Yesterday, at the start of a walk in the woods, I tripped on a root and fell, twisting my ankle. For the rest of the walk, I was more cautious than usual, keeping my eyes on the path. That was fortunate.
I saw the copperhead before I stepped on it.
The copperhead slithered from the path in front of me and lay motionless in the dead leaves under an oak sapling, with its head about an inch from the path. I am not all that afraid of snakes. Although I wasn't eager to test the copperhead by continuing on the path, I didn't want to turn back.
My first impulse was to photograph it, from what I thought was a safe distance of three feet away.
I have wondered lately if photography is becoming an obsession. This was confirmed when I caught myself wishing the copperhead had not chosen to conceal itself in such difficult light conditions (it gets an A+ for camouflage, though). And when I wished that I had the courage to move directly in front of the copperhead so that I could capture its entire body in the frame.
Later, safe at home, I learned the following:
- Copperheads are large snakes, tan to brown in color, with distinctive dark brown markings in an hourglass shape and a triangular copper-colored head. They are usually 24 to 40 inches long.
- Copperheads are found throughout most of the eastern United States. They prefer deciduous open woodlands and locations near water, but also can be found in suburban areas in some cities.
- The snakes freeze when they sense a threat. They rarely attack people unless provoked. Many bites occur when people inadvertently step on them.
- Copperhead bites are almost never fatal, but are extremely painful and have long-lasting effects. Herpetologists advise that the best way to avoid a copperhead bite is to leave them alone.
- They are pit vipers, which means they detect prey through infrared sensors located in pits on their head. The snakes dine on rodents (including voles!), lizards, amphibians, birds, and insects.