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Home » Blog » Do Copperhead Snakes Swim? Unveiling their Aquatic Adventures

Do Copperhead Snakes Swim? Unveiling their Aquatic Adventures

Do Copperheads Swim?

Welcome to the fascinating world of Copperheads! These enigmatic creatures are an intriguing part of the animal kingdom, residing in various regions across North America. But do copperheads swim? This article explores the secrets of Copperhead and non venomous snakes, especially their curious ability to swim, breathe  and stay underwater.

But first, let's shed some light on the natural habitat and distribution of these captivating serpents.

Copperhead Habitat and Distribution

Copperhead snakes are indigenous to the central and eastern United States, showcasing their mesmerizing patterns amidst deciduous forests, rocky hillsides, and overgrown meadows. They are quite the homebodies, with copperheads and most snakes typically preferring mainland over aquatic adventures. However, occasionally, they surprise us by taking a dip.

Debunking Myths About Snakes and Water

Before we explore dark snakes, water snakes, among others, and their aquatic escapades, let's debunk a popular myth of many snakes: the idea that all snakes are hopeless swimmers. Contrary to what some may think, not all snakes are aquaphobic. Some, like the Copperhead, form part of that select group of snakes that can swim, adapting their life near water and navigating it with surprising grace.

Basic Characteristics of Copperhead Snakes

Now, let's get up close and personal with Copperhead snake snakes.

Copperhead's Appearance

Copperheads are a species of snakes, named for their striking coppery-colored heads, which contrast beautifully with their light brown or reddish-brown bodies adorned with distinctive hourglass-shaped markings. These venom snakes are typically between 2 to 3 feet long and possess heat-sensing pits on their faces, which help them locate prey.

Copperheads Appearance
Copperheads have a triangle-shaped head, that helps identify them from other venous and non-venous snakes. 

Their Terrestrial Preferences

As mentioned earlier, Copperheads are primarily terrestrial creatures species. They favor habitats with plenty of cover and prey, natural habitats such as forests and grassy areas, so they normally preferred remain on ground. Seeing copperheads in water is not usual, but when they decide to go for a bath, it is something worth witnessing.

Copperheads and Water Snakes

Copperheads, the venomous snakes, tend while not aquatic by nature, have been spotted swimming on occasion. It's not a skill they use frequently, but when they do, it leaves us stunned. These serpents might slither into water, including lakes, rivers, ponds and streams, showcasing their swimming prowess.

Reasons for their Aquatic Excursions

Why, you ask, do Copperheads go for a swim underwater? Well, it's not for leisurely laps or sunbathing by the pool. They might be chasing down aquatic prey like frogs or small fish, submerged in water to cooling off on a hot day, or seeking refuge from predators. Their aquatic forays are all about survival and adaptation. So yes, if you wondered if a snake can bite you underwater, the answer is affirmative. That leads us to a second question: how long can a snake stay underwater? And the answer is: depend. Depending on what type of water, the snake species, weather… but if you want an estimate, we will say a period from 5 minutes to 30 minutes. 

Unique Swimming Patterns

When the Copperheads swim underwater, they don't move like fish swim together. Instead, their bodies undulate from side to side, much like their slithering locomotion on land. Their swimming style may not be Olympic, but it's efficient for their needs to find a different source of food. 

copperheads swim
copperheads are very good swimmers. 

Swimming Abilities of Snakes in General

Now that we've witnessed Copperhead snakes and other snakes' aquatic acrobatics, let's delve into the broader world of snake swimming.

Land to Water: Snake Anatomy

Snakes are remarkably adapted to life on land, thanks to their elongated bodies, scales, and muscular locomotion. But when it comes to water, they have to make some adjustments.

Differences in Swimming Styles

Snakes vary in their swimming abilities. Some are better suited for the water than others, with other species using adaptations like flattened tails for propulsion and valve-like nostrils to keep water out while breathing. These differences make each snake's aquatic adventure unique.

Benefits of Swimming for Snakes

Swimming is not just a whimsical pastime for snakes; it serves several essential purposes. It helps them hunt for potential aquatic prey, escape from land predators, and even facilitate migration between habitats.

copperheads in the river
Copperheads can swim in rivers, lakes, ponds, and streams.

Misidentification of Swimming Snakes

Sometimes, a brown water snake up in the top of the water isn't a black snake or a Copperhead. It's crucial have a good eye to identify different snake species to ensure safety and protect these misunderstood creatures.

Snakes Mistaken for Copperheads

In or near the northern water snake call, you might encounter various water snake species, like Northern Water Snakes, North Georgia Water Snakes, or Diamondback Water Snakes. They share some similarities with the Copperheads, so it's crucial to know distinguish between them. 

The principal difference is in their heads, Copperheads have a triangular-shaped head, usually a copper-red coloration with a distinct neck, the others have a less distinct head shape compared to copperheads, with a head that is only slightly wider than the neck. Still, we strongly recommend staying away in both cases, even knowing that snakes avoid human contact, we have to take our previsions.

The Importance of Accurate Identification

Correctly identifying all venomous snakes is not only for your safety but also for the conservation efforts of other species. Misidentifying a harmless non venomous snake could lead to unnecessary fear and harm to these vital members of our ecosystem.

Safety Measures and Recommendations

So, what precautions should you take if you come across a swimming snake? First and foremost, stay calm. Snakes generally don't seek confrontation with humans. Keep your distance and observe the snake from afar, and the water snake itself will likely continue on its way.

Respecting Wildlife

Remember, all creatures have their role in the ecosystem, and snakes are no exception. Give them the space they need, and avoid making sudden movements or disturbing their habitat.

Seeking Help When Necessary

In the rare event of a snake bite underwater or if a snake becomes a nuisance, it's crucial to seek medical assistance or professional snake removal services. Your safety should always come first.

Wear Appropriate Footwear

If you're exploring other snake-prone areas, consider wearing closed-toe shoes or boots. This will provide an extra layer of protection in case you accidentally step on or near a snake.

Stay Vigilant

At Critter Stop we always recommend people stay alert. If you have to go to a snake-area, walking around some lakes, rivers or through tall grasses, can be dangerous. Snakes may hide in these areas, and staying vigilant can help avoid accidental encounters.

Snake-Proof Your Property

If you live in an area where snakes are common and are concerned about them on your property, consider taking preventative measures. Seal any gaps or cracks in the foundations of your house, install snake-proof fencing, and keep your yard clean and clutter-free to discourage snake habitation.

Emergency Response for Snake Bites

In the species of snakes unfortunate event of a snake bite, especially when swimming underwater, it's crucial to follow these steps:

  1. Stay as Calm as Possible: Panic can worsen the situation. Maintain your composure and immobilize the affected appendage.
  2. Remove Yourself from Danger: If you can do so safely, distance yourself from the snake. Remember, most snake bites occur when people try to handle or kill the snake.
  3. Call for Help: Dial emergency services immediately. Let them know it's a snakebite, and follow their instructions.
  4. Do NOT Attempt Suction or Cutting: Contrary to old myths, trying to suck out the venom or cutting the wound can make matters worse. It's best to leave medical treatment to professionals.
  5. Keep the Affected Area Elevated: If possible, keep the bitten limb elevated to reduce swelling.

Wildlife Rehabilitation

If you encounter an injured or distressed snake, consider contacting a local wildlife rehabilitation center or a herpetologist. They can provide the necessary care and rehabilitation if needed. Only attempt to care for a snake yourself if you have the proper training and permits.


In conclusion, Copperhead snakes are more versatile than their terrestrial reputation suggests. Their occasional aquatic escapades reveal the astonishing adaptability of these creatures. Understanding their behavior in their natural habitat is not only essential for our safety but also crucial for the conservation of these misunderstood serpents. So, next time you spot a swimming copperhead snake around you, don't panic – keep your distance and appreciate the wonders of nature at work.

Even though we do not work with snake removal, at Critter Stop we will be always at your service. If you found a snake and don't know what to do, our team can connect you through a referral call to another company that does snake removal. Give us a call at (214) 234-2616 and we will help you!

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