How to Distinguish a Baby Copperhead From a Moccasin

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Both copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix) and water moccasins (Agkistrodon piscivorus) are venomous pit vipers. Both species are widespread in the southern and eastern parts of the United States. Their babies look very similar but, while a baby water moccasin’s bite is painful, it is unlikely to be fatal. A baby copperhead’s bite can be lethal to children and cause long lasting injury to adults. Both bites require immediate medical attention. You might need to identify the species after a bite or want know to out of interest when you see a snake.

Back away if you encounter one of these snakes outside. You can observe it through binoculars if you are interested.

Note where you saw the snake. While water moccasins do venture onto land and copperheads can swim, it is much more likely that a swimming snake is a moccasin and one a long way from a body of water is a copperhead.

Look at the snake’s mouth if it opens it. Moccasins have a white, cottony lining to their mouths.

Examine the markings. They are similar but not exactly the same. The dark bars on baby moccasins are usually full of speckles and spots, which are lacking in the bars on copperheads. Copperheads have a more pronounced, hourglass-like pattern. Both species have bright yellow tails as babies.

Tips & Warnings

  • Venomous snakes bite when they feel threatened. Do not corner, try to catch or even approach copperheads or moccasins.
  • If you, a member or your family or a pet gets bitten, seek immediate medical or veterinary assistance even if the bite is not that painful.

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