Venomous Snakes of Connecticut

Timber Rattlesnake

Connecticut has 2 dangerous venomous species of snakes. These are the Eastern Copperhead and the Timber Rattlesnake.

Timber rattlesnakes and Eastern Copperheads are Connecticut’s only dangerously venomous snake species. The state is also home to 3 mildly venomous species that are not dangerous snakes.

These are the Eastern Hog-nosed Snake, the common Garter Snake, and the Common Ribbon Snake. We will talk about each of these snakes in the paragraphs below.

Pit Vipers

Rattlesnakes and Copperheads belong to the venomous viperidae or pit viper family. Pit vipers have heat-sensing pits between their nostrils and eyes. These pits are actually specialized organs that detect infrared radiation from prey animals. Pit organs enable pit vipers to strike their prey precisely, even in the dark. They are also able to detect body heat from about 1 meter away.

Pit vipers have hollow fangs connected to venom glands. They use their fangs to inject venom into their prey. This venom immobilizes the prey, making it easier for the snake to consume. They primarily consume small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and small birds. These snakes play an important role in maintaining balance in rodent populations.

Eastern Copperhead

Connecticut was, historically, home to the Northern Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen). However, DNA shows that Northern Copperheads, Southern Copperheads, and Osage Copperheads are synonymous. Accordingly, these three subspecies have been merged into the Eastern Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix). See

Eastern Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix)

The Eastern Copperhead is a pit viper native to the eastern and mid-western United States.

Eastern Copperhead snakes have reddish-tan to grayish-tan bodies. Their bodies are overlaid with hourglass-shaped dark brown markings. Their triangular heads are proportionately large. The color of their head is dark coppery brown. This is the reason they have the name “Copperhead.”

Copperheads are stout heavy-bodied snakes. Adult copperheads are 20 to 37 inches (50 to 95 cm) long.

Where Do Copperheads Live in Connecticut?

Eastern copperheads live throughout Connecticut. But their population is densest in the central part of the state in the lowland trap rock ridges. This is west of the Connecticut River in New Haven, Hartford, and Middlesex counties.

These snakes are rarer east of the Connecticut River. They’re also mostly absent from both the northwest corner and northeast corner of the state. See

Look for Copperheads in deciduous forests, agricultural areas, and river bottoms. These habitats have leaf litter and plant debris that provide cover for them to hide in.

Eastern Copperhead Behavior

Copperheads have excellent camouflage coloration. It helps them blend in with leaf litter and other ground debris. Furthermore, they use camouflage as their number one defense mechanism. In other words, these snakes choose to lie perfectly still rather than flee most of the time.

When they feel threatened, they occasionally mimic the tail vibration of a rattlesnake. But, in most cases, they choose to lie perfectly still.

Most copperhead bites on humans occur when the person steps on or near the snake.

What Do Eastern Copperheads Eat?

Copperheads are carnivores. They prey on a variety of species. Their menu includes small rodents, amphibians, small birds, snakes, lizards, and large insects.

Wintertime Brumation

Snakes do not tolerate the cold weather in the winter months very well. They are ectotherms, which means they cannot regulate their body temperature internally. Physiologically, ectotherms cannot hibernate. Yet, they go into a state of suspended animation called brumation for up to 6 months out of the year.

Copperheads winter underneath rocks, in hollow logs, and in fissures on rocky hillsides. An individual might brumate alone in some parts of their range. But copperheads tend to be social. In some areas, they congregate together in dens with other snakes through the winter.

In hilly terrain, south-facing slopes capture more radiant warmth from the sun. So, that is where these dens are generally located. The other snakes they den with are not necessarily just copperheads. Sometimes, they share their dens with other types of snakes. You may find a Timber Rattler, or a Black Rat Snake, sharing the same den with copperheads. These wintertime dens may hold up to 60 snakes.

How Dangerous are Copperheads?

A Copperhead can bite and inject venom when they are newly born. Like most pit vipers, they have hemotoxic venom. 

Most copperhead bites are not life-threatening. On the other hand, any bite from this snake is a medical emergency and should be treated as such. If a copperhead bite victim gets medical help fast, they have a better chance of a positive outcome.

Copperhead bites can cause intense pain, shock, and swelling. Their bites also have the potential to cause blood in urine, tissue damage, and kidney failure.

An interesting study has found that Copperhead venom contains a protein called contortrostatin. Contortrostatin has been found to stop the growth of cancer cells in mice.

Timber Rattlesnake

Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus)

Timber rattlesnakes are native to eastern North America. Other common names for them are Timber Rattler and Canebrake Rattlesnake. Generally, in higher-elevation habitats, they are called Timber Rattlesnakes. On the coastal plain, though, they’re called Canebrake Rattlesnakes.

The average Timber Rattlesnake grows 36 to 60 inches (.91 to 1.52m) long. However, there have been reports of them growing up to 7 feet (2.13m) long. See

These snakes vary in color. Their general base coloration is a yellowish-brown to grey-brown, though. They have a dark brown to black chevron pattern on their back and sides against a lighter base color. Moreover, they have a rusty to reddish stripe down their backs. Their tails are dark brown or black. There are also melanistic timber rattlers. These are dark and sometimes almost entirely black. In the dark color morph of these snakes, the tail is also darker than the rest of the snake’s body.

Where Do Timber Rattlesnakes Live in Connecticut?

Timber rattlesnakes are rare in Connecticut. In fact, they are listed as an endangered species in the state. They live in the central and western portions of the state. The largest Timber rattlesnake population in Connecticut is in the Meshomasic State Forest. This is in parts of New London, Tolland, Middlesex, and Rockville counties. There are also Timber rattlers in northwestern Litchfield County.

The Timber rattlesnake lives in various habitats. These include rocky outcroppings, pine forests, swampy areas, farm fields, and floodplains. These snakes are marvelous climbers and have been found in trees at heights of more than 80 feet. Source

Wintertime Brumation

As we discussed in the section on copperheads, snakes brumate in the winter. Brumation is a reptile’s version of hibernation.

Timber Rattlesnakes make wintertime dens in sheltered spots. They den underneath rocks and logs, as well as in fissures in rocky hillsides. An individual Timber Rattler might brumate alone in some parts of their range. But in other areas, they congregate in dens with other snakes through the winter.

Dens are usually placed on slopes facing south because they get more warmth from the sun. They don’t always share their dens only with Timber Rattlers. Sometimes, they share their dens with other species of snakes. These might include Copperheads and Black Rat Snakes. These wintertime dens may hold up to 60 snakes.

What Do Timber Rattlesnakes Eat?

Timber rattlesnakes prey on rodents, rabbits, small birds, amphibians, and reptiles.

What Eats Connecticut’s Timber Rattlesnakes?

Two Connecticut snake species actually have rattlesnakes on their menu. These are the Northern Black Racer and the Eastern Milk Snake. Both of these snakes are ophiophages or snake eaters. They are both constrictors. This means that they seize their prey and then kill it by strangulation. Incidentally, they are both immune to snake venom.

Connecticut’s bobcats also occasionally prey on rattlesnakes and copperheads. They do this even though they are not immune to snake venom. Source

Connecticut’s bald eagles and red-tailed hawks also both occasionally prey on rattlesnakes.

How Dangerous Are Timber Rattlesnakes?

Timber rattlesnakes are among the most dangerous snakes in the United States. This is due to their long fangs and high venom yield. 1% to 10% of untreated Timber Rattlesnake bites result in a fatality.

Fortunately, 40% to 60% of the time, they produce dry bites. In other words, although their fangs penetrate the body, they do not inject any venom. Source

These snakes produce hemotoxic venom. Timber Rattlesnake bites sometimes cause serious complications. These include shock, seizures, coma, internal bleeding, and deep tissue damage. Source

Eastern Hognose Snake
Eastern Hognose Snake

Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platirhinos)

Connecticut is also home to the Eastern Hognose snake. The Eastern Hognose snake is a rear-fanged colubrid snake and is mildly venomous. However, they are not dangerous to humans.

Here is a case of a western Hognose snakebite.

The Eastern hognose snake, also known as the bastard rattlesnake or the blowing adder. They are smaller snakes with stout, short bodies. Adults average 28 inches (71 cm) in length. Their color is variable. They can be orange, brown, green, or gray. They can also be any combination of those colors. Their backs may be blotched, checkered, or solid-colored. The color of their bellies ranges from grey to cream.

These snakes derive their common name from an upturned nose scale. It gives their snout a long, hoglike appearance.

Hognose Snake Behavior

When hognose snakes are threatened, they lift their heads and flatten their necks. This gives them a cobra-like appearance. They also hiss and strike without opening their mouths. They almost never bite. Instead, they headbutt whatever they’re striking at. If the hissing and false strikes don’t do the trick, they will roll over on their backs and play dead.

Common Garter Snake
Common Garter

Common Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis)

The Common Garter snake, or Red-sided Garter snake, is found across most of North America. Interestingly, these snakes come in various colors. These include green, blue, yellow, gold, red, orange, brown, and black. What’s more, they grow up to about 4 feet (122cm) long. However, most stay smaller than that. Most of them have vertical stripes that are yellow to brown over a darker background.

Common Garter snakes feed on mice, small birds, fish, frogs, and insects.

These snakes sometimes secrete a foul-smelling fluid from postanal glands when handled.

Common Garter snakes are common throughout the state of Connecticut.

Common Ribbonsnake
Common Ribbonsnake

Common Ribbonsnake (Thamnophis sauritus)

Common Ribbonsnake adults range from 20 to 32 inches (51 to 81cm) in length. Their bodies are reddish-brown to black with three yellow stripes. One stripe goes down the spine, and the other two are on each side of the body. Their bellies are yellow or pale green. The top of their head is black, while the area below their eyes and under their chin is pure white.

Ribbonsnakes are aquatic. They mainly feed on amphibians and small fish. Aquatic insects are also on their menu.

Like all garter snakes, ribbonsnakes have slightly venomous saliva. However, they are not a danger to humans.

According to the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection, Ribbonsnakes live in Central Connecticut. They live near wetlands that are associated with trap rock ridges. Source

Symptoms of Venomous Snake Bites

Some of the symptoms you may experience when a venomous snake bites you include:

  • Discoloration in the area of the bite.
  • Swelling in the area of the bite.
  • Loss of muscle coordination.
  • Tingling sensation in the area of the bite.
  • Feeling nauseous.
  • Having a faster heartbeat or rapid pulse.

What Should You Do If A Venomous Snake Bites You?

If you or someone you are with has suffered a venomous snakebite, time is of the essence. This is because the sooner a victim receives anti-venom, the less likely the venom in their body is to cause harm. In other words, it is important to seek immediate medical attention.

Do not attempt to kill the snake for identification purposes. This gives the snake a chance to bite you again. Also, consider that severed snakeheads can still bite and envenomate. If you have a phone, the best action is to take a photo of the snake. Otherwise, get started on your way to the nearest hospital.

First Aid for Snake Bite Victims

  • Remain calm and limit your movements. Do not run. If you must hike back to a vehicle to get help, do it calmly and deliberately. Put as little stress on your heart as possible.
  • Keep the area of the snake bite below the heart level and never above the heart level. Keeping the bite below the heart level will reduce the venom’s flow. However, holding the bite above your heart level will increase the venom’s flow.
  • Remove all constricting items such as bracelets, watches, or rings before swelling occurs.
  • Remember that using a cold compress on a venomous snake bite is not advisable. The cold may cause the local blood vessels to constrict and spread the venom faster.
  • You can wash the affected area like any other wound with soap and water.
  • You may cover the bite area with a moist dressing to reduce the swelling.
  • Get medical attention as soon as possible. Call the hospital to tell them a venomous snake has bitten you. So they can have anti-venom ready to give you as soon as you arrive.
  • A person whom a venomous snake has bitten may go into shock. If this happens, lay them flat and cover them with a blanket.

Dressing for Snake Country

  • High-top leather boots and long pants are both wise ideas.
  • It’s a good idea to wear loose-fitting denim. If there’s a gap before the snake’s fangs touch your skin, your chances of being envenomated are lower.
  • In the absence of high-top leather boots, some people wear snake gaiters.

Also see:

Wild Cats in Connecticut – Krebs Creek

7 Edible Wild Berries in Connecticut – Krebs Creek

Are There Bears in Connecticut? – Krebs Creek

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