You’ve just spotted a snake in your yard.
Should you panic? Is it a corn snake or a copperhead?
Find out the difference between the two with the help of this article.
Corn snakes are orange-brown, non-venomous snakes with slender bodies. Copperhead snakes are venomous and strike when you touch them. They are copper-tan pit vipers with stout bodies and triangular heads. Both snakes eat rodents.
What is the difference between a corn snake and a copperhead and what should you do when you encounter one?
Coming up next in this article, we will be revealing all in the ultimate corn snake versus copperhead showdown.
Slither down this page to check it out.
Table of Contents
Corn Snake vs Copperhead
Do you want to know the difference between corn snake and copperhead?
Corn snakes are North American constrictor rat snakes. They are some of the most popular pet snakes behind ball pythons.
The copperhead is a North American pit viper. It is venomous and somewhat similar in appearance to the corn snake and some other red rat snakes.
Since the snakes are similar, what will help you to tell them apart?
In this article, we’ll be going through some of the similarities and differences between these two snakes. You’ll see them compared in the following categories:
- Body length
- Shape of body
- Life expectancy
- Sexual maturity
- Resemblance to other snakes
Let’s get comparing!
When found near human dwellings, corn snakes are frequently mistaken for copperheads and are killed. People kill them because they are afraid of the venom in the copperhead snake.
Which is more venomous, a corn snake or a copperhead?
Here’s everything you must know about venom and corn snakes.
- Corn snakes do not have functional venom. They are normally considered non-venomous as when this snake bites, the level of venom it injects is not dangerous to humans.
Here’s everything you must know about venom and copperheads.
- Copperheads are venomous
- If a copperhead bites you, you must seek medical attention even though its bites are rarely fatal
- A copperhead bite causes extreme pain and can cause an allergic reaction
- It has the weakest venom of all the pit vipers
- Like any other pit viper, the copperhead can still produce dangerous amounts of venom when it is dead
- Juvenile copperheads cannot control the amount of venom they inject. You must be more cautious of juveniles than adult snakes. Juveniles stand out from adults because of their bright tails.
The corn snake is not a venomous snake, the copperhead is venomous.
Copperhead snake vs corn snake, which is more docile?
Let’s find out how these snakes behave and what signs of attack you must look out for.
Corn snakes are docile snakes. They will only attack when they feel threatened.
A corn snake is often kept as a pet snake because it is tame. Pet owners of this snake do not usually have any problems when handling this animal.
Although they are docile, never take a corn snake’s food away from it. Do not startle the snake and make sure it sees you before you put your hand in the enclosure.
A copperhead will stay still when it sees a human approaching it. It is really hard to detect when it is lying coiled up on the ground because it often resembles a pile of leaves.
This snake will rattle its tail as a warning before it strikes. It will only strike if you make contact with it.
The docile nature and behavior corn snakes display make them popular in the pet trade.
When comparing a copperhead vs corn snake, their diets vary slightly. But both snakes swallow their prey whole.
Here’s what the adult corn snake will prey on.
- Live rodents
- Bird eggs
- Other animals
Baby corn snakes eat rodents, birds, frogs, eggs, and other small prey.
Here’s what a copperhead will prey on.
- Insects like cicadas
Juvenile copperheads like to prey on frogs and small lizards. They use their brightly colored tails to attract these prey animals.
Copperheads eat more insects than corn snakes do.
A copperhead and corn snake live in similar habitats. Where you find the snake might help you to determine which one it is.
Here’s everything you must know about a corn snake’s preferred habitat.
- Corn snakes are most common in the southeastern states of the US
- They like to live in fields, forests, farms, and even abandoned buildings
- Until it is four months old, a juvenile corn snake will live strictly on ground level. After that, it will begin to climb trees and cliffs. You might find them climbing rocky hillsides.
- They use logs and rocks as hiding spots in the winter
Copperhead snakes are a little different. Here’s where you’ll find them.
- They are endemic to the Eastern United States
- They like to live in forests, woodlands, swamps, and brooks
- They shelter in dens and under rocks in the winter
Corn snakes are most common in the southeastern United States whereas copperheads are endemic to the eastern United States.
People often get in a muddle with corn snakes and copperheads because they are similar in color. But although similar, they are some stand-out features that will help you tell one snake from the other.
A natural adult corn snake has brighter colors than a copperhead snake. Here’s everything you must know about the colors of a natural corn snake.
- It has an orange or brown body
- It has patches of red outlined in black over its body
- Its belly is covered in a black-and-white grain pattern that resembles Indian corn
Aside from the natural corn snake, there are over 800 different morphs of corn snakes. Each morph has a slightly different color and pattern.
Copperhead snakes feature duller colors than corn snakes. Here are the colors and patterns you must look out for on a copperhead.
- It has a coppery tan color over its body
- It has a copper-colored head
- It has dark brown hourglass blotches on reddish brown or grayish brown background on its body
- Young copperheads have green or yellow tips on their tails. These tips turn dark brown or black when the snake is about a year old.
Natural corn snakes are orange or brown and copperheads are coppery tan.
When comparing a copperhead and corn snake, the body measurements of the snake will help you tell the difference between the two snakes.
Most corn snakes measure between 61 to 182 cm or 2 to 6 feet.
Copperhead snakes tend to measure between 50 to 95 cm or 1.6 to 3 feet. It is rare for this snake to grow longer than 3 feet.
Male copperheads usually measure 74 to 76 cm or 2.4 to 2.5 feet. Females typically measure 60 to 66 cm or 2 to 2.2 feet.
Corn snakes are often longer than copperheads as they can grow up to 6 feet in length.
Another way to tell the difference between a corn snake and a copperhead snake is by comparing their body shapes.
Corn snakes typically have very slender bodies in comparison to copperheads. They also have slimmer heads that align with the shape of their bodies.
A healthy adult copperhead snake has a stout, heavy body and broad, distinctive triangular-shaped head. Some people liken the shape of its head to an arrow.
The top of their heads and snouts extend forward further than their mouths.
Corn snakes have slender bodies and heads while copperheads have stout bodies and triangular heads.
You will see the difference between a corn snake and a copperhead by comparing their pupil shapes.
Corn snakes have round pupils.
Copperhead snakes have yellow eyes. They have black, vertical, and elliptical pupils similar to those of cats.
The pupils of corn snakes are round whereas copperheads have vertical pupils.
One way to find out if you’re looking at a copperhead or corn snake is by looking out for pits.
Corn snakes lack heat-sensing pits.
Copperhead snakes, just like other pit vipers such as the timber rattlesnake have heat-sensing pit organs on the sides of its head. These pits sit between the snake’s eye and nostril.
Copperhead snakes have heat-sensing pit organs.
The life expectancy of corn snakes and copperheads is also different.
Corn snakes in captivity will live for about 23 years. In the wild, they will live for 10 to 15 years.
Corn snakes live longer in captivity than they do in the wild, as in captivity they receive treatment for common illnesses like mouth rot. They are more closely monitored for improper shedding and other signs of infection when kept as pets.
Copperhead snakes have a lifespan of about 18 years. There is little information about how long this snake lives in captivity as it is rarely kept as a pet.
Copperhead snakes live longer than corn snakes in the wild.
Copperheads and corn snakes reach sexual maturity at different rates.
Corn snakes reach sexual maturity when they get to a certain size or weight, rather than age. They begin seeking a mate when they grow to about 75 cm or 2.5 feet or when they weigh 250 grams.
A copperhead snake will reach sexual maturity when it gets to a certain age rather than size or weight. This happens when the snake is about 4 years of age.
Corn snakes reach sexual maturity when they are a certain size or weight, but copperheads will when they are 4 years of age.
The clutch sizes and characteristics of the eggs are also different for these two snakes.
Corn snakes lay 12 to 24 oblong, leathery, milky-white eggs. The baby corn snakes will emerge after about 10 weeks of being laid.
Copperheads tend to have between 4 and 7 eggs per clutch. They do not lay eggs like corn snakes do.
Copperheads give birth to their young enclosed securely in an amniotic sac. They do not give birth to eggs every year.
Corn snakes have bigger average clutch sizes. Corn snakes lay eggs but copperheads give birth to their young.
Resemblance to Other Venomous Snakes
People often panic and kill corn snakes because of their resemblance to other dangerous snakes. It is also very easy to confuse copperheads with other venomous snakes that are closely related to them.
Let’s have a look at some examples.
- The milk snake is orange and white. Because the milk snake slightly resembles the copperhead snake, people often feel afraid of it.
- King snakes are often confused with corn snakes because of the stripey patterns on their bodies
- Coral snakes are often mistaken for milk snakes. This is a serious mistake to make because a milk snake is harmless while a coral snake is very dangerous.
Both corn snakes and copperheads are mistaken for other snakes.
Corn Snakes and Copperhead Snakes Back to Back
Copperheads and corn snakes are often mistaken for one another.
What can help you to tell the difference between these two snakes?
Coming up next is the ultimate comparison between the two so you will never confuse them again.
|strike when touched
|orange or brown
|2 to 6 feet
|1.6 to 3 feet
|stout, triangular head
|Heat sensing pits
|Lifespan in the wild
|10 to 15 years
|at 2.5 ft or 250 g
|at 4 years
|Average clutch size
|12 to 24
|4 to 7
The Final Corn Snake vs Copperhead Comparison
It is tricky to tell the difference between a corn snake and a copperhead. That’s why this article has compared them in every category imaginable so you can tell them apart.
Are you looking at a corn snake or copperhead?
It is a corn snake if:
- It is non-venomous
- It is docile
- You find it in the southeastern US
- It has an orange or brown, slender body and head
- It measures 2 to 6 feet
- It has round pupils
- It doesn’t have heat-sensitive pits
- It lives for 10 to 15 years in the wild
- It reaches sexual maturity at 2.5 ft or 250 g
- It lays 12 to 24 eggs in a clutch
It is a copperhead snake if:
- It is venomous
- You find it in the Eastern US
- It has a coppery tan, stout body, and triangular head
- It measures 1.6 to 3 feet
- It has black, vertical pupils
- It has heat-sensitive pits
- It lives for about 18 years
- It reaches sexual maturity at 4 years of age
- It gives birth to 4 to 7 eggs in a clutch
Did you find the information in this article interesting?
At Oddly Cute Pets, we always strive to provide you with informative articles about corn snakes, copperheads, and other snakes. For a complete guide on how to look after a rat snake, or any other reptile, check out our website.
Thanks for reading!