What is the difference between a Copperhead and a Rattlesnake?

A North Pacific rattlesnake.

In a side-by-side comparison, the most obvious difference between a rattlesnake and a rattlesnake is the rattle at the tip of the rattlesnake’s tail. Rattlesnakes hold their tails above the ground when they move, perhaps to avoid hurting the rattles, but the tails of copperheads drag along the ground. There are other significant differences between these two vipers, found only in the New World. For example, the copperhead is a single species, of which five subspecies are recognised; there are 32 species of rattlesnake, many of which have additional subspecies.

Copperheads feed on large insects such as cicadas, while rattlesnakes do not.

In addition to the tail, there are other physical differences between a rattlesnake and a rattlesnake, making one unlikely to be confused with the other. Copper head coloration ranges from a pale tan to pinkish-brown with several darker criss-cross bands. Of the rattlesnake species found in the same geographic area as the snake, some – such as the diamond rattlesnake – have similar markings but very different coloration, tending towards shades of gray and silver. Copperheads grow to an average of 20-37 inches (50-95 cm); The diamond rattlesnake can grow up to 6 feet (1.83 m) in length, but many other species, such as the pygmy rattlesnake, generally do not exceed 18 inches (45.72 cm).

Copperheads feed on insects and larvae, such as caterpillars.

Another big difference between a rattlesnake and a rattlesnake is their response to perceived threats. Both are considered shy and will avoid contact with humans and other large mammals. When escape is not possible, rattlesnakes tend to coil and vibrate, universally interpreted as a warning. Copperheads, without rattles to alert intruders, often remain motionless. However, they are much more likely than rattlesnakes to attack without provocation, which gives them a reputation for aggression.

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The Western Diamondback rattlesnake is considered one of the most dangerous snakes in North America.

Despite their reputation for aggression, snake snakes are also more likely than rattlesnakes to take a defensive bite, sometimes called a dry bite, as a warning. All vipers are venomous, delivering their venom when they bite, injecting it through hypodermic fangs. However, there are two different types of bites. Hunting bites release large amounts of venom, designed to kill prey; defensive bites, however, release little or no venom and are intended to drive the victim away.

Although painful, neither the copperhead nor the rattlesnake has venom considered strong enough to kill an adult human.

The snake’s venom is less potent than that of the rattlesnake, although neither is considered strong enough to kill a healthy adult human, even in the event of a game bite. The venoms of both snakes are hemotoxic, attacking the victim’s blood and circulatory systems and causing serious tissue damage. The venom of some rattlesnakes also contains a neurotoxin that attacks the nervous system. Of the thousands of snake and rattlesnake bites received annually in the United States, fewer than a dozen or more are fatal. Failure to treat any snake bite, however, can cause significant scarring and tissue damage.

It is important not to restrict blood flow to a rattlesnake bite.

Rattlesnakes and copperheads are both ambush predators. The primary prey of both are small mammals such as mice and squirrels, although both also target opportune prey such as small birds, amphibians and other snakes. Copperheads, however, also feed on large insects such as cicadas and caterpillars and actively pursue them.

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The geographic area in which rattlesnakes are found is much larger than that of snakes. Copperheads are found only in northern Mexico and the US within an area generally bounded on the west by Oklahoma and on the north by Massachusetts. Rattlesnakes are found throughout North America and South America as far south as Argentina.

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