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Osage Copperhead

Osage Copperhead

Agkistrodon contortrix phaeogaster
Family: 
Viperidae (venomous snakes) in the order Squamata (lizards and snakes)
Description: 

Color varies from grayish-brown to pinkish-tan, with hourglass-shaped crossbands of dark gray, brown or reddish-brown. The head may have some pink or orange color, hence the name “copperhead.” The tail may be yellow or greenish-yellow, especially in young specimens, and the belly usually is a dusky mixture of gray, tan and black. Copperheads are pit vipers, with an opening on each side of the head and (in daylight) eyes with catlike, vertical pupils (our nonvenomous snakes have round pupils).

Size: 
Length: 2–3 feet.
Habitat and conservation: 
Copperheads live on rocky hillsides and along forest edges. They also spend time among trees and brush along prairie streams and are often found near abandoned farm buildings. They often rely on their camouflage pattern when resting in dead leaves and will usually remain motionless when encountered. They’re not aggressive, and they seldom strike unless provoked. Look where you step, wear protective footwear and don’t stick your hands under rocks or logs. If you see a copperhead, let it be.
Foods: 
Copperheads eat mice, lizards, frogs, small birds, insects (especially cicadas) and sometimes small snakes. Young copperheads use their yellow tail as a lure to attract small frogs or lizards.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Osage copperhead: northern two-thirds of the state. Replaced by southern copperhead subspecies (Agkistrodon contortrix contortrix) in the southern third.
Status: 
Common in suitable habitats. All snakes native to our state are protected by law. It is against the law to kill them, unless when a venomous snake is in such close association with people that it might result in someone being bitten.
Life cycle: 
Copperheads are normally active from April through November. Courtship and mating occur in the spring. Young are born in August through early October. Females produce young every other year. There are 1–14 young in a litter. The optimal temperature for copperheads is 80°F. They bask on warm sunny days, especially in the morning. In the hottest months, they become nocturnal. In autumn, they gather together to overwinter at south-facing rocky ledges.
Human connections: 
Copperheads help control populations of mice, which often have negative economic impacts on agriculture. The fear and curiosity that pit vipers inspire in humans often provoke us to learn more about reptiles, ecology and other aspects of natural history.
Ecosystem connections: 
Copperheads hunt for a variety of small animals, but mice make up most of their prey, so copperheads play an important role in limiting their populations. Other species, in turn, consume copperheads. Kingsnakes, for example, are immune to their venom and will eat them if they get the chance.
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http://mdc.mo.gov/node/3208