What Are the Differences Between Baby Copperhead Snakes and Their Look-Alikes?

Young copperheads have hourglass-shaped bands, are greyish in color and have yellow tail tips. Similar young snakes, like black rat snakes and northern black racers, lack the distinct yellow tail.

Copperheads have thick, heavy bodies and triangular heads. The eyes have vertical pupils, and there is a heat-sensitive pit between the eye and nostril. Young copperheads have the same markings and heavy bodies as adults. Young black rat snakes and northern black racers are similar to copperheads but have thinner bodies, lack triangular heads and have round pupils. Also, unlike copperheads, the dark crossbands of these snakes do not have an hourglass shape.

Corn snakes are similar in color to copperheads, but the colors are much brighter. Milk snakes, another similar species, have dark crossbands that typically possess a darker outline. Northern water snakes are very similar to copperheads in coloration and pattern. However, the dark crossbands of water snakes are widest in the middle and thinner at the edges, making their pattern the inverse of a copperhead pattern.

The bright yellow tail is the most distinctive feature of young copperheads, and they retain this color for nearly the first year of life. Both the black rat snake and northern black racer lose most of their pattern as they age, becoming a more uniform black and, thus, easily distinguished from an adult copperhead.