Common Name: Copperhead
Scientific Name: Agkistrodon contortrix
Size: Length in Kansas up to 40 inches
Range: Restricted to the eastern third of Kansas; generally found no farther west than the western edge of the Flint Hills.
Description: Pattern of 7-20 distinct light-edged bands with no rattle on tail and a small pit on each side of its head between and slightly below the eye and nostril. Varies in color from gray to light brown with dark gray or brown crossbands. Head may be gray, brown or reddish. Belly is white with large dark gray, brown or black blotches on its edges extending a short distance up onto the sides of the body. Young look like miniature adults, but with yellowish or greenish tails.
Habits: Prefers open rocky woodland, woodland edge and meadows adjacent to woodland. Pattern and color of this snake blends perfectly with forest leaf litter. In summer, it becomes nocturnal. Because of its shy disposition and camouflage pattern, this snake exists in reasonably large numbers near areas of human population. During spring and fall, it is often found on wooded hilltop rock outcrops with a southern exposure. One to 14 young per litter are born from August to October. Eats insects, frogs, toads, lizards, small birds and other snakes; particularly fond of rodents.
Basic Information About Snakebites
Death from snakebite is rare. There is only one documented fatality in Kansas since 1950. Snakebites still occur and knowing what to do is important for anyone who spends time in areas where venomous snakes are found.
Precautions: Always wear protective clothing when hiking the rugged areas of Kansas and never go alone. Wear gloves if possible and don’t stick your hands under rock ledges, logs or stumps. Sturdy, high boots are preferred footwear. Stay on paths or trails and watch where you walk. If you discover a venomous snake, don’t try to catch or harass it. Venomous snakes are a fascinating part of our environment. They are easy to observe and make easy subjects to photograph with an appropriate lens. Be familiar with the venomous snakes of Kansas. Learn to recognize the harmless snakes that resemble potentially dangerous ones. For example, Northern Water Snakes frequently are mistaken for Copperheads and Cottonmouths.
If you are bitten by a snake: Was the snake venomous? If you know you have been bitten by a harmless snake, it will save you much stress and eliminate the need for treatment. Many people are bitten by harmless snakes each year and experience nothing but small scratches that readily heal. If you are certain a venomous snake was involved, get to the nearest hospital or medical facility as quickly as possible. If possible, notify them ahead of time via telephone of your situation. This gives the physician time to prepare and call the nearest poison information center for advice.
The Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center in Tucson (1-800-222-1222) maintains a list of which types of antivenins (sometimes called antivenoms) are available and can advise a physician where to call in the event of a bite from a venomous snake.
If bitten by a venomous snake:
- Stay calm.
- Treat for shock.
- Drive to the nearest hospital or medical facility.
- Do not attempt to kill or capture the snake. It gives the snake another opportunity to bite.
- Do not use a tourniquet. If tied too tight, it may cause the loss of a limb.
- Do not make cuts through or near the site of the bite.
- Do not try to suck venom from the site of the bite. You might have a tooth cavity or gum sore and this would place venom into that wound.
- Do not allow anyone, including a physician, to administer antivenin to you UNLESS you have FIRST been tested to determine whether or not you are allergic to antivenin.
Regional Poison Information Centers are also important sources of information.
Kansas Poison Control:
Mid-America Poison Control Center
24-hour Emergency Hotline: 1-(800) 222-1222
Not in Kansas?