S3S4), South Carolina (SNR), Tennessee (S5), Texas (S5), Virginia (S5), West Virginia (S5)
IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern
NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors
Range Extent: 200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: The geographic range extends from southern New England to northern Florida, and west through the southern Great Lakes states and southern Iowa to southeastern Nebraska, eastern Kansas, central Oklahoma, western Texas, and the extreme portions of northern Coahuila and eastern Chihuahua (Conant and Collins 1991, Ernst and Ernst 2003, Campbell and Lamar 2004). Elevational range extends from near sea level to above 1,500 meters.
Number of Occurrences: > 300
Number of Occurrences Comments: This species is represented by a very large number of occurrences (subpopulations) (Campbell and Lamar 2004).
Population Size: 100,000 to >1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Adult population size is unknown but certainly exceeds 100,000.
Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Many to very many (41 to >125)
Overall Threat Impact: Medium
Overall Threat Impact Comments: No major threats are known. Locally, habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation probably have resulted in declines in copperhead abundance.
Short-term Trend: Relatively Stable (<=10% change)
Short-term Trend Comments: Extent of occurrence, area of occupancy, and number of subpopulations probably are relatively stable; population size may be slowly declining (less than 10 percent over 10 years or three generations).
Long-term Trend: Decline of <30% to increase of 25%
Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information
(200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles))
The geographic range extends from southern New England to northern Florida, and west through the southern Great Lakes states and southern Iowa to southeastern Nebraska, eastern Kansas, central Oklahoma, western Texas, and the extreme portions of northern Coahuila and eastern Chihuahua (Conant and Collins 1991, Ernst and Ernst 2003, Campbell and Lamar 2004). Elevational range extends from near sea level to above 1,500 meters.
U.S. States and Canadian Provinces
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations
U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
AL, AR, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, MO, MS, NC, NE, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA, WV
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted.
Range Map Compilers: NatureServe, 2005
U.S. Distribution by County
||County Name (FIPS Code)
New Haven (09009)*
New Castle (10003),
Santa Rosa (12113)
Van Buren (19177),
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed
||Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
Middle Connecticut (01080201)+,
Lower Connecticut (01080205)+*,
Lower Hudson (02030101)+,
Middle Delaware-Mongaup-Brodhead (02040104)+,
Middle Delaware-Musconetcong (02040105)+,
Upper Susquehanna-Lackawanna (02050107)+,
Lower Susquehanna-Penns (02050301)+,
Lower Susquehanna-Swatara (02050305)+,
North Branch Potomac (02070002)+,
Western Lower Delmarva (02080109)+,
Pokomoke-Western Lower Delmarva (02080111)+
Lower Ochlockonee (03120003)+,
Lower Chattahoochee (03130004)+,
Lower Monongahela (05020005)+,
Lower Des Moines (07100009)+
Big Nemaha (10240008)+*,
Lower Big Blue (10270205)+,
Lower Little Blue (10270207)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
Reproduction Comments: Most copulations occur in spring and late summer-early fall. Births occur mainly in August or September in most areas, but may occur as early as July or as late as November in some areas. In Kansas, individual females evidently give birth usually in alternate years, July-early October; males sexually mature in 2nd summer, most females in 3 years (Fitch 1960). In southern Texas, individual females may produce young in consecutive years (Vermersch and Kuntz, 1986, Snakes of south central Texas, Eakin Press, Austin). Litter size up to 21 (most often 4-8) in east and north, average of 5.3 in Kansas, usually not more than 3-4 in Trans-Pecos subspecies PICTIGASTER.
Ecology Comments: Hibernates communally (especially in north) or singly. In Kansas, population density in fall was estimated at about 13/ha, with perhaps 2-4 times this many under optimal conditions; home range size was about 10 ha for males and 3.4 ha for females (Fitch 1960).
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: May migrate up to several hundred meters (232-1183 m in Kansas) between winter den and summer range (Fitch 1960). Typically uses same den in successive years.
Palustrine Habitat(s): Riparian
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Bare rock/talus/scree, Cliff, Desert, Forest - Hardwood, Forest - Mixed, Old field, Savanna, Woodland - Hardwood, Woodland - Mixed
Special Habitat Factors: Burrowing in or using soil, Fallen log/debris
Habitat Comments: Copperheads are often in or near deciduous forest in hilly situations, usually in the vicinity of rock outcrops; they occur also on floodplains and at edges of swamps in the south and in mesic situations near water in the arid west. Hibernation generally occurs in dens among rocks, or in caves, animal burrows, under objects, in hollow logs or stumps, or in similar sites. Usually copperheads area in areas with abundant surface cover such as rocks, logs, stumps, or leaf litter. They are mainly terrestrial but sometimes climb into vegetation up to a few meters above ground. In the east at least, gravid females select rocky areas that are more open and have warmer soil temperatures than those used by nongravid individuals (Reinert, cited by Ernst 1992).
Adult Food Habits: Carnivore
Immature Food Habits: Carnivore
Food Comments: Opportunistic; diet includes small mammals, small snakes, lizards, amphibians, insects, and small birds (Fitch 1960, Ernst 1992). Gravid females usually do not eat. Apparently uses mainly a sit-and-wait foraging method.
Adult Phenology: Crepuscular, Diurnal, Hibernates/aestivates, Nocturnal
Immature Phenology: Crepuscular, Diurnal, Hibernates/aestivates, Nocturnal
Phenology Comments: Diurnal in spring and fall, mostly nocturnal in summer. Summer evening showers may stimulate activity. Active from April to late October or November in north (Fitch 1960). Active March to November or December in south; may emerge on warm days in winter. In eastern Texas, peak activity occurred April-July and September-October (Ford et al., 1991, Southwest. Nat. 36:171-177).
Length: 135 centimeters
Economic Comments: Venomous, and many humans are bitten each year (as a result of contact with immobile, unseen snakes), but the bite is almost never fatal (Ernst 1992).
Not yet assessed
Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a given location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals in or near appropriate habitat where the species is presumed to be established and breeding.
Separation Barriers: Busy highway or highway with obstructions such that snakes rarely if ever cross successfully; major river with consistently fast flow; densely urbanized area dominated by buildings and pavement.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 1 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Copperheads are relatively sedentary, though they may migrate up to at least several hundred meters (232-1183 m in Kansas) between the winter den and summer range (Fitch 1960). In Kansas, first-year young made movements as far as 1 km; typical home range size was about 10 ha for males and 3.4 ha for females (Fitch 1960). An elliptical, 10-ha home range would be substantially less than 1 km in maximum dimension. However, dispersal has not been adequately studied, and it is likely that over the long term significant numbers of individuals of this long-lived species move farther than typical summer-winter migration distance.
Separation distance for suitable habitat reflects the likely low probability that two occupied locations separated by less than several kilometers of suitable habitat would represent truly independent populations over the long term.
Separation distance for suitable habitat is approximately five times the maximum known movement for the species.
Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): 1 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: Inferred extent distance pertains to hibernacula.
Author: Hammerson, G.
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank)
Not yet assessed
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 28Aug2006
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Hammerson, G.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 28Aug2006
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.
Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of
natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).
- Ashton, R. E., Jr., and P. S. Ashton. 1981. Handbook of reptiles and amphibians of Florida. Part One: The Snakes. Windward Publishing Company, Miami, Florida. 176 pp.
- Barbour, R. W. 1971. Amphibians and reptiles of Kentucky. Univ. Press of Kentucky, Lexington. x + 334 pp.
- Behler, J. L., and F. W. King. 1979. The Audubon Society field guide to North American reptiles and amphibians. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 719 pp.
- Campbell, J. A., and D. H. Whitmore, Jr. 1989. A comparison of the skin keratin biochemistry in vipers with comments on its systematic value. Herpetologica 45:242-249.
- Campbell, J. A., and E. D. Brodie, Jr., editors. 1992. Biology of the pit vipers. Selva, Tyler, Texas.
- Campbell, J. A., and W. W. Lamar. 1989. The venomous reptiles of Latin America. Comstock Publ. Associates, Division of Cornell Univ. Press, Ithaca, New York. xii + 425 pp.
- Chiasson, R. B., D. L. Bentley, and C. H. Lowe. 1989. Scale morphology in AGKISTRODON, and closely related crotaline genera. Herpetologica 45:430-438.
- Collins, J. T. 1982. Amphibians and reptiles in Kansas. Second edition. Univ. Kansas Mus. Nat. Hist., Pub. Ed. Ser. 8. xiii + 356 pp.
- Collins, J. T. 1990. Standard common and current scientific names for North American amphibians and reptiles. 3rd ed. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. Herpetological Circular No. 19. 41 pp.
- Collins, J. T. 1993. Amphibians and reptiles in Kansas. Third edition, revised. University of Kansas Museum of Natural History, Public Education Series No. 13. xx + 397 pp.
- Conant, R. and J. T. Collins. 1991. A field guide to reptiles and amphibians: eastern and central North America. Third edition. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, Massachusetts. 450 pp.
- Conant, R., and J. T. Collins. 1998. A field guide to reptiles and amphibians: eastern and central North America. Third edition, expanded. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, Massachusetts. 616 pp.
- Crother, B. I. (editor). 2008. Scientific and standard English names of amphibians and reptiles of North America north of Mexico, with comments regarding confidence in our understanding. Sixth edition. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles Herpetological Circular 37:1-84.
- Crother, B. I. (editor). 2008. Scientific and standard English names of amphibians and reptiles of North America north of Mexico, with comments regarding confidence in our understanding. Sixth edition. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles Herpetological Circular 37:1-84. Online with updates at: http://www.ssarherps.org/pages/comm_names/Index.php
- Crother, B. I. (editor). 2012. Scientific and standard English names of amphibians and reptiles of North America north of Mexico, with comments regarding confidence in our understanding. 7th edition. SSAR Herpetological Circular 39:1-92.
- Dundee, H. A., and D. A. Rossman. 1989. The amphibians and reptiles of Louisiana. Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge.
- Ernst, C. H. 1992. Venomous reptiles of North America. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. ix + 236 pp.
- Ernst, C. H., and E. M. Ernst. 2003. Snakes of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Books, Washington, D.C.
- Ernst, C. H., and R. W. Barbour. 1989. Snakes of eastern North America. George Mason Univ. Press, Fairfax, Virginia. 282 pp.
- Fitch, H. S. 1960. Autecology of the copperhead. Univ. Kansas Pub. Mus. Nat. Hist. 13:85-288.
- Gibbons, J. W., and R. D. Semlitsch. 1991. Guide to the reptiles and amphibians of the Savannah River Site. Univ. of Georgia Press, Athens. xii + 131 pp.
- Gloyd, H. K., and R. Conant. 1990. Snakes of the AGKISTRODON complex: a monographic review. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. vi + 614 pp.
- Green, N. B., and T. K. Pauley. 1987. Amphibians and reptiles in West Virginia. University of Pittsburg Press, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. xi + 241 pp.
- Hulse, A. C., C. J. McCoy, and E. Censky. 2001. Amphibians and reptiles of Pennsylvania and the Northeast. Comstock Publishing Associates, Cornell University Press, Ithaca. 419 pp.
- Johnson, T. R. 1987. The amphibians and reptiles of Missouri. Missouri Department of Conservation, Jefferson City. 368 pp.
- Johnson, T. R. 2000. The amphibians and reptiles of Missouri. Second edition. Missouri Department of Conservation, Jefferson City. 400 pp.
- Klemens, M. W. 1993. Amphibians and reptiles of Connecticut and adjacent regions. State Geological and Natural History Survey of Connecticut, Bulletin 112. xii + 318 pp.
- Martof, B. S., W. M. Palmer, J. R. Bailey, and J. R. Harrison, III. 1980. Amphibians and reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 264 pp.
- Minton, S. A., Jr. 1972. Amphibians and reptiles of Indiana. Indiana Academy Science Monographs 3. v + 346 pp.
- Mirarchi, R.E., editor. 2004. Alabama Wildlife. Volume 1. A checklist of vertebrates and selected invertebrates: aquatic mollusks, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. The University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, Alabama. 209 pages.
- Mitchell, J. C. 1994. The reptiles of Virginia. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. xv + 352 pp.
- Mount, R. H. 1975. The reptiles and amphibians of Alabama. Auburn University Agricultural Experiment Station, Auburn, Alabama. vii + 347 pages.
- Mount, R. H. 1975. The reptiles and amphibians of Alabama. Auburn University Agricultural Experiment Station, Auburn, Alabama. vii + 347 pp.
- Palmer, W. M., and A. L. Braswell. 1995. Reptiles of North Carolina. North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
- Smith, P. W. 1961. The amphibians and reptiles of Illinois. Illinois Natural History Survey 28:1-298.
- Tennant, A. 1984. The Snakes of Texas. Texas Monthly Press, Austin, Texas. 561 pp.
- Trauth, S. E., H. W. Robison, and M. V. Plummer. 2004. The amphibians and reptiles of Arkansas. University of Arkansas Press.
- Webb, R. G. 1970. Reptiles of Oklahoma. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman. 370 pp.
- Werler, J. E., and J. R. Dixon. 2000. Texas snakes: identification, distribution, and natural history. University of Texas Press, Austin. xv + 437 pp.
Use Guidelines & Citation
Use Guidelines and Citation
The Small Print: Trademark, Copyright, Citation Guidelines, Restrictions on Use, and Information Disclaimer.
Note: All species and ecological community data presented in NatureServe Explorer at http://explorer.natureserve.org
were updated to be current with NatureServe's central databases as of October 2015.
Note: This report was printed on
Trademark Notice: "NatureServe", NatureServe Explorer, The NatureServe logo, and
all other names of NatureServe programs referenced herein are trademarks of NatureServe. Any other product or company
names mentioned herein are the trademarks of their respective owners.
Copyright © 2015 NatureServe, 4600 N. Fairfax Dr., 7th Floor, Arlington Virginia 22203, U.S.A. All Rights Reserved.
Each document delivered from this server or web site may contain other proprietary
notices and copyright information relating to that document. The following
citation should be used in any published materials which reference the
on Use: Permission to use, copy and distribute documents delivered from
this server is hereby granted under the following conditions:
Citation for data on website including State Distribution, Watershed, and Reptile Range maps:
NatureServe. 2015. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia.
Available http://explorer.natureserve.org. (Accessed:
Citation for Bird Range Maps of North America:
Ridgely, R.S., T.F. Allnutt, T. Brooks, D.K. McNicol, D.W. Mehlman, B.E. Young, and J.R. Zook. 2003. Digital Distribution Maps of the Birds of the Western Hemisphere, version 1.0. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia, USA.
Acknowledgement Statement for Bird Range Maps of North America:
"Data provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Robert Ridgely, James Zook, The Nature Conservancy - Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International - CABS, World Wildlife Fund - US, and Environment Canada - WILDSPACE."
Citation for Mammal Range Maps of North America:
Patterson, B.D., G. Ceballos, W. Sechrest, M.F. Tognelli, T. Brooks, L. Luna, P. Ortega, I. Salazar, and B.E. Young. 2003. Digital Distribution Maps of the Mammals of the Western Hemisphere, version 1.0. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia, USA.
Acknowledgement Statement for Mammal Range Maps of North America:
"Data provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Bruce Patterson, Wes Sechrest, Marcelo Tognelli, Gerardo Ceballos, The Nature Conservancy-Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International-CABS, World Wildlife Fund-US, and Environment Canada-WILDSPACE."
Citation for Amphibian Range Maps of the Western Hemisphere:
IUCN, Conservation International, and NatureServe. 2004. Global Amphibian Assessment. IUCN, Conservation International, and NatureServe, Washington, DC and Arlington, Virginia, USA.
Acknowledgement Statement for Amphibian Range Maps of the Western Hemisphere:
"Data developed as part of the Global Amphibian Assessment and provided by IUCN-World Conservation Union, Conservation International and NatureServe."
NOTE: Full metadata
for the Bird Range Maps of North America is available at:
Full metadata for the Mammal Range Maps of North America is available at:
Warranty Disclaimer: All
documents and related graphics provided by this server and any other documents
which are referenced by or linked to this server are provided "as is" without
warranty as to the currentness, completeness, or accuracy of any specific
data. NatureServe hereby disclaims all warranties and conditions with regard
to any documents provided by this server or any other documents which are
referenced by or linked to this server, including but not limited to all
implied warranties and conditions of merchantibility, fitness for a particular
purpose, and non-infringement. NatureServe makes no representations about
the suitability of the information delivered from this server or any other
documents that are referenced to or linked to this server. In no event shall
NatureServe be liable for any special, indirect, incidental, consequential
damages, or for damages of any kind arising out of or in connection with
the use or performance of information contained in any documents provided
by this server or in any other documents which are referenced by or linked
to this server, under any theory of liability used. NatureServe may update
or make changes to the documents provided by this server at any time without
notice; however, NatureServe makes no commitment to update the information
contained herein. Since the data in the central databases are continually
being updated, it is advisable to refresh data retrieved at least once a
year after its receipt. The data provided is for planning, assessment, and
informational purposes. Site specific projects or activities should be reviewed
for potential environmental impacts with appropriate regulatory agencies.
If ground-disturbing activities are proposed on a site, the appropriate
state natural heritage program(s) or conservation data center can be contacted
for a site-specific review of the project area (see Visit
- The above copyright notice
must appear in all copies;
- Any use of the documents available
from this server must be for informational purposes only and in no instance
for commercial purposes;
- Some data may be downloaded
to files and altered in format for analytical purposes, however the data
should still be referenced using the citation above;
- No graphics available from
this server can be used, copied or distributed separate from the accompanying
text. Any rights not expressly granted herein are reserved by NatureServe. Nothing contained herein shall be construed
as conferring by implication, estoppel, or otherwise any license or right
under any trademark of NatureServe. No
trademark owned by NatureServe may be used
in advertising or promotion pertaining to the distribution of documents
delivered from this server without specific advance permission from NatureServe. Except as expressly provided above,
nothing contained herein shall be construed as conferring any license or
right under any NatureServe copyright.
encourages users to let us know of any errors or significant omissions
that you find in the data through (see Contact
Us). Your comments will be very valuable in improving the overall
quality of our databases for the benefit of all users.