Copperhead Habitat in the Northeast?

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NewYorkHerper16
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Copperhead Habitat in the Northeast?

Post by NewYorkHerper16 » December 13th, 2014, 9:45 am

Hi everybody!

I've been searching for copperheads for a while now, and am really hoping to finally see some next year. The habitat ive been searching in consists of partially open canopy forests with south-western facing exposure in hilly terrain. Most of the places i look for them in are in the Hudson Valley region of NY. In certain places, i've found sheds from horridus and racers, which from my understanding both commonly share hibernacula with copperheads.
So my question is, are there any important aspects to copperhead habitat that im missing? I'm fairly confident that the places i've been searching in have the potential to support them -there's appropriate food, water, and habitat- but i cant seem to actually find the copperheads themselves. I think a big mistake of mine was to go looking in summer, when its hot and the potential basking sites are covered in dense vegetation. I will look earlier next year, in April and May. Do they like to hang out in close proximity to a water source, or are they similar to horridus in that their dens are usually on hilltops in relatively high elevation?

Is the habitat in these photos sufficient for copperheads? The first two photos were taken in the same place. The dilapidated building was about 100 yards away from the potential densite. People almost never come this place, it seems like it has big potential!
The last photo is from a few miles away on a hilltop with rough terrain. The beautiful scenery attracts a lot of hikers, but i've still found timber sheds around rocky areas.
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Copperhead Den by Alex Roukis, on Flickr
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Abandoned Summer Camp, Prime Snake Habitat! by Alex Roukis, on Flickr
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NY Hudson Valley by Alex Roukis, on Flickr

I realize talking about this stuff might be a touchy subject here, but i really hope people understand. And i was very apprehensive in even mentioning timber rattlesnakes in this post, since people dont seem to like that very much here, but please be understanding in that i'm just asking for habitat-type preferences here!
Thanks for any help and advice, i really appreciate it! :)

-Alex

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incuhead2000
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Re: Copperhead Habitat in the Northeast?

Post by incuhead2000 » December 14th, 2014, 9:26 am

It sounds like you are on the right track, just keep looking they will turn up if they are there. When I first started herping like it was my job I had trouble finding them but now they just seem to turn up where and whenever randomly for me. The real key is to just go outside, and try partly cloudy/cloudy days and evenings to catch them out and about, usually by morning the majority of them will be hiding out under cover, but sometimes they will suprise you when the conditions seem to be nowhere near perfect to see one.

The first one I herped after years of failure was in the morning on a super hot day in August along a dried up creekbed conditions were horrible but I worked hars that year for it and it paid off!

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Mike VanValen
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Re: Copperhead Habitat in the Northeast?

Post by Mike VanValen » December 14th, 2014, 11:27 am

Habitat looks good, though that doesn't guarantee they are there. I don't know enough about the historical populations in that area to comment, but you should probably research that.

Starting in May they become harder to spot as they often bask partially in shade and in crevices.

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In my opinion it's worth looking throughout summer as they will often (in my experience) be the only snake out during hot summer days, sitting motionless in the shade.

This pair was seen in late July.

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All of these copperheads are in spots on the waters edge, from various Connecticut populations.

Good luck.

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Re: Copperhead Habitat in the Northeast?

Post by NewYorkHerper16 » December 14th, 2014, 12:15 pm

Thanks for the information, both of you! I really appreciate it.
Mike, AWESOME PHOTOS!! So it is definitely possible for them to hang out directly adjacent to a water source? I figured it would be a good place especially to find juveniles and subadults foraging for frogs. Do you think night-hiking with a spotlight would be effective at all? I've read that juveniles often climb low vegetation at night to eat newly-emerged cicadas, which we definitely have a lot of in summer. This particular area has an old utility road type of thing that is now just part of the hiking trail that would be easy to access at night. Even if copperheads arent likely to be found this way, it would be fun to try anyway because of all the other wildlife i could see in the process!

Do you guys have any opinions on barometric pressure changes and moon phase for copperheads? I've noticed a definite decrease in activity of milk snakes at night on roads when there is an obvious moonlight in the sky, but an increase in activity right after a heavy rain (maybe because they were flooded from their burrows). I have also heard that copperheads become suddenly active right before a storm front comes in. My guess is that the storm fronts cause amphibians to move/call, giving the snakes a better chance at catching prey, but maybe there are other reasons.

Ok, i'm making it my mission for 2015 to finally find a copperhead!
Thanks again for all your help! :)

-Alex

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cbernz
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Re: Copperhead Habitat in the Northeast?

Post by cbernz » December 14th, 2014, 9:51 pm

I usually find them on bare rock ridges, nestled in dead leaves between boulders. A power cut going up a mountain where there are lots of rocks would be a good place to look.

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Re: Copperhead Habitat in the Northeast?

Post by incuhead2000 » December 15th, 2014, 6:31 am

I've always noticed increased movement in late August and early Septemeber in relation to them moving back to hibernacula and most years the increased front movements caused by hurricane season also push the snakes. During this time road cruising has worked best for me. Don't lose hope even if there are lot's of hikers. These two were found at an extremely popular overlook in August on a cloudy day and one that gets hit hard by delinquent behavior but the copperheads still live here.

Image

Image

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NewYorkHerper16
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Re: Copperhead Habitat in the Northeast?

Post by NewYorkHerper16 » December 15th, 2014, 1:44 pm

That's pretty awesome that they seem to be show up in pairs like that often! Is that usually a male/female pair or two individuals sharing one basking sight? Also, are they very quick to flee when they realize you see them? They strike me as being a "twitchy" snake that rely on camouflage and ability to stay in a frozen position until they know they are noticed, and then they disappear into the brush. Or are they more like rattlesnakes and cottonmouths that tend to be more bold compared other snakes? Sorry for all the ongoing questions, also! I just like to know everything there is to know about this kind of stuff lol.

Now i'm going to go put Google Maps to some good use and look for some good power cuts and rocky areas on public land.

-Alex

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Re: Copperhead Habitat in the Northeast?

Post by davhug1 » December 27th, 2014, 3:19 pm

Three years ago when i started looking for snakes, i didnt find my first copperhead until late august and it was by accident. It swam up from the river and hid under a log along the river of all places. As i started finding them on a more consistent basis, i've noticed from my experience that most are partially basking from rocks at the base of rocky slopes and the ones i find on the slopes are usually in cracks. I occassionaly will find one in the open but for me its rare. I also found quite a bit partially hidden in the leaf liter next to large rocks with a sunny exposure.

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Re: Copperhead Habitat in the Northeast?

Post by davhug1 » December 27th, 2014, 3:20 pm

davhug1 wrote:Three years ago when i started looking for snakes, i didnt find my first copperhead until late august and it was by accident. It swam up from the river and hid under a log along the river of all places. As i started finding them on a more consistent basis, i've noticed from my experience that most are partially basking from rocks at the base of rocky slopes and the ones i find on the slopes are usually in cracks. I occassionaly will find one in the open but for me its rare. I also found quite a bit partially hidden in the leaf liter next to large rocks with a sunny exposure.
By far one of the more difficult snakes for me to find.

scott borden
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Re: Copperhead Habitat in the Northeast?

Post by scott borden » March 1st, 2015, 4:38 pm

sometimes it just takes tons of leg work. the Hudson valley is my stomping grounds for herping,,,this last year it took a lot of work to find both eastern hognose and ringnecks on one of our properties but we finally did. we also have 1 or 2 copperhead dens we know of...and find them somewhat regularly....but we have more than one spot that we swear they should be there,,,and have yet to prove it. its all about persistence.

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Re: Copperhead Habitat in the Northeast?

Post by tomharten » March 2nd, 2015, 12:17 pm

I grew up in the Hudson Valley (Rockland Co.) and we would often find them as described above, by checking out rock crevices, etc. We would also find them frequently under A/C, particularly large sheets of sheets of plastic, but also plywood, etc. especially if the cover items were located near the base of a rock slope.

I now live in southern MD and have only rarely find copperheads under cover, most often I see them when road cruising, in fact, they are by far, the most common species seen on the roads on a warm summer night.

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NewYorkHerper16
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Re: Copperhead Habitat in the Northeast?

Post by NewYorkHerper16 » March 2nd, 2015, 7:47 pm

It's great to hear from some NYers about the copperheads in the state! Thanks for the reply, both of you!! One of the places i me tioned above has a ton of AC to flip, mostly boards but also a lot of random things i the dilapidated buildings. I'm really going to herp the heck out of this place this year, so i'm really hoping this will finally be the year! A friend of mine used to go to this place and said that Carphophis were common here, which would also be a lifer for me!

Scott, if you want more ringnecks head up A bit more North! They are very very very abundant in the right habitat there. In the Hudson Valley i've found a good amount too, but nowhere near the numbers as ive seen in Ulster and Greene Counties.

Thanks again for sharing both of your experiences with the copperheads!!

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