What Do Copperheads Eat? (Diet, Care & Feeding Tips)

Did you know that copperheads are the only kind of snakes with hourglass-shaped markings?

They are often confused for other snakes because of similar coloration, yet this venomous snake can be unpredictable and docile. Regardless of this, this mesmerizing species is an all-time favorite for snake lovers throughout America.

Copperhead Snake- Habits and Biology

Copperhead Snake- Habits and Biology

Copperhead snakes have appropriately been given the name because of the copper tone of its head. This part of its body does not come adorned with the hourglass-shaped marking that the rest of its body bears.

Copperheads have thick muscular bodies that usually grow between two to three feet in length. Its head is triangular, and its tail tapers abruptly to a point.

Copperheads belong to a particular subfamily, known as pit vipers. In addition to their fangs, pit vipers have a “heat-sensitive pit organ,” which helps them seek out their warm-blooded prey.

FUN FACT: A copperhead snake’s venom-injecting fangs are replaced periodically by 5-7 replacement fangs in their gums.

You can find their pit organ between each eye and nostril of the copperhead; it most formidably gives this snake additional striking accuracy.

There are five subfamilies of the copperhead snake and about as many color variations. While its hourglass-shaped markings are usually brown or reddish-brown, its dorsal can be light brown, tan, salmon, or pinkish.

Copperheads are also not as smooth-looking as your typical snake. Instead, their keeled scales give a rougher look to the snake’s appearance. In addition, the keeled texture offers a matte look due to its decreased shininess, providing the copperhead with an evolutionary advantage for concealment purposes.

The average lifespan of these predatorial snakes can span between 18 to 25 years, depending on whether it lives in the wild or captivity. Therefore, we can say that the population of this particular snake species is stable, facing no imminent threats or environmental concerns.

These large snakes have established ranges found throughout the United States. Due to their large and widespread population, these snakes are “responsible for more venomous snakebites than any other in the United States.”

Copperhead venom is relatively mild; however, its hemolytic venom could cause adverse effects in at-risk victims because it breaks down blood cells. Although coagulopathy is usually not too big of a concern for people, that is not the case for its smaller prey.

What Do Copperheads Eat in the Wild

Copperhead snakes are not social creatures by nature. Instead, they are semi-social that typically hunt alone. In addition, these snakes are “quite tolerant of habitat alteration.”

Copperheads are semi-aquatic snakes that live in both rocky, forested hillsides and wetlands. Additionally, these snakes are also quite happy to slither around more suburban areas, so be sure to be mindful of your step, especially in harder-visibility areas.

More specifically, copperheads may find shelter under some provisionary coverage, such as rocks, logging stacks, and piles of boards or sheet metal. You may also catch one of these pit vipers lurking around abandoned buildings or construction sites.

Typically, copperheads enjoy coming out throughout the spring and fall seasons but are nightwalkers during the summer months, taking advantage of the cooler hours for hunting purposes. While they mostly stay on the ground, these snakes may even scale small bushes and trees while hunting for prey or looking for a nice place to sunbathe.

Keeping in mind that copperheads employ “ambush hunting,” also known as crypsis, to attack prey, these snakes do not travel far during their hunt.

Copperheads are carnivorous predators, typically feasting on small rodents. Its favorite meal includes small mice, yet this snake will gladly devour insects, small arthropods, small birds, lizards, and amphibians.

FUN FACT: Young copperheads will use their yellow-tipped tail to lure in caterpillars and other small invertebrates.

After attacking smaller prey, the copperhead snake typically holds its catch inside its mouth until it dies. Many times, the bite alone causes its victim to die from blood loss.

The copperhead will deliver a vicious strike for larger targets and release its victim to find its resting place. Copperheads will then track their prey and happily enjoy their meal.

Read on to find out what copperheads will eat in captivity as a pet.

What Do Copperheads Eat As Pet

Typically it is not recommended to adopt a copperhead as your first snake pet due to its venomous bite. However, while copperheads are venomous snakes, you may easily care for one at home with experience.

Since first being identified in 1766, this snake has been a popular choice amongst snake owners because of its beautiful markings. Another reason that snake lovers are attracted to the copperhead is that they are relatively easy to maintain.

Because young copperheads typically have a diet of insects and other invertebrates in the wild, you may have to coax them gently into receiving their first helping of mice, their staple meal.

If your snake rejects their meal, remember not introducing fruits or vegetables as an improper diet can lead to various medical conditions. One of them is mouth rot, a disease that could also occur due to mouth injury or an unsanitary environment. Snakes may also be susceptible to parasites and skin inflammation while in captivity.

Frozen-thawed rodent is a turn-to favorite for young copperheads. However, if it does not show interest, then you can offer it a live rodent. You may also try rubbing the scent from a dissected frog onto the thawed rodent to enhance your copperhead snakelet to take its feeding.

If the newborn snake still refuses to eat, you can try a small frog. In worst-case scenarios, you can provide assisted feeding for your young pit by inserting its food through a tube inserted into its mouth. You may have to resort to this step so that the nutritional health of your young snake is not compromised.

You should feed adult copperhead snakes a live adult-size mouse once every two weeks. It would be best if you considered sticking to captive-born mice from a trusted source to help prevent parasites.

Typically, a copperhead snake should have a healthy appetite. As its caretaker, be sure to note whether your copperhead’s eyes appear bright and alert and if it is exhibiting quiet and effortless breathing.

Conversely, you should notify your veterinarian if you observe weight loss in your snake. Other symptoms to be vigilant for include mouth breathing, shedding skin issues, and stargazing.

Always treat copperheads with the utmost respect, considering their personal space and other habits as integral to the relationship you can have with your snake.


Tips to Feed your Copperhead

Copperheads are known to be quite food-aggressive, so you should place their food near the entrance to the hide box. Please employ the use of a long set of forceps to prevent getting bitten.

A 30-50 gallon terrarium is suitable to hold one or even two copperhead snakes. Deciding to enhance the natural environment for your copperheads enclosure may also help rid the snake’s nitrogen waste. You may also want to add a hide box or natural rock to stimulate the snake’s realistic hiding and hunting instincts.

Overall, copperhead snakes can thrive in various environments, have no humidity requirements, and require relatively low-temperature conditions.

NOTE: If your pet is exhibiting shedding issues, be sure to add humidity to your snake’s enclosure to assist its process.

Though you should provide a basking plate with water, you will also want to provide your copperhead snake with a dry place to rest without exposing its scales to constant moisture.

In terms of feeding, copperheads only need to be fed once every two weeks. Newborn copperheads may show some initial resistance to feeding, but this issue will not last long as copperheads mature to adulthood rather quickly.

A copperhead snake will mostly stay active throughout the winter; however, they may skip meals during the colder weather. If your snake does not eat within a couple of hours, you should remove it from the enclosure for sanitary reasons.

Remember to provide your copperhead with a fresh dish of water for drinking and soaking. Your slithery friend should have fresh water every day, and you should clean its plate weekly.

Only perform cleaning and other maintenance practices to your snake’s terrarium after removing your slithery friend. On that note,

remember only to handle your copperhead snake when necessary.

Clampsticks are better suited for copperhead snakes due to their body type. I stress using proper caution during all handling and storing evolutions for the safety of both you and the snake.


While caring for your copperhead snake, please make sure to remain vigilant at all times as this species are known for their unpredictable behavior. These snakes are known to strike with no warning.

Overall, with their relatively low husbandry requirements, these beautiful snakes can make an excellent pet for the snake lover, provided you have the experience to handle them.

Remember to share your experiences or any questions or concerns you may have regarding copperhead snakes.

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