The facial pits in a copperhead snake are found between its eyes and its nostrils, and some people mistake these pits for the snake’s nostrils. Each pit has a large cavity the front with an opening into the snake’s nose. Because the copperhead has two pits on either side of its face, it can use its heat sense to judge distances with great accuracy. The pits are even more helpful when one considers that the copperhead is a cold-blooded animal looking for warm-blooded prey.
The copperhead is found in forests, near swamps, in open woodlands, in caves, logs, tree stumps, abandoned mines, construction sites, and near rivers. Because it often lives around humans, the copperhead is famous for the high number of bites it delivers. Fortunately, its venom is mild compared to the venom of snakes such as the coral snake.
One fascinating thing about copperheads is that they can produce asexually through parthenogenesis. This has been seen in females in captivity who don’t have access to males, but it also happens in the wild. Females who reproduce this way only produce males.
When copperheads reproduce sexually, the male finds a mate by tasting the pheromones she releases into the air. Males even fight over mates, and the male who is able to keep his head up for the longest time is the winner. He then has to engage in combat with the female, who will either accept him in the end or not. Females can mate with more than one male and as a result, give birth to a litter that has different fathers. The mating seasons of the Southern copperhead are from February to May and from August to October.
Females can store sperm during the winter and delay fertilization until the spring. They usually breed every year but can take a break if food is not as abundant. They are gravid for about 83 days then give birth to 4 to 8 or as many as 21 babies. Older copperheads have larger litters, and larger mothers produce larger babies.
The southern copperhead is a long-lived species, and biologists believe they can live as long as 18 years in the wild. In captivity, copperheads can live as long as 29 years.
The southern copperhead eats anything that it can tackle, from caterpillars and other insects to mice, lizards, amphibians, and other snakes.
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