Osage Copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix phaeogaster) are a magnificently colored snake with shiny coppery colored body and darker colored hourglass shaped bands on the entire length of their body. They get their common name from the adult coloration of the head which looks very much like a shiny new penny. As juvenile snakes they are more gray in color with a yellow tip on their tail. This yellow tip is believed to be a lure designed to attract potential prey like small amphibians which are attracted by the waving of the yellow tail. When they come to investigate, instead of finding food, they find themselves served up for dinner. Adults may reach lengths up to four feet, with 3 feet being more common. They are a thick bodied snake with a triangular shaped head.
Copperheads are pit vipers, meaning they have pits located on either side of their head between the eyes and the nostrils. This pit is a heat seeking sense, that allows the snake to pick up the heat given off by prey species like mice, rats and other warm blooded creatures. These snakes are efficient hunters, and having this extra sense only aids them further in being the expert predators they are. Juvenile copperheads eat mainly insects, tiny frogs and other small amphibians. Adults eat mice, insects, frogs, lizards and small birds.
Mating between copperheads can take place in the fall or spring. If mated in the fall the female will delay fertilization until the following spring. Once mated, the female will deliver her young in August or September. Unlike the majority of Missouri snakes, copperheads bear live young. They may have as few as one baby, to as many as 15. These newly born snakes are not protected or cared for by the mother in any way. They are armed with all the instincts they will need to be able to survive. They aren't without enemies however, hawks, owls, and other snakes will feed on these snakes, so they are vulnerable at this age. This is where their coloring helps in allowing them to blend in with their surroundings, making it more difficult for potential predators to see them.
If you want to see a short video of a copperhead in the wild click this link from MDC.
I feel so incredibly lucky to have been privileged to see not one, but two copperheads in less than a week, especially after lamenting that I will NEVER see one. Goes to show that a person should NEVER say never!