UVA Today turned to Holstege for his expertise and advice now that snake season has returned.
Q. Where are copperheads found?
A. There is a temperature range that they prefer. The snakes will typically prefer the 80s. If it starts getting too hot, they’ll go into cooler places. But if it gets too cold, they’re going to go and hunker down into denser areas too. They like wood piles, because the temperature is fairly stable and it’s easy for them to get into them. I’ve treated numerous bites after people were taking wood out of a wood pile.
You have to be careful in the evenings when it gets cooler and they come out. They may go, for example, along the side of a blacktop road and warm themselves. They can get into garages. They can get under the covers of things – for example, if I have a grill that’s covered up on the back porch. They like places where they can shelter and be protected.
Q. Are copperheads aggressive?
A. I think if you’re trying to pick them up they are. I don’t think they’re overly aggressive otherwise. Because they don’t have a rattle, people cannot hear copperheads, so they don’t notice them as easily as a timber rattler, which we have in the mountains. When you hear that rattle, that’s when you are put on pause and you back up. But from an aggressive standpoint, most of the bites that I see, the envenomations, the individuals are trying to pick up or are messing with a snake.
In the second-most-common scenario, a person minding their own business might rapidly do something like accidentally stepping on a copperhead, which then defends itself.