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Every week there are new marvels to look for in the outdoors, and Discover Nature highlights these attractions. The Missouri Department of Conservation’s Josh Hartwig brings us the stories of river otters, luna moths, red buds, and other actors as they take center stage in nature’s theater.You can hear Discover Nature, Mondays at 7:42 a.m. and 5:18 p.m.

Discover Nature: Missouri Copperheads

flickr user USFWS Midwest Region (https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark)

If copperheads are a fear factor for you, there is hope and help. Since they don’t look like other Missouri snakes, they are easy to identify and avoid.

Contrary to popular belief, snakes do not go looking for people to bite. In fact, snakes are more afraid of you than you are of them. Harmless snakes have round pupils and a double row of scales along the undersides of their tails. But still, it is never a good idea to pick up a copperhead and handle it.

Missouri’s copperheads are pinkish tan with dark-brown markings along their backs that are shaped like an hourglass or bow tie. This camouflage look helps them hide from prey in leaves along rocky hillsides and forest edges. They make excellent exterminators as their diet is mostly mice and voles.

Copperheads are active from April through November and have young from August through early October. They are not aggressive and seldom strike unless provoked.

Keep copperheads away by getting rid of wood or rock piles and tall grass around your home. Wear boots when in woods or brushy fields, and leather gloves when moving rocks, old lumber, and firewood.

There is no one effective mean of eliminating snakes completely, but it is possible to discourage them around homes by the same method effective for controlling other animal pests — eliminating their food and shelter.

And this time of year, inspect foundations, doors, and low windows to make sure there are no openings where snakes might enter.

Learn more about Missouri copperheads at MissouriConservation.org.

Josh Hartwig is the host of Discover Nature and a media specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation.
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