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8 Snakes That Look Like Copperheads (With Pictures)

Copperheads are a venomous pit-viper native to North America. In fact, they are one of the most common venomous snakes in many states where venomous snakes are found. Copperheads tend to have hourglass shaped figures along their back and their scales come in shades of browns, blacks, and rust colored oranges. In this article we’ll look at some snakes that look at Copperheads.

The colors and patterns of Copperheads don’t tend to be unique though and there are actually a handful or so of snakes that can resemble copperheads. To be honest, many snakes are mistaken for Copperheads simply because they’re snakes. In the below list we’ll list some snakes that look like copperheads or are commonly mistaken for copperheads, and often killed because of it.

8 snakes commonly mistaken for copperheads

  1. Common Water snake
  2. Corn Snake
  3. Eastern Milk Snake
  4. Eastern Hognose
  5. Diamondback Water Snake
  6. Banded Water Snake
  7. Black Racer
  8. Black Rat Snake

Some of these snakes to make the list may share the patterns, colors, or both with Copperheads which can lead people that are unfamiliar with snakes to misidentify them. Remember, the worst is usually assumed about a snake. In some cases the snake doesn’t even resemble a copperhead, and is still mistaken for one by people who are uninformed.

In any case though, if you believe you’ve found a venomous snake the most important thing you can do is give it distance.

1. Common Watersnake

Photo by ALAN SCHMIERER via Flickr | Public Domain
  • Scientific name: Nerodia sipedon
  • Average adult length: 2-4 ft
  • Distribution: Common Water Snakes are found near freshwater bodies throughout eastern and central North America
  • Venomous: No

Common Water Snakes can be found in many of the areas that the Copperhead is found. This is somewhat unfortunate for Common Water Snakes because oftentimes people will kill Copperheads out of fear, which can lead to the unnecessary killing of Common Water Snakes when people misidentify them.


2. Corn Snake

  • Scientific name: Pantherophis guttatus
  • Average adult length: 2-6 ft
  • Distribution: Found through the Southeastern and Central United States
  • Venomous: No

Corn Snakes come in several color variations, but one of their color variations of rust colored oranges and reds together can give them a similar appearance to the venomous Copperhead.

This coloration is probably the only thing that makes them look like a Copperhead however, as Corn Snakes have a very different shaped head and body. But for those unfamiliar with snakes, a Corn Snake may be indistinguishable to the Copperhead.


3. Eastern Milk Snake

image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum
  • Average adult length: 2-3 ft
  • Distribution: The Eastern milk snake can be found in its northern range from Maine to Canada and in it’s southern range from North Carolina to Alabama
  • Venomous: No

The Eastern Milksnake is a docile, harmless snake that just happens to resemble the venomous Copperhead. The Eastern Milksnake tends to be more of a brilliant red than the Copperhead, but does share that similar saddleback pattern, leading for some people to misidentify it.


4. Eastern Hognose

Eastern Hognose | credit: Hunter Desportes | Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Heterodon platirhinos
  • Average adult length: 28 inches
  • Distribution: From east-central Minnesota and Wisconsin all the way to southern Ontario in Canada. And from the very southern tip of New Hampshire to Southern Florida, Texas and Kansas
  • Venomous: Semi-venomous/rear-fanged
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The Eastern Hognose is technically armed with venom, perfect for subduing small prey items, but they are harmless to humans. Some individuals can share similar coloration with Copperheads and tend to have that banded patterning, much like Copperheads.

Eastern Hognoses get their name from their pig-like snout. When threatened, Hognose snakes may flatter their body, giving them a false-hood, almost like a cobra. If this defense display doesn’t work, then Hognoses may roll over and play dead!


5. Diamondback Water Snake

Diamond-backed Water Snake | pondhawk | Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Nerodia rhombifer
  • Average adult length: 2.5-4 ft
  • Distribution: Central United States to Northern Mexico
  • Venomous: No

The Diamondback Watersnake is commonly found within its range, and as you could probably imagine from the name, they are commonly found near water bodies. Diamondback Water Snakes will sit on branches overhanging streams and ponds to hunt for fish or other unlucky prey items.

The patterning of the Diamondback Watersnake can resemble the reticulated pattern of the Copperhead.


6. Banded Water Snake

  • Scientific name: Nerodia fasciata
  • Average adult length: 2-3.5 ft
  • Distribution: The Banded Water Snake is found as far north as Indiana and as far south as Louisiana, spreading eastward to Florida.
  • Venomous: No

Another watersnake on the list, the Banded Watersnake is a harmless snake that really tends to resemble the venomous Copperhead. Their coloration is very similar to most Copperheads, with hues of oranges, browns and reds. Not only that, but their patterning is similar to Copperheads causing confusion for people that come across them. But like many of the snakes on the list, these snakes are harmless and tend to be very docile.


7. Black Racers

Black Racer | credit: pondhawk | Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Coluber constrictor
  • Average adult length: 2-5 ft (Juvenile length: 9-13 in)
  • Distribution: Black Racers are widely distributed throughout the United States east of the Rocky Mountains
  • Venomous: No

This snake makes the list of snakes that can look like Copperheads, but with an exception. Black Racers are in fact Black, and most of the time patternless. However, juvenile or young Black Racers look entirely different from adults and it is the juvenile Black Racer that can resemble a Copperhead.

Juvenile Black Racers are obviously smaller than adults, but they also have reddish-brown markings down their back, which to a snake novice could look similar to markings of a Copperhead.


8. Black Rat Snake

  • Scientific name: Pantherophis obsoletus
  • Average adult length: 3 – 6 ft
  • Distribution: Eastern and Southeastern United States.
  • Venomous: No

Black rat snakes are both terrestrial and arboreal meaning they can be found slithering around on the ground and up in the trees. They are very common in the United States and are found in virtually all habitat types. Even though they do not look much like one to someone who know better, they are occasionally mistaken for venomous snakes like copperheads.


Conclusion

It’s always advisable to get familiar with your local wildlife, especially when you live in an area with venomous or other potentially dangerous animals. The number of snakes on this list that are non-venomous but look like the venomous Copperhead speaks to the importance of being able to identify wildlife.

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Mistaking a venomous snake for a non-venomous snake is not a mistake you want to make if you plan on getting close to the snake. The best thing you can do if you believe you have encountered a venomous snake is to give it plenty of space. There are also a number of other tips to follow if you encounter a venomous snake.

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About Patricia Greene

Patricia is a wildlife enthusiast that loves traveling and learning about wildlife all over North America and the world. Aside from being writer for Wildlife Informer, she's an avid bird watcher as well as the owner of several pet reptiles. She enjoys visiting national parks and seeing new sights in her free time.