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What Do Copperhead Snakes Eat?

Copperheads are versatile eaters and eat whichever animal is available provided it is small enough to be swallowed whole. The diet of copperhead snakes is mainly made of rodents such as mice, chipmunks, voles, and squirrels.

Copperheads also eat lizards, frogs, insects, and other snakes. Their diet versatility could be partially explained by their wide variety of habitats- forests, suburban areas, wetlands, and riparian areas.

What Do Copperhead Snakes Eat

The Diet of Copperhead Snakes

Copperheads are carnivorous snakes that feed on any small animal that is readily available. When they find suitable prey, these snakes strike within a second and inject deadly venom into the prey’s body.

For larger animals like chipmunks, the snake will bite, let go, and wait for the venom to kill the prey before swallowing it whole. However, copperheads will hold smaller prey in their mouths until they die before swallowing them.

The following are the animals that copperheads like to eat.

1. Rodents                                        

Mice are the main prey for adult copperhead snakes. Smaller copperheads can also eat pinkies.

Using their facial pits, heat-sensory structures are found between their nostrils and eyes; these snakes can detect warm-blooded mice and chipmunks, especially during the night.

Rodents are small and an easy-to-catch meal for most snake species. They fit in the snake’s mouth without a struggle, and swallowing them is easy. Copperheads hide in strategic locations, such as the entrance or exit to burrows, and wait upon unsuspecting rodents to strike them.

Related Article: Do Snakes Eat Grass?

2. Lizards

Lizards are small and abundant in the field. Copperheads find them to be an easy meal to catch and eat. Since they are small, lizards can easily fit in the snake’s mouth without so much as a strain. In fact, they are majorly preferred by young copperheads because of their ease of catching and swallowing.

Copperheads actively hunt for the lizards or use the ambush strategy to attack any lizard that passes near them. When the copperhead strikes and injects venom into the lizard’s body, it holds the prey in its mouth as the venom subdues it. The snake then proceeds to swallow the dead lizard.

3. Amphibians (frogs and toads)

Copperheads prefer to eat frogs and toads because, like lizards, they are readily available and are easy to catch, swallow and digest. Frogs and toads are abundant because they can survive in both land and water. Using the ambush method, the copperhead strikes and kills these amphibians before swallowing them whole.

While they are a little stockier than lizards, frogs are small enough for adult copperheads to hold in their mouths as the prey succumbs to the inflicted venom. Juvenile copperheads go for smaller frogs that they can comfortably strike and swallow.

Related Article: Do Snakes Eat Ducks?

4. Other Snakes

Adult copperhead snakes, being carnivorous, usually attack and eat smaller snakes of different species.

Normally, copperheads can feed on venomous and non-venomous snakes since the venom does not affect them.

In difficult situations where food is scarce in the wild, copperheads tend to turn cannibalistic and eat their own species. Normally, older copperheads will feed on younger ones, who are weaker and thus, unable to defend themselves.

Copperheads are often confused for King Snakes / Milk Snakes due to their similar markings.


5. Insects and Cicadas

Insects are abundant and are found pretty much in every habitat. Since they are small and nutritious, copperheads enjoy eating them. Insects are also very popular with younger copperheads who can’t swallow larger animals yet.

Cicadas are also a favorite for copperheads because of their welcoming taste and nutritional value. Also, they tend to be really soft because they are newly popped out of their molten nymph exoskeleton state.

During their bodies hardening and wings filling out, cicadas hang on trees, making them readily available for copperheads to prey on. However, these insects grow their wings pretty fast and fly away, meaning that the snakes can’t totally depend on them for food.

Related Article: Do Snakes Eat Spiders?

Frequently Asked Questions

Do copperheads eat chicken eggs?

Copperheads have a voracious appetite and will eat living things that fit in their mouth. Therefore, the chances are high that they will eat chicken eggs when they come across them. Therefore, it is imperative to be on the lookout if you have layers in your home if your area is infested with copperheads.

Do copperheads eat fish?

Yes, actually, they do. Copperheads can swim, and they occasionally get into the water to cool off. While in there, they will not hesitate to feed on fish if they come across some. Since they swim close to the surface of the water, they do not catch schools of fish, just the occasional one or two. All in all, copperheads do eat fish.

Do copperheads eat humans?

Copperheads do not eat humans, neither do they have the capability. Copperheads only prey on animals that are small enough for them to swallow and digest. Human beings are way too big. However, copperheads can strike and bite a human who is posing a threat to them.

While their bites are not exactly detrimental to human beings, they can sting and cause a bit of damage. Therefore, while a copperhead will not eat you, it is best to steer clear of it. 

What time of the day do copperheads hunt for food?

The time of day that copperheads hunt will depend on the prevailing climatic season. During spring and fall, copperheads are diurnal. This means that they hunt during the day and sleep at night, mostly because the nights are too cold for hunting.

However, they are nocturnal during summer, meaning that they become active during the night. This is because, during the day, it is too hot for them to be outside, so they hide away from the sun instead.

How many meals do copperheads have in a year?

Copperheads eat once approximately every three weeks. Therefore, they end up having about ten to twelve meals in a year. Still, this depends on the size of the meal. Essentially, a bigger meal will sustain the snake much longer than a small meal.

What do baby copperhead snakes eat?

The diet of young copperheads is slightly different from that of adult copperheads. Since their bodies are not mature enough to handle relatively large prey, they primarily feed on smaller prey like insects, small frogs, lizards, and other small snakes.

How do copperhead snakes eat?

Copperheads are ambush predators whereby they hide strategically and wait for suitable unsuspecting prey to pounce on. Even so, they have hunting instincts and rely on their thermoreceptive pits to sense the heat of warm-blooded animals.

As they are venomous serpents, copperheads inject venom into their prey to subdue the prey before swallowing it whole. This works on both small and large prey provided the snake can comfortably swallow and digest it.



Copperheads are carnivorous reptiles that will feed on any animal, provided it is available, easy to catch, and easy to swallow. Essentially, they primarily feed on rodents such as mice and rabbits. They also eat lizards, amphibians, insects, and other snakes. As they are venomous, copperheads use their venom to subdue their prey before swallowing it whole.

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