Discover Maryland's Herps

Field Guide to Maryland's Snakes (Order Squamata)

Sub-order Serpentes, Subfamily Crotalinae

Northern Copperhead
Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen

and

Intergrade
Agkistrodon c. contortrix X mokasen

Photo of Northern Copperhead courtesy of Linh Phu
Photo of Northern Copperhead courtesy of Linh Phu

Size

4 - 36 inches. Record - 53 inches.

Appearance

  • In Maryland, both the Northern Copperhead and an intergrade between Northern and Southern Copperheads occur, the latter in the lower Eastern and Western Shores on the Coastal Plain.

  • A heavy-bodied snake with a tan to coppery-red head and hourglass pattern crossbands on its pinkish (Southern) tan to dark brown back.

  • The crossbands are chestnut to dark brown (and narrower in the intergrade). A triangular and flattened head with facial “pits” between each eye and nostril.

  • Vertically slit iris.

  • Weakly keeled scales.

  • Young have a sulfur yellow tail.

  • Photo of camouflaged Northern Copperhead courtesy of William Harbold
    Photo of camouflaged Northern Copperhead
    courtesy of William Harbold

    Habitats

    This is a snake of forests, old fields, swamps, dry sandy ridges adjacent to swamps, and agricultural fields adjacent to forests.

    How to Find

    A relatively uncommon species on the coastal plain, but fairly common in forested rock outcrops of central and western Maryland. Their cryptic coloration makes them very hard to discern, even when you are looking right at them. Warning: this species is venomous! Do not attempt to capture. They will readily bite if provoked, and bites are extremely painful. Seek medical attention immediately if bitten.

    Photo of Habitat for Northern Copperhead courtesy of Rebecca Chalmers
    Photo of Habitat for Northern Copperhead
    courtesy of Rebecca Chalmers

    Distribution in Maryland

    The northern copperhead is found statewide while the intergrade is found on the lower Eastern Shore.

    Maryland Distribution map for Northern Copperhead

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    Maryland Amphibian
    and Reptile Atlas Project

    "A Joint Project of the Natural History Society of Maryland, Inc. and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources"

    For monthly newsletters of the Maryland Amphibian & Reptile Atlas Project click on Recent Newsletters and scroll down to the MARA Newsletters.

    The Maryland Herpetology Field Guide is a cooperative effort of the MD Natural Heritage Program and the MD Biological Stream Survey within the Department of Natural Resources and their partners. We wish to thank all who contributed field records, text, and photographs, as well as support throughout its development.