Common Copperhead Austrelaps superbus

Snakes of Victoria series

Identification

The Common (or Eastern) Copperhead, Austrelaps superbus, is variable in colour and pattern, ranging from pale brown to black, with white edging on the scales of the upper lip. It has 15 mid-body scale rows, a single anal scale and single subcaudal scales. Adults are up to 1.7 m long.

Photo of Common or Eastern Copperhead Snake (dark form)

Common or Eastern Copperhead Snake (dark form)
Photographer: Peter Robertson / Source: Wildlife Profiles Pty Ltd

Distribution and habitat

The Common or Eastern Copperhead prefers reasonably damp habitats, near streams or swampy areas. It is common and widespread at lower altitudes throughout southern Victoria.

Biology and bite

It is active day and night and feeds on small vertebrates including frogs, lizards and small mammals. Females give birth to up to 30 live young in mid to late summer.

Copperheads are extremely dangerous and are capable of inflicting fatal bites. However, they are not usually aggressive and bites are uncommon.

If bitten on a limb, apply a pressure bandage, immobilise the limb and seek medical advice immediately. If bitten elsewhere, apply continual direct pressure to the bite site. Do not wash the wound as the venom can confirm identification.

Photo of Common or Eastern Copperhead Snake (tan form)

Common or Eastern Copperhead Snake (tan form)
Photographer: Peter Robertson / Source: Wildlife Profiles Pty Ltd

Further Reading

Coventry, A. J. and Robertson, P. 1991. The Snakes of Victoria – A Guide to their Identification. Department of Conservation & Environment/Museum of Victoria.

Cogger, H. 2000. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia. Reed Books.

Wilson, S. & Swan, G. 2003. Reptiles of Australia. Princeton University Press.

Comments (28)

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Greg Jenkins 4 November, 2010 19:45
I would like to positively identify a snake I saw in a park in Mt. Waverley. I thought it was a Red-bellied Black Snake but looking at the top image it could have been a Copperhead. Does the Copperhead flatten its neck when angry, as the Black Snake does?
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Discovery Centre 10 November, 2010 13:49

Hi Greg, a lot of the larger Australian venomous snakes will flatten their heads when threatened, although our snake expert has not seen a copperhead do it. She has seen tiger snakes and eastern brown snakes displaying this behaviour however.

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Norm Barber` 5 January, 2011 19:53
I am trying to identify a snake which I think is a copperhead and it appears to be similar to the second one on the screen
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Catherine 26 January, 2011 22:57
Hi Greg, I am curious to know what sort of snake I saw on a walk in coastal bush just east of Lorne in Victoria. It seemed too dark to be a brown snake like the ones in central Victoria, but I didn't notice any pinkish belly. I only saw about half a metre of its tail end as it crossed our path heading towards a creek.It was a shiny black rather than grey-black, with faint flecks of gold along the edges but no stripes. I wondered if it might be a common copperhead? It was a cool day, only about 20 degrees and the snake was moving fairly slowly.The part of the snake I saw was about an inch in diameter. What do you think?
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Discovery Centre 31 January, 2011 12:35

Catherine - we've forwarded your question to our curator here, and she thinks the most likely candidate would be Common Copperhead. Red-bellied Black Snakes can have very indistinctly coloured or coppery bellies, however, I think that they just wouldn’t be found commonly around Lorne. Other than that we would need a photo for identification. If you are able to get a photo, feel free to forward it to us via the Contact Us link at the bottom of this page

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Denis 3 February, 2011 21:28
I live in Geelong, not far from the Barwon River, with open paddock across the road. An extremely large snake was seen entering my front garden, which is tanbark mulched and other gardens pea straw mulched. A snake catcher had no success in finding it two hours after the sighting, but suggested would probably be a Copperhead. Are these snakes territorial? Do you feel it continued on its way, or has taken up residence in our large yard?
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Brad 5 March, 2011 19:00
I just got done hiking in Mount Worth State Park, and in about 3 hours of bush walking we came across 5 different snakes on the path. I almost stepped on 2 of them, but neither of them made any aggressive moves. We came across 1 while coming up a hill, and it seemed to be perched in a defensive manner, but it eventually slithered out of the way. I am new to the area and was curious about what kind of snakes they were. They ranged from about 1m to probably around 1.5m in length. From what I could see, they were a kind of charcoal grey in color and had an orange, almost amber color starting along the sides and extending to the bottom half. At first I thought they must have been red-bellied black snakes, but the first picture on this page looks very similar as well. Any ideas?
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Discovery Centre 10 March, 2011 15:41
Hi Brad, it is very hard to say without an image, our Herpetologist has said it could have been a Copperhead, Alpine Copperhead or Red Bellied Black snake – the latter can be very variable, although in this area it is probably more likely to be a Copperhead. Do be careful as all 3 of these species of snake are considered dangerous. Be careful if you decide to get an image as well, we don't want you to get bitten trying to photograph one. 
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Ross 17 April, 2011 18:52
Just wanted to say i live in Bullengarook and my property is home to many copperheads, and i have seen the flattening of head display in a copperhead when feeling threatened, still did not strike and it retreated quickly. I've had 3 sightings in last 2 weeks, i have a dam and it is swamplike around with plenty of frogs and skinks. Perfect for the copperhead.
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Rory 13 September, 2011 17:29
hello , I live in the upper yarra valley and have had quite a few sightings of copperheads and tigers on my property.I'm not sure if they are the same snakes I see all the time but they are sighted in the same area most times? I never kill them but do try to shoo them as far away as I can. Last year we got a puppy and chickens so now I am concerned they may get bittern. So today I caught a copperhead and re-located it 10 kms away. My question is ; Are they territorial ? Will there be more copperheads on the property after I have re-located ? If I keep catching and re-locating , can I feel safe to know there will be no more snakes around my property ? And Tigers also , are they the same ? Thanx.
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Ian Wright 17 October, 2011 22:09
This weekend (Oct. 16) at Snake Valley near Ballarat we saw a juvenile snake (approx .5 metre), very light brown in colour with quite a dark head with a splash of copper. We have copperheads but this one didn't look like any we've seen previously. Could it be an Eastern Brown snake?
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Pauline 12 February, 2012 11:36
I live in Mt Waverely quite close to a large nature reserve. Late yesterday afternoon a snake slithered across my front veranda, then went under a timber side fence and curled up under a large bin in my neighbour's property. My son and I think think it was a common copperhead snake. I called the RSPCA and the Monash Council emergency phone number. Neither provide a 'snake catching' service.
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Helen Maxwell 19 February, 2012 13:59
I used to live in Lorne for many years and both myself and my mother have seen very large red bellied black snakes there albeit 40 years ago. lovers of old ricketty fence posts in dry conditions. The particular one I encounntered travelled between my slow stepping slazenger volleys as I was attempting to move a tethered horse it had obviously come from a gutter behind and was going for its nest(the post). It was a very big snake but only concerned with reaching the post before I did. My mother had a similar sighting on the Allenvale golf Course which is no longer in existance.
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Mandy 20 November, 2012 16:48
We have seen today what we think is a copperhead snake - silvery colour and orangey belly. It was right near the house. We sprayed it with the hose but is there anything else we can do to deter it. We have dogs and chooks and ourselves to protect. Live in Christmas Hills. Cheers for any advice.
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Discovery Centre 21 November, 2012 12:30
Hi Mandy, it's probably best not to engage with the snake and you should contact your local council or the Department of Sustainability and Environment to discuss what you can do.
yoni 26 December, 2012 11:00
yesterday went hiking along the Lerderder river and came across an all black snake about 1.5 mt, we stood quietly and stared at each other for few minutes until the snake had enough and disappeared into the high grass. By the photo and the description am assuming that we came across a Common (or Eastern) Copperhead. any other suggestions?
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Discovery Centre 26 December, 2012 12:20

Hi Yoni,

Without a photo, we can't say for sure. Please refer to the Victorian Snakes page of our Bioinformatics website for further information.

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damian 31 December, 2012 08:29
Hi, we found this dead snake on our block at Shoreham, Vic and think it is a Copperhead.Can you please advise?
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Discovery Centre 31 December, 2012 12:47
Hi Damian - unfortunately you can't upload images to this part of the website, so we can't see the image you have - we recommend you send the image to us here at the Discovery Centre via our Ask the Experts page, which does allow image uploads, and we will run it past our Herpetology experts to see if we can suggest an identification.
Glenn 13 March, 2013 02:28
Greg , where we live there are a lot of snakes ,especially Copperheads .There is a poultry farm next door ,and therefore lots of rats and mice . We have a 1.25 metre Copperhead female living under the steps leading off the back patio named FOFO ( Flatten Out and Fxxk Off ). Over the last four years she has become much less frightened of us , and will move up onto the garden bed next to the steps whenever my wife hangs out the washing and waits until my wife goes inside again before returning to the bottom of the steps . We respect each others territory , and she is cheaper than cat . Living with a snake near the house probably sounds strange , but , we rarely get mice in the house . Yes , Copperheads do flatten out their heads like other snakes ( 100% certain )!. There is another Copperhead living next to the steps at the front of the house ( 0.75 metre ), and probably another 5-10 on the 1.5 acre house block .If these snakes were aggressive , they wouldn't be tolerated , and a snake catcher would be contacted . Coexistence and mutual respect works for us . If someone wants photos , contact me at poppiesgdd@gmail.com .
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Scott Childs 8 April, 2013 18:41
I went camping on the weekend near Heathcote in Victoria And caught a baby snake. It is approx 15-20 cms Long. Dark brown in colour with an even darker Head. Would I be right in assuming this is a brown snake? Also what can I do with it? My young fella loves animals And does not want it killed. Is there a reptile place I Can give it too?
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amanda 13 May, 2013 08:21
My husband today spotted a snake that had red on it's belly but looks like a copper head on the top park of it, it was just a baby snake & its just may rite now. I was wanting to know what kind of snake it was? My husband usually know what kind of snake it is but not this one.
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Discovery Centre 14 May, 2013 12:54
Hi Amanda; we do offer an identification service through the Discovery Centre, but we need a clear image of the animal as a minimum requirement, unfortunately a description alone is not enough for us to suggest an ID. If you manage to get an image, you can send it to us via our Ask the Experts page
isa 28 December, 2013 20:28
Saw a Common Cooperhead that was about 1.2m long on the Merri River bike trail, shortly after the downhill by where Queen Parade shopping bike path is sign-posted. Funnily, that was about 20m after the "beware of snakes between October and March" sign.
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Jono 12 January, 2014 04:02
I live in Warrandyte and have spotted at least three snakes in our garden. Two I believe are copperheads and one red belly black. I usually see the snakes in the afternoon but almost ran one over while cutting the lawn. I have also had an encounter with a very large copperhead driving past my neighbours in the middle of the road and it didn't want to move out the way,it decided to go into the bushes after a few minutes. I was just wondering if these snakes like to live in close proximity if each other? As they have all been seen within 50m of the house.
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Discovery Centre 17 January, 2014 11:24
Hi Jono, thanks for your enquiry. Both the Copperhead and the Red-bellied black snake are commonly found at lower altitudes in Victoria, with the Red-bellied black snake being particularly widespread in Eastern Victoria. Both species of snake also prefer to live in reasonably damp habitats. If you live nearby to any streams, lakes or swampy areas that may help to explain why you have come across both species of snakes around your home.
Jenny 13 March, 2014 14:57
Found a baby copperhead today that is about 15 cms long. How old would it be and would there be a nest of them close by?
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Bev Stewart 17 April, 2014 17:57
My husband and I were walking on the beach at Cleelands Bay , cape woolamai and nearly stepped on a copperhead . It was about 5.15 pm after a pleasant Autumn day of 23 deg. Is it usual for snakes to be on the beach quite close to the waters edge?
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