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  1. #1
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    Baby Copperhead

    I went to my monthly Herpetology meeting at the beginning of this month and one of the guys there brought in a really cool baby copperhead that his father had found in his home. He called his son who is familiar with snakes and was describing it to him because he thought it was likely a non-venomous variety. His son couldn't tell much by the description at first, but when his father mentioned one key physical characteristic, the bright neon yellow-ish/green-ish colored tail, he knew right away what it was and told him not to pick it up and make sure to keep all the grandkids and pets away until he could get there. But he went and caught it and brought it to the herp meeting in a small, 2.5 gallon, plastic reptile box for everyone to see. It was only 4" - 5" long, tops, and it was the first time I saw one that small in person that still had the colored tail. I knew right away it was a hot snake just by looking at the massive head the thing had, it was almost unreal how big that tiny snake's head was, then considering how big the venom glands must be.

    But to the point: We have the herp society meetings at my Alma Mater, UAB, and it's headed up by the head Biology professor there. He told us that the baby copperhead, if it were to bite you, would inject a person with more venom than a fully matured specimen. He said a lot of people believe that to be a myth, but it is not. He said that hatchling venomous snakes do not yet understand the concept of conserving their limited supply of venom for feeding and long-term survival purposes and out of fear will blow it's whole load in that one envenomation event, so it is true that hatchling venomous snakes are even more dangerous, in terms of envenomation, than adults, and the venom of the hatchling is every bit as potent. Adult snakes will many times just strike and it will result in a "dry bite", however sometimes that's not the case and they do actually inject venom, but it's usually only a very small amount compared to what they are actually capable of.

    Just thought I'd throw that out there for those of you, who like me, had heard conflicting information about the dangers of venomous hatchlings, just FYI.






  2. #2
    Elite Member Dragoness's Avatar
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    Re: Baby Copperhead

    interesting - though being a smaller individual, how big could a baby snakes venom reserves actually be compared to those of an adult?
    My name is Jen.

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  3. #3
    Administrator Merlin's Avatar
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    Re: Baby Copperhead

    What you are saying is correct,... sort of.
    Babies do not have the control to limit their injection of venom and do tend to expend their entire stock. However an adult if frightened will do so as well. An adult though has a far larger supply of venom than a hatchling.
    Merlin,
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  4. #4
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    Re: Baby Copperhead

    Quote Originally Posted by Dragoness View Post
    interesting - though being a smaller individual, how big could a baby snakes venom reserves actually be compared to those of an adult?

    Obviously not as big as an adult, but what he was saying is that most adults typically don't inject very much venom at all, whereas the quantity injected by a hatchling would be much greater than the average adult envenomation.

  5. #5
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    Re: Baby Copperhead

    I was always brought up to believe that you should never go near a cottonmouth, copperhead, or rattlesnake hatchling, as they would be a) more likely to strike out, and b) were going to inject you with a much more lethal dose of venom than an adult ever would, for this reason:

    He said that hatchling venomous snakes do not yet understand the concept of conserving their limited supply of venom for feeding and long-term survival purposes and out of fear will blow it's whole load in that one envenomation event, so it is true that hatchling venomous snakes are even more dangerous, in terms of envenomation, than adults, and the venom of the hatchling is every bit as potent.

  6. #6
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    Re: Baby Copperhead

    Yeah, then you were taught correctly. The problem is there are a lot of myths out there about this and many people have no idea. I actually had a guy on a different forum tell me just yesterday that he picked up a baby copperhead by the tail and flung it, because since it was just a baby it couldn't hurt him. After I told him the truth about baby snakes he said something like "wow, so I guess I'm pretty lucky I didn't get bitten then, I could've died", lol. But with copperheads, their venom isn't nearly as toxic as other pit vipers, it's actually relatively weak, and some envenomations don't even require antivenin, in healthy adults. But young children and the elderly are different. A guy in my herp society had his son get bitten by an adult copperhead over the summer. His son was 10 years old and it took 14 vials of crofab to stabalize him.

  7. #7
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    Re: Baby Copperhead

    Quote Originally Posted by Merlin View Post
    What you are saying is correct,... sort of.
    Babies do not have the control to limit their injection of venom and do tend to expend their entire stock. However an adult if frightened will do so as well. An adult though has a far larger supply of venom than a hatchling.

    I agree 100% with you. I am very familiar with Copperheads as in the NC mountains they are probably other than the Black Rat Snake the most common one here. Its interesting that so far the first snake i have had in the yard or found in close proximinity each year has been a Copperhead. This speciman was in my well house in the insulation the other day when i raised the covering to check it. I used an old bocce ball handle to lift it out in the open and upon putting it on the ground the snake struck the end of the stick and left me with absolute evidence to back you up. look at the yellow venom on the end of the stick. This was his first bite and he left quite a bit of venom indicating he had full intentions of a healthy dose. This would have been enough to cause you many bad things. It is true that they will "dry bite" often but i believe it is a myth that when he does decide to envenomate it is only a little bit. Maybe, maybe not. I for one am not willing to take that chance. This fellow measured 27" by the way. Check out that distinctive coloration, and is there any doubt where they get there name.
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    Re: Baby Copperhead

    i dont have lot's of time to read all comments but my reaction for now;

    a youngster compared with an adult snake will inject more venom. (the adults are bigger they would not have to!)
    also the Youngsters have a totally diffrent diet what makes the venom a bit diffrent!

    just don't get bitten that's the best! :P

    anyway a fun story

    greats

  9. #9
    Elite Member hennisntacanibal's Avatar
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    Re: Baby Copperhead

    That is a lot of venom on that there stick. Yeesh!
    Jenn

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  10. #10
    Subscribed User Frognut's Avatar
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    Re: Baby Copperhead

    The Boy Scout Camp up the street from me is MAJOR Copperhead territory - and you are absolutely right! The babies can pack a mean punch because they will dump what they got into you when they bite.

    Merlin does also have a point, the adults will sometimes let it all out when afraid, and having more venom will do lots more damage.

    But to reinforce your point - last summer a young scout (who was ignoring all rules, which young boys do all the time) placed his hands near the opening of some rocks, a baby copperhead struck and hung on. Because he didn't strike and let go he was probably going for what he thought was food. This boy spent almost a week in the hospital being treated for the reaction to the venom.

    While not usually fatal - it can be very nasty!!!

    Definitely don't let their size fool you -- stay clear of strike zone on any size copperhead.

    Although, I must admit, they are a pretty snake!
    Frognut
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