While there are many different types of snakes found at Gauley River National Recreation Area, only two types are poisonous; the Northern Copperhead and the Timber Rattlesnake. Although these snakes are not normally aggressive, they can bite if surprised or threatened. Copperheads and rattlesnakes are an essential part of the natural ecosystem and an important component in the natural food chain. Please remember that snakes are protected at Gauley River National Recreation Area; it is illegal to harm them.
The copperhead and the rattlesnake share three characteristics that can quickly distinguish them from other non-venomous snakes.
1. Broad, flattened, arrow shaped heads with narrow necks, while the heads of non venomous snakes are long and slender.
2. The venomous snakes have elliptical shaped eyes similar to a cat's eye, while non venomous snakes eyes are round.
3. Sensory pits located near the nostrils are also unique to venomous snakes.
• Bright copper colored head
• Reddish brown with a series of darker hourglass or saddlebag shaped markings down backs.
• Pinkish belly
• 2 to 3 feet in length
• Found in wooded, rocky, mountainous regions.
• Copperheads will usually freeze and remain motionless when in the presence of danger.
• When agitated a copperhead may vibrate its tail rapidly in an attempt to warn off danger.