In the more than 30 years I have lived in northern Virginia, I have never seen a copperhead, although there have been several reliable copperhead sightings in my neighborhood, the most recent last May. The Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, in a long article has this to say:

The copperhead is the cause of many snakebites yearly but they are
rarely fatal. Bites occur by accidentally stepping on or touching the snake, which tends to be well camouflaged with its surroundings. When touched, the copperhead quickly strikes or remains quiet and tries to flee.

The article talks about the copperhead habitat:

Copperheads prefer terrestrial to semi-aquatic habitats, which include rocky-forested hillsides and various wetlands. They have also been known to occupy abandoned and rotting wood or sawdust piles.

The copperhead hunts by its ability to detect objects that are warmer than its surroundings.

The article says nothing about whether copperheads are sensitive to noise or vibrations transmitted through the ground.

As for my question about reasonable precautions, I am specifically interested in whether simply being noisy is enough to cause them to slither away. If so, is there any difference in behavior between the young and the adults? The young are fully venomous. Obviously, wearing high boots or canvas gaiters and canvas gloves would be effective (as would full armor), but this seems like too much -- and too hot -- for pruning and picking up branches and enjoying my woods.


It is thought that noise generally will not be affective to make copperheads slither away.

Making a lot of noise frightens snakes.

Mostly false. For one thing, "snakes lack external ear openings and are deaf to airborne sounds, so they won't hear or be afraid of pure noise," Beane said. "But they can feel vibrations through the substrate extremely well, so if you are treading very heavily, snakes might feel the vibrations through the ground."

Plus, snakes are a diverse group, so it's difficult to generalize.

"Some snakes, like racers and coachwhips, will crawl away if they feel threatened," Steen said. "But others will rely on camouflage — like rattlesnakes and copperheads. So if you're making a lot of noise, they're just going to hunker down and hope that you don't see them." - Fact or Fiction? Test Your Knowledge About Snakes

When I lived in Oklahoma, we generally did not walk through long grasses because you can not see snakes and step on one by accident will get you bite. Walk in the middle of a path and use a walking stick to tap the ground. Snakes will feel the vibrations in the ground before any noise that may scare them away.

How to Avoid a Copperhead Snake: Unfortunately, because of their amazing camouflage and unusual reaction of freezing position when in danger, avoiding copperhead snakes is not always easy. Most bites occur when a person isn’t even aware of the snake. If you are in copperhead country, always be aware. Snakes will often sun themselves on roadways, footpaths and rocks. A hunting snake will be concealed in vegetation or dense ground cover. Look before you step. Some hikers have found that the addition of a walking stick can make a difference. - Copperhead Facts


Copperheads here are common in Eastern Kentucky. Bites are rarely fatal. Nothing I have seen will "repel" them, though I have found dead ones clearly killed by something with fangs, likely a bobcat. I often encounter young ones in the spring. You may encounter them in groups. Wear boots that cover the ankle and that will solve most issues, though taller boots might do better in steep ground where the snake might have some height advantage. The folks I know who have been bit had tennis shoes on or had their hand at ground level (climbing, weeding, etc).


There is already a perfect answer by Ken Graham above.

To re-iterate, Copperheads like all other snakes have no external ears, so it can not hear the sounds/noise we make. This goes true for all adults and juveniles Copperhead snakes. To address your concerns about coming across one, I'd recommend knowing where you might find them.

These are naturally gifted in camouflaging and are known to have a tendency to remain still and not go away when a threat is imposed, unlike almost all other snakes. Rattlers would happily go away sensing the vibration of one's movement, these won't. Because, camouflage is their best defense. These can grow typically up to 2 to 2 and a half feet. So, vaguely speaking they can strike up to 4-4.5 feet, but they don't, because it has a natural tendency to stay put. Ultimately, chances of getting too close or even step onto one of those is are more since they do not rattle. They flip their tail, but its not that audible. I think this is the most probable reason behind number of bites and sightings of these snakes. (Before one sees a rattlesnake, the rattler gets going).

There are 5 sub-species of these, and you might want to known which ones are in your state/area and their habits and habitats. Most of them are diurnal.

  1. Avoid going out in their habitats (e.g. Backyard, woods) without high shoes.
  2. Do not step into a pile of dry leaves.
  3. Keep safe distance, use a stick to shuffle pile of leaves before picking them up.
  4. Caudal luring: These snakes are known for this phenomena of hiding below bunch of leaves/woods and flipping the tail to attract preys. Keep you dogs and kids away from any such thing observed.

Living in the land where there are more types of reptiles than any place in the world. Take with you a staff. Head high. Walk slow. Look before you step. Use staff to poke or shake grass & such where snakes may be. But yes noise helps. Snakes are normally shy.

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