© 2024 University of Missouri - KBIA
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Discover Nature: Eastern Copperheads Leave Winter Dens

A light tan Osage copperhead snake with dark brown bands on its back lies hidden in brown leaves on the ground.
An Osage copperhead – a subspecies of the eastern copperhead – lies hidden among dead leaves. As eastern copperheads, and Missouri’s other native snakes begin emerging from winter dens this week, keep a watchful eye to the ground.";s:3:

This week on Discover Nature, while enjoying spring in Missouri, keep a watchful eye to the ground for snakes leaving their winter dens.


The eastern copperhead is the most common of Missouri’s five species of venomous snakes. Its color varies from grayish brown to pinkish tan, with distinctive hourglass-shaped crossbands on its back. 

Copperheads live on rocky hillsides and along forest edges. They also spend time among trees and brush along prairie streams, and are often found near abandoned farm buildings. They’re typically not aggressive and seldom strike unless provoked.

Copperheads eat mice, lizards, small birds, insects, and occasionally other, small snakes. 

Copperhead venom is considered mild compared to that of other venomous snakes, but medical treatment should still be sought if bitten. 

Watch your step, wear protective footwear, and don’t stick your hands under rocks or logs. If you see a copperhead, give it space and let it be. All native snakes in Missouri are protected by law. 

Learn more about Missouri’s native snakes with the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Snake Guide, find info on venomous species at MDC’s Snake Facts page, and details about the eastern copperhead and its subspecies on the MDC online field guide.

Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation. 

Kyle Felling was born in the rugged northwest Missouri hamlet of St. Joseph (where the Pony Express began and Jesse James ended). Inspired from a young age by the spirit of the early settlers who used St. Joseph as an embarkation point in their journey westward, Kyle developed the heart of an explorer and yearned to leave for adventures of his own. Perhaps as a result of attending John Glenn elementary school, young Kyle dreamed of becoming an astronaut, but was disheartened when someone told him that astronauts had to be good at math. He also considered being a tow truck driver, and like the heroes of his favorite childhood television shows (The A-Team and The Incredible Hulk) he saw himself traveling the country, helping people in trouble and getting into wacky adventures. He still harbors that dream.
Related Content