The days are becoming longer and warmer and copperheads will soon be out in full-force for mating season. What do you know about these increasingly populous snakes?

Copperheads are the most frequently encountered snake in Alabama. Their mating season runs from late spring into summer, and that means you're more likely to see a copperhead outdoors over the next few months. Two of the five subspecies of copperheads can be found in the Yellowhammer state.

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What do these snakes look like? Here's a quick description from Outdoor Alabama:

The northern copperhead (A. c. mokeson) and the southern copperhead (A .c. contortrix) are both stout-bodied snakes. The head is noticeably wider than the neck. The top of their head is a copper color, hence the name copperhead. Dark “hourglass cross bands” are common to both species. The body may be colored from a light brown to tan or pinkish in the southern copperhead. The northern copperhead usually has a darker and more reddish brown body color. Both belong to a group of snakes commonly called “pit vipers”. They get this name because of a pit, or tiny hole, located between the eye and nostril. These pits are heat seeking sensors that help the snake locate warm-blooded prey. Copperheads have elliptical pupils. Pit vipers have a set of well developed fangs capable of injecting venom.

When copperheads are young, the tips of their tails are yellow. This yellow color allows them to lure in prey, as the tips of their tales look like worms to birds and mice. Young copperheads also like to eat frogs and small lizards.

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Copperheads are one of the species that's most likely to bite humans but their bites are rarely fatal. Outdoor Alabama explains this in further detail:

Copperheads are not known as being an aggressive snake. They seldom strike unless stepped on or handled. Copperhead venom attacks the muscle and blood systems. Of all known venomous snakes in the United States, copperheads have the least toxic venom. Bites are painful but rarely fatal.

Where will you find copperheads? In north and central Alabama, these snakes prefer wooded areas. They like rocky bluffs and ravines, and closer to the coast, copperheads seem to prefer floodplains and swampy areas near the roods. Copperheads can also be found in abandoned homes and barns, so take special precaution if you're planning an exploration expedition. These snakes have adapted remarkably well to habitat alteration, so they're also becoming increasingly populous in suburban areas.

You're likely to encounter these snakes during the day in spring and early summer, but as the days grow hotter copperheads become nocturnal. As these snakes are emerging from hibernation, they'll soon begin the mating season. Copperheads give birth typically between July and August and unlike many other species, they give birth to live young. Females can give birth to ten--and up to twenty!--snakes at a time.

What's the most important thing you need to know about copperheads? The University of Georgia's Savannah River Ecology Laboratory explains it well:

Because they are common in forested habitats and are well-camouflaged, copperheads are responsible for the majority of the snakebites in the Southeast each year. Luckily, copperhead venom is not very potent and deaths from copperhead bites are exceedingly rare. Most snake bites occur when someone tries to kill or harass a snake, so the best way to avoid a bite is to leave any snake you find alone.

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