Being able to tell the difference between copperheads and corn snakes could mean life or death for some.
These two snakes look similar, but don’t let appearances fool you. One snake is docile enough to be a starter pet, while the other has a venomous bite.
Both snakes love to hang around the same rocky areas of Central and Southern America. If you’re visiting these places, then this article is for you.
Copperhead vs. Corn Snake: Appearance
There are some differences between how copperheads and corn snakes look.
1 – Skin
The first characteristic you’ll have to look at is their difference in appearance. Each snake has a unique color, pattern, and size.
Copperhead Snake Skin
If you haven’t noticed, copperheads got their name from their copper-colored heads. Their bodies have a similar light brown or grayish hue.
They have dark brown hourglass-shaped markings along their backs. The copperhead’s belly is usually pink or gray.
The southern copperhead is usually pinker than its northern counterpart.
When a copperhead curls up, it looks like a pile of dead leaves. This is how the copperhead camouflages.
Young copperheads will look the same as adults but they have yellow tail tips. The yellow hue disappears about three years after birth.
Corn Snake Skin
According to Smithsonian’s National Zoo, corn snakes got their names from markings on their belly that resemble corn.
Corn snakes or red rat snakes are orange, grayish, or brownish. They have red patches which have thin black lines outlining them.
These patches run along the back of the snake. Corn snakes have black and white checkerboard patterns on their bellies.
Young corn snakes are less colorful than adults.
2 – Length and Weight
Copperhead snakes grow up to 2 to 3 feet in length and can weigh up to 3/4 a pound. The longest copperhead snake ever recorded was 4 feet and 5 inches long.
Meanwhile, the corn snake can be anywhere from 2.5 to 4 feet long and weigh 1 to 3 pounds.
That makes copperheads significantly smaller than corn snakes.
3 – Eyes
Copperheads have yellow eyes with dark slits as pupils. The slits are usual in venomous snake species.
Corn snakes have similar yellow eyes. However, they have round pupils that are normal in non-venomous snakes.
Corn snakes often develop a cloudy covering over their eyes to retain moisture.
The covering makes it hard for them to see. Instead, they’d rely on their strong sense of smell to find prey.
4 – Ears
Both the copperhead and the corn snake don’t have ears. That means they can’t hear you if you try to shoo them away with your voice.
5 – Head
Copperhead snakes have triangular or arrow-shaped heads. A triangle-shaped head is common for venomous snakes as the shape allows the snake to have fangs and a venom gland.
These snakes have pits between their eyes that allow them to sense heat. That’s also why scientists classified copperheads as pit vipers.
Corn snakes, on the other hand, have narrow heads that appear aligned with their slim body. They don’t have heat-sensing pits.
Copperhead and Corn Snake Habitat
There are similarities between the copperhead and corn snake’s favorite hang-out spots.
Copperhead Snake Habitat
The copperhead snake is a common viper that lives in the Southern, Eastern, and Central United States.
You can locate the southern copperhead in West Tennessee, while the northern copperhead can live all over the state.
They prefer living in forests, fields, and rocky areas with abundant logs to hide in. They may also be under piles of dead leaves.
Copperheads can tolerate being in subdivisions and other urban areas as well. This means they’ll often encounter humans.
Corn Snake Habitat
Corn snakes live in New Jersey, Florida, and Louisiana. They’re abundant in the rocky terrain of Tennessee.
Often, they’d be hiding in barns and fields. This means that they are a great help in controlling the mice population in agricultural areas.
The favorite habitat of the corn snake is an area with plenty of pine trees.
Copperhead and Corn Snake Temperament
Both types of snakes are not aggressive in general. Because of this, copperheads and corn snakes may become pets.
The main difference is, copperheads are for more experienced keepers since they’re venomous.
In addition, you should be aware that any snake would attack and bite you if you provoke it. However, they do this as a last form of self-defense.
Copperhead and Corn Snake Bites
What’ll happen if you get bitten by these snakes?
Copperhead snakes are venomous snakes. Their venom is weak and rarely lethal to humans.
That being said, they’re the most common cause of snake bites because of their abundance and ability to live in urban areas.
Copperhead bites are extremely painful for both you and your wallet. A single vial of antivenom can cost you upwards of $2000.
Moreover, it can cause a severe anaphylactic reaction in some humans. Children, the elderly, and the immunocompromised should keep an eye out for copperheads.
Can a Copperhead Kill Pets?
A copperhead snake’s venom can kill a dog within one hour. If your dog gets bitten, rush it to the hospital immediately.
For cats, copperhead bites aren’t lethal, but the wound may become infected if left untreated.
Juvenile Copperheads More Dangerous Than Adult Copperheads
Young copperhead snakes have the same venom glands as adults, but they lack the experience to control them. They could inject way more venom than an adult would.
Corn Snake Bites
Corn snake bites are relatively harmless. They have little to no fangs.
When a corn snake bites you, there’s going to be moderate pain, but there won’t be a lot of blood. This makes them great starter pets.
Can Corn Snakes Kill Pets?
There’s also no way for a corn snake to kill a dog or cat. At most, it can kill a rat.
Copperhead and Corn Snake Diet and Hunting Methods
There’s a big difference between how copperheads and corn snakes hunt.
Copperhead Snake Diet and Hunting
Copperhead snakes are pit vipers that have indentations between their eyes. They use these pits to sense heat coming from their prey.
These snakes target rabbits, mice, birds, and other snakes. They then bite their prey and keep it in their mouth until the venom kicks in.
Juvenile copperhead snakes will wiggle their yellow tails to attract prey. These baby copperheads might eat insects, frogs, and lizards.
Corn Snake Diet and Hunting
Corn snakes are constrictor-type snakes, meaning they’ll squeeze their prey to death. It will then swallow its prey head-first.
Sometimes, a corn snake may even swallow animals alive.
Being nocturnal creatures means they’ll be out and about to hunt at night. Usual targets for corn snakes are rats and mice, but they’ll go for the occasional bat or frog.
Copperhead and Corn Snake Reproduction
Copperhead snakes will start looking for mates at the age of four during the springtime. Males use scent to locate females.
Once they meet other males, they’ll become aggressive and initiate a venomous wrestling match.
After mating, females will lay about seven eggs. The young copperheads are born in the summer with their little fangs, ready to catch an unsuspecting cicada.
Meanwhile, corn snakes will reach sexual maturity one year after birth. During summer, a female may lay 10 to 30 eggs in total.
It’s common for corn snakes to multiply in captivity, and breeders sell them as pets.
Copperhead and Corn Snake Lifespan
Copperhead snakes can live for a whopping 18 years in the wild and 25 years in captivity! That’s three times as long as corn snakes.
Most corn snakes can survive for 6 to 8 years in the wild. However, if you keep them in captivity, a corn snake can live for 23 years.
Copperhead and Corn Snake as Pets
Corn snakes are the most commonly bred snake in captivity. They’re great pets, and they can control rodent populations on farms.
In comparison, copperhead snakes will need a more experienced handler. Being venomous means that they shouldn’t be in the same household as dogs and children.
Copperhead vs. Corn Snake Care Tips
Here are a few tips on how you can take care of copperheads and corn snakes:
1 – Enclosure
The enclosure should be at least 30 gallons for copperhead snakes and at least 20 gallons for corn snakes. There should be a substrate, fresh water, and a source of heat.
Snakes are cold-blooded animals, so you should maintain their enclosure’s temperature at 95 degrees in the morning, and 70 degrees at night.
You should clean and wipe the tank down once a week.
Don’t put two snakes together in one tank, even if they’re the same type! Snakes constantly fight for dominance.
Larger snakes will eat all the food even if they’re not hungry. The smaller snake ends up starving, injured, or dead.
2 – Feeding
Copperhead snakes will eat once every three weeks. Corn snakes will eat once every one to two weeks.
The best food for them would be a frozen and thawed mouse. Change their water daily.
Copperhead and Corn Snake Price
A baby corn snake can cost you $30 to $100. Meanwhile, you might have to catch a wild copperhead snake yourself, if you want to own one.
Initial supplies for both snakes may reach $110 to $400, depending on how complex your enclosure is.
For healthcare, most vets can’t treat snakes, and you’ll have to visit specialized vets that charge $120 to $300 per year. Food will cost about $100 annually.
Copperhead snakes and corn snakes are amazing animals. They may look similar, but they have many interesting traits that make each one unique.
To tell the difference between copperheads vs. corn snakes, you’ll have to look at their appearance, surroundings, characteristics, and other habits. We hope our guide can help you prepare for your next encounter with one.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Film/Video/Media Studies, as well as an associates degree in Communications. I began producing videos and musical recordings nearly 15 years ago. I am a guitarist and bassist in Southwest MI and have been in a few different bands since 2009, and in 2012 I began building custom guitars and basses in my home workshop as well. When I’m home, I love spending time with my three pets (a dog, cat, and snake) and gardening in my backyard. I also like photographing wild birds, especially birds of prey.