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eastern copperhead

eastern copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix) Photo © Kory G. Roberts

Features and Behaviors

The eastern copperhead averages 24 to 36 inches in length. It has a heat-sensitive pit on each side of the head between the eye and the nostril. The head is flattened and much wider than the neck. The pupil of its eye is vertically elliptical. Scales are weakly keeled (ridged). This snake’s coloration is as follows: copper-red head; red-brown or yellow-brown body; hour-glass markings across the back when viewed from above.

The eastern copperhead may be found in the southern one-third of Illinois. This reptile lives in rocky, wooded hillsides, abandoned sawdust piles and swamps. The eastern copperhead is active during the day in spring and fall, becoming nocturnal in the hottest summer months. When disturbed it will attempt to run away. If trapped, it rapidly vibrates the tip of the tail, making a noise against whatever the tail hits. This snake may be found in groups, particularly in fall when moving to hibernating dens. Mating occurs in the spring or fall. The female gives birth to a brood of between three and 10 young in August or September. Each female may produce young only every other year. This venomous snake injects prey with venom then waits for it to succumb before eating it. The eastern copperhead eats mice, small birds, lizards, snakes, amphibians and insects.

Illinois Range


​Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Family: Crotalidae

Illinois Status: common, native