Disclaimer: If you've been reading about our
copperhead experience on Facebook, you won't
find any new photos here. I've consolidated the
pictures and one video here, along with some
The story begins.
Last Friday, about 4:00, Jennifer was picking
up her kids at our house. We had played all
over the property with Claire and Evan, including
in the garage. After they were buckled in their
seats, Jennifer, Judy, and I were still chatting in
the driveway, when we noticed that Kitty Cat
was in attack mode in front of the garage. We
assumed the target was a lizard. But when I saw
him repeatedly attack, then leap back, I knew he
had found a prey that was fighting back. When I
approached I heard a tell-tale vibrating in the leaves.
No, it wasn't a rattlesnake. But I knew of two snakes
that mimic that sound to scare away predators (or
sometimes to lure their own prey closer). It was
either a black rat snake (my favorite) or a copperhead
(beautiful but deadly). When I saw the distinctive
pattern on its back, I immediately knew it was the
latter. I had to frighten Kitty Cat away, and was
just hoping he had not already been struck by the
lunging pit viper. I strode to my tool shed and
grabbed a shovel. The cooperative copperhead
had stayed put. I plunged the shovel into his body
about one-third the distance back from his head.
He was pinned to the ground and couldn't get away,
but he wasn't yet dead. With my family still a safe
distance away, I went for my limb loppers. My
captive couldn't escape as I clamped the loppers
just inches behind his head. He still wasn't dead.
At this point I did another power plunge with
the shovel and severed the body. I knew the
head could still bite and kept a safe distance.
The jaws were actively opening and closing and
the fangs awaited an opportunity to deliver their
toxic dose. He never got the chance. I read that
most copperhead bites occur when attempts are
made to kill or capture. Normally, I am reluctant
to kill most forms of wildlife (notable exceptions:
ants, moles, mice, roaches, mosquitoes, and flies).
I realize that all God's creatures play their part in
the complex web of nature. But to the extent possible,
I'm determined to keep our environment safe for me,
Judy, Kitty Cat, and most of all, the grandchildren.
Within ten minutes after Jennifer and the children
had departed, I had dug a shallow grave and deposited
the still-writhing reptile in it. Video is included at the
end of this blog.
|This is the severed front end of the copperhead.|
He could and would still bite at this stage, even
without use of his better half (so to speak).
|Here's the rest of his body. I estimated the length|
at 28 to 30 inches. Typical adult copperheads can
be about three feet.
|I reassembled him purely for your viewing pleasure.|
A taxidermist I'm not (biology lab convinced me I wasn't
enough of a perfectionist to pursue a surgical career).
|This closeup of the head shows the distinctive color|
which gives it its name. That copper is a different
shade than the various hues of tan and brown that
make up the impressive camouflage bands.
This video shows that my victim did not
go quietly to his grave. His Latin nomenclature
is Agkistrodon Contortrix. While an article said
that contortrix refers to his twisted pattern, my
video (which might give my more squeamish
friends nightmares) suggests the contortions of
By strange coincidence, I was wearing the snakes
of the world shirt pictured below on that day. If
brave Kitty Cat had not detected our visitor, at great
peril to himself, the copperhead would likely still be
a potential threat. There may be more, but it was the
first poisonous snake we've seen ON our property in
35 years here. So with this scary episode over, we
will proceed with caution. Our property supplies many
of the ingredients of perfect copperhead habitat:
compost pile, woodpiles, leaves, small rodents and
birds, and old rotting stumps.
I hope you enjoyed my latest snake stories.
I don't suppose I'll ever run out of them.
Snakes seem to be attracted to me.