About animals

Common copperfish: description of the photo, lifestyle, poisonous or not


The coppers defends itself from enemies, shrinking into a tight ball, into which it hides its head, and, hissing, makes throws towards the threatening object. Perhaps such aggressiveness of the copperfish has caused many people to regard it as a very poisonous snake, but in reality it practically does not pose a danger to humans. Protection from enemies is also the allocation of its periclocal glands with an unpleasant odor.

Copperworms prefer sunny edges, dry meadows and clearings in various types of forests. In the mountains rise to a height of 3000 m above sea level, settling rocky steppe areas with xerophytic vegetation.

Burrows of rodents and lizards, voids under stones and bark of fallen tree trunks, and cracked rocks serve as shelters for them. This snake leads a daytime lifestyle, but sometimes appears from shelters at dusk and even on clear moonlit nights. Copper for several years does not change its individual sites.

The active season lasts about 0.5 years. Cubs (from 2 to 15) appear in coppers from late July to September. This is the result of spring mating (in May), but copulation can occur in the fall. In this case, the female gives birth to calves as early as next spring (spermatozoa are retained in the female’s sperm). The copperfish is called an ovoviviparous species, since the eggs are retained in the body of the female almost until the embryos are fully developed. Maturity occurs in the third year of life. Copper leaves go to winter in September-October.

They feed mainly on lizards, less often on other small vertebrates (rodents, shrews, chicks, passerines, and garlic). The prey is squeezed by the rings of the body (like boas), eating it alive.

The length of the body of this snake reaches 55 cm, the tail - about 15 cm. The head is slightly flattened. Cervical interception is not very developed. The pupil is round.

The color of the back varies from gray to yellow-brown and brown-copper-red, with reddish-brown tones prevailing in males, and brownish tones in females. On the upper side of the copperfish body, 2-4 rows of elongated transverse spots are located, sometimes merging into strips, which can be very weakly expressed. On the back of her head, she has two brown spots or stripes uniting with each other. A dark strip passes from the nostrils through the eye to the neck. Abdomen - from gray or bluish-steel to brown-red, with dark blurry spots and dots or a dark gray stripe in the middle. The iris of these snakes' eyes is usually orangeish.

Around the middle of the body of the copperfish - 19 scales, along the abdomen - 150-182 scutellum in males and 170-200 in females, under-tail - 40-70 pairs. The anal shield is divided into two, rarely - three. The intermaxillary shield is strongly wedged between the intranasal. The nostril is located between the two nasal scutes, the preorbital one (less often two), the infraorbital absent, the orbits two.

Distribution and Subspecies

It lives almost throughout Europe to Western Kazakhstan and Northern Iran. There are 3 subspecies. The main part of the range within Russia is occupied by the nominative subspecies (C. a. Austriaca), whose range from the Caucasus reaches the Tver region in the north.

Differences from related species

From the European ones, the copepod differs in 19 longitudinal rows of flat and smooth trunk scales, from the olive runner - by a smaller number of abdominal shields, from yellow-bellied and red-bellied ones - by a smaller number of under-tail scales, and from a cat snake by a rounded pupil.

A snake surrounded by more than a dozen superstitions

From ancient times in Russia there was one belief: if a person was bitten by a snake with a copper tint, then he would certainly die by sunset. The only way out was to cut off the bitten limb or to cut out part of the flesh near the wound. And people really believed in it. Also, in some regions, it was believed that the coppers are messengers of evil sorcerers. Penetrating into the courtyard, they sent a curse on the owners of the house and their cattle. And if you try to drive them away, they will bite a person, after which he will fall ill or die. It is not surprising that after this many are interested in the truthful information about this snake. Especially about how dangerous a coppers is to humans: is it poisonous or not? And if so, how to escape from her bite?

Origin of view and description

Photo: Common copper

Common copperfish is a non-poisonous snake belonging to the family of the already distinctive and the genus of copperfish. This genus of snakes includes only three varieties of reptiles, including ordinary copperfish. Even in ancient times in Russia legends and legends were formed about this snake. Rusichs believed that a bite of a copperfish would lead to death at sunset. This belief, as well as the name of the reptile itself, is associated with its color. On the belly of the serpentine, the flakes have a copper color and this is especially noticeable in the sun. The eyes of the copperfish are also reddish.

Common copperfish - poisonous or not?

But this question has a catch: it is a poisonous snake, but not for humans.

  • The fact is that she has poisonous teeth. But they are located in the very depths of the mouth, especially since the size of the mouth of the copperfish is very small. Therefore, it will not cause harm to humans. But then, swallowing the prey, she can easily kill her.
  • It is also worth noting that for the attack, it uses secretions near the cloacal glands. They have an extremely unpleasant odor.
  • To protect or attack, he often uses toxic saliva to paralyze. After all, its size is not so large as to strangle its victim. Therefore, before a meal, she paralyzes her.
    • But we must not forget that this toxin and the poison itself are produced in small quantities. Therefore, the copperfish does not harm a large animal or, especially, a human being.
    • All rumors of its toxicity are rooted in resemblance to a viper.
    • Also, people have long been frightened by her red eyes. There is even such a version: if a “copper snake” bit, then a person will die before sunset.
    • Many attack the copperfish, mistaking it for a viper.

    IMPORTANT: Copper is taken under the protection of the law, since mass extermination has led to a decrease in the genus. This is a small species! In some countries, it is listed in the Red Book.

    Video: Copper ordinary

    Common copperfish is a small-sized snake, the length of its body does not exceed seventy centimeters. Men are smaller than females. The tail of the coppers is several times (4-6) shorter than the length of the entire body. The copperhead's head is oval, slightly flattened. Against the background of the whole body, it stands out slightly, there is no sharp transition from the trunk to the head. The surface of the skin of the reptile is smooth, shiny. Apparently therefore, in the sun it casts even more the color of copper ore.

    Contrary to terrible legends and mystical beliefs, the copper coin is completely not dangerous for a person, because it does not possess poisonous weapons. Of course, she can bite, but here it will not bring much harm, except for a little discomfort at the puncture site. Often the coppers suffer because they confuse it with a poisonous viper and try to kill it. In order to understand exactly what is in front of you, namely, the copperfish needs to understand in detail its external features and find out the characteristic differences between this harmless reptile and the dangerous viper.

    Where does common copperfish live?

    The area of ​​resettlement of common copperfish is very extensive, but the density of snakes in the territories occupied by them is low. The snake is registered in the vastness of Europe, and in Asia, and on the African continent. It is noticed that the range to the north, the less common reptiles.

    Interesting fact: It’s not so easy to meet ordinary copperfish, in comparison with an adder and a snake, it is considered a rarity.

    The territory of the permanent deployment of copperfish depends on the climate of a particular area. On European territory, this snake person lives in almost all areas except the Mediterranean islands, Ireland and northern Scandinavia. On the African continent, the copperfish has chosen its northern and western parts. In the vastness of Asia, the snake lives in the southern part.

    With regards to our country, the copperfish prefers the southern regions of Russia. On the east side, its range reaches southwestern Siberia, and on the north, to the Kursk, Tula, Ryazan and Samara regions. In the territories of Vladimir and Moscow regions, copperfish is extremely rare, literally, in single copies.

    The coppers lives on both coniferous and deciduous forests, adores pine thickets, but bypasses the large open spaces of the steppe zones. The snake feels safe among the trees and shrubs. She can settle in forest glades, places of clearings, dry puddles near the forest. Often a reptile is found in mountain ranges, rising up to three kilometers, occupying bushy slopes there.

    In those areas where vineyards grow, it’s quite possible to meet the coppers. The snake loves rocky terrain, because boulders serve it not only as a reliable shelter, but also as a pedestal for warming in the sun. She loves the tartar stony scree and rocky crevices. In our country, this reptile often inhabits the embankments of railways and forest terrain. Medyanka is rare, but you can meet right on the plot or in the garden. The snake loves soil with a lot of dry decaying foliage. But he tries to avoid very damp places.

    Now you know where the common copperfish lives, let's see what this non-toxic snake eats.

    Appearance and features

    Photo: Common copper snake

    The small snake copperfish has its own characteristics and distinctive features.

    The color of the reptile ridge can be:

    • gray
    • yellowish brown
    • reddish brown
    • dark gray (almost black).

    As already noted, the belly of the snake has a shade of copper, often, and the back is cast by a certain redhead. It has been observed that a gray tone prevails among the coppers living in the southern territories. When molting occurs, the color of the reptile darkens and can become brown or almost black. Shades of males and females are also different. Males have more red shades, and females are dominated by brownish tones.

    One of the distinguishing features of the copperfish is a black stripe, which begins at the end of the muzzle, passes through the eye at the level of the pupil. The eyes and pupils of the copperfish are round. The iris is painted in a reddish tint. On the ridge and sides of the coppers, you can see vertically elongated spots located in several rows. They can clearly contrast with the main color background, and can be barely distinguishable. In the occipital part there are a pair of dark spots or stripes connected to each other.

    Interesting fact: Among ordinary copperfish there are melanistic snakes (painted almost black), but they are not common.

    It was noticed that young growth in coppers always looks richer, has brighter colors and a contrasting pattern. It is worth noting that the ornament on the torso of the copperfish is not a characteristic sign, in some individuals it does not exist at all or it is too blurry.

    So, the copperfish is often mistaken for a poisonous viper, we describe their main differences:

    • the copperfish does not see the head clearly distinguished from the whole body, it is flat and merges with the body, there is a clear cervical transition between the body and the head of the viper,
    • shields covering the head of the copperfish, large, in the viper they are much smaller,
    • the pupil’s pupil is different from the vertical pupil of a viper,
    • the copperfish flakes shine and smooth to the touch, the body of the viper is ribbed, rough,
    • unlike the dangerous viper, the common copperfish is not endowed with poisonous teeth.

    The teeth located on the upper jaw of the copepod increase in relation to the direction deep into the mouth. The scales located on the back are in the form of rhombuses or hexagons. On the flaps of the abdomen, keels are visible, which form ribs along its edges. In a circle of the middle part of the body, there are 19 scales. On the abdomen in males there are from 150 to 182 scutes, in females - from 170 to 200.

    What eats common copper?

    Photo: Red Copper from the Red Book

    Lizards and mice act as the most favorite snack for coppers; the snake even often settles down for the night in mouse burrows.

    The reptile menu consists not only of mice and lizards, you can see in it:

    • snake young
    • shrews, rats, field mice,
    • all kinds of insects
    • toads and frogs,
    • small birds and their chicks,
    • ordinary earthworms
    • eggs of lizards and birds.

    The specific diet of a particular individual depends on the places of permanent residence. The age of reptiles also affects the assortment of dishes on the menu. Young individuals prefer lizards and slugs, while mature ones like to eat small mammals, especially mice.

    Interesting fact: Among the coppers often can be traced such an unpleasant phenomenon as cannibalism.

    Conducting the hunt, the copperfish leisurely explores the space around with the help of its sensitive tongue, which scans the environment, capturing the slightest smell of potential prey. Having stuck out its tongue-scanner, the copper can find the victim in any hidden place, even in absolute darkness.

    As soon as a snack is found, the reptile inaudibly sneaks up to it and quickly bites with sharp teeth, clutching the body of the victim with its torso in order to make a suffocating reception. The muscles of the snake body skillfully squeezes the victim so that it suffocates. So the copperfish acts only with a sufficiently large prey, and it immediately swallows the small one. The copperfish receives the moisture necessary for the body from rain puddles, dew and all kinds of water bodies located in its places of residence.

    It should be noted that, in spite of its small dimensions, the copperfish does not suffer from a lack of appetite, it is very voracious. There are cases when three adult lizards were found in the stomachs of dead reptiles at once.

    Features of character and lifestyle

    Photo: Common copper

    The copperfish activates and hunts during the day, as loves warmth and sun. When it gets dark and cold, she prefers to sit out in her hiding place. The reptile is quite conservative and constant, it remains to live in the shelter it has chosen for many years, and sometimes all its life. By their very nature, coppers are loners who prefer to live apart, occupying their specific area. The reptile tirelessly guards this area from any competitors and is ready to pounce even on its closest relatives who have invaded its possessions. That is why two coppers never get along on the same territory.

    Coppers are excellent swimmers, but they are extremely wary of water and swim only when absolutely necessary. Slowness is another character trait of these reptiles, which is manifested in the fact that on the hunt they prefer to sit in ambush and watch, the pursuit of prey is not for them. The copperfish leads an active life half of the calendar year, and the other half is in hibernation, into which it plunges in the fall with the onset of cold weather.

    Copperworms love to hide in the woods, therefore they love forests, but they often equip their nests in open forest glades or clearings. This is due to the fact that reptiles like to bask in the sun, which is why they choose places where sunlight falls.

    Aggers show aggression when they see a stranger on their territory, they fight fiercely and can even eat a defeated snake relative. For a person, the copperfish is not particularly dangerous, it can only catch fear, because people often take it for a poisonous viper. A copperfish can bite, but only from the fact that she is afraid.The reptile does not possess toxicity, therefore it is not worth worrying much. The bite site is best treated with an antiseptic solution so that no infection gets into the wound.

    Social structure and reproduction

    Photo: Cub

    As it has already become clear, the coppers prefer to live all alone, avoiding collective existence, zealously guarding their land ownership. Reptiles become sexually mature at the age of three, and some individuals even later. The wedding season of coppers begins with the arrival of spring, when they awaken from a winter stupor. Before the next winter hibernation, the snake needs to produce offspring.

    Interesting fact: Mating with copperfish can happen in the autumn, right before hibernation. In this case, the cubs are born only next summer, and the sperm remain in the body of the female until spring.

    The partner remains with the female only for a short period of mating, then they part with her forever, he does not take any part in the fate of his cubs. During intercourse, the cavalier holds the partner with his jaws by the neck area, and he wraps himself around her body.

    Cubs of copperfish are born, covered with egg shells. The future mother carries the eggs in utero until the moment when the embryos in them are fully formed and develop. Usually, in one brood, there are about fifteen small kites. Almost immediately after birth, babies break through their shells, in which they are born. The length of small snakes does not exceed 17 cm, they are fully formed and independent.

    The babies immediately leave their mother’s nest and begin their isolated snake life, hunting at first for all kinds of insects and small lizards. In the wild, coppers live from 10 to 15 years. The life span of reptiles living in the terrarium is much longer, because the conditions there are much more favorable and there are no threats from the outside.

    Natural Enemies of Coppers

    Photo: Red Copper from the Red Book

    If large and poisonous reptiles have many enemies, it is not surprising that the copperfish, which is not so large in size and does not possess toxicity, has plenty of them. Many animals and birds are not averse to snack on this reptile. Among them are: ferrets, martens, wild boars, foxes, ermines, rats, ordinary cats. In addition to mammals from the air, predatory birds also attack the cone: white storks, owls, crows, vultures, and snake-eating eagles.

    Of course, the most vulnerable are newborn snakes and inexperienced young animals, for which even grass frogs, lizards and small birds are dangerous. The mother leaves the newborn cubs immediately after they are born, so there is no one to protect them.

    In case of danger, the copperfish has its own defensive techniques, which it constantly uses. The reptile is curled into a fairly dense tangle, she hides her head inside this tangle, producing rapid lunges in the direction of the ill-wisher. In this case, she emits a hiss. In addition to this tactic, the copperfish has another defensive weapon - this is the fetid secret of its cloacal glands, which the snake emits when it feels threatened. Cannibalism also occurs in the environment of coppers, so reptiles can suffer from their closest relatives.

    One of the most dangerous enemies of copperfish can be considered a person who often kills this snake, taking it as poisonous and dangerous. Once in the hands of a person, the copperfish tries to make a bite to slip away. Maybe because of this, they confuse her with a poisonous reptile. The cops will not attack first, but bites a person only when she is very scared, because in the struggle for life all methods are good.

    Population and species status

    Photo: Common copper snake

    Although the area of ​​resettlement of copperfish common is quite extensive, the population of this reptile is small. Coppers are rare because their density is low. Herpetologists explain this with her eating habits. The basis for the feeding of coppers is lizards, and this kind of food base is not considered reliable in comparison with a variety of rodents and frogs. In those areas where the number of lizards is declining, the number of coppers also decreases sharply.

    People also have an effect on the size of the copperfish population. They try to kill her when they meet, mistaking her for a dangerous viper. In addition, the rapid activity of man leads to a reduction in the habitats of this small reptile. A person gradually displaces the copperfish from its permanent residence, and this affects the population of copperfish very negatively, because snakes lead a sedentary lifestyle and try to always stay on their territory, which they zealously defend.

    As a result of this situation, common copperfish in some states is under protection, where its destruction and illegal capture are strictly prohibited. In our country, it is listed in the regional Red Books of some regions and a number of republics.

    Protection of common copperfish

    Photo: Copperwort in nature

    As a result of its small size, low density and rare occurrence, the common copperfish is protected in the territories of various states where it is settled. Some European countries have introduced laws that strictly prohibit the capture of these snakes and their destruction. The species of common copperfish is listed in Appendix II of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Wild Fauna and Flora and Natural Habitats.

    As you can see, a rather large list of states, regions and republics where the common copperfish is protected. The main limiting factors for this type of reptile are the reduction of the main food supply of copepods (namely lizards) and the harmful effects of man.

    In conclusion, it remains to add that although the copperfish is similar to a poisonous viper, it does not pose a danger to humans. Contrary to all ancient beliefs, a bite of a copperfish does not carry death to people, but only is its protective reaction. A meeting with this reptile is a rarity, so not everyone knows the coppers. But in the terrarium, she easily gets used to the person and begins to trust him, taking food directly from her hands.

    Lifestyle & Diet

    The ordinary copperfish is perfectly masked due to its pattern. The color allows her to hide from many predators and people. If they notice it, then in 99% of cases they confuse it with the venomous viper, which is one of the most common snakes in Russia.

    Since mice are one of the most beloved dishes for copperfish, reptiles very often spend the night in mouse rates.

    Their activity, like almost all reptile species, is closely related to local weather and climatic conditions. Like cold-blooded animals, they need to warm up first in order to reach the necessary “working temperature”. Therefore, they begin to show activity most often in April, when the sun is already warming well enough.

    At the end of spring, they enter the mating phase. In winter, they go to sleep very late. Sometimes, copperfish can be found even in November, when she goes hunting.

    In winter, they hibernate. For this condition, they choose for themselves the burrows of small mammals, rock cracks or clusters of stones. If the copperfish does not find normal shelter, it may well overwinter, hiding under a mossy pillow.

    Often reptiles gather in one hole and spend the night in a bunch. Moreover, all the same reptiles can visit this place of lodging again, but already in the second, third winter.

    Not only mice are included in the diet of copperfish. She does not mind eating other mammals and reptiles. In particular, the main diet of this snake includes:

    1. lizards
    2. young snakes
    3. shrews, mice, rats, etc.,
    4. frogs and toads,
    5. little birds and chicks,
    6. insects
    7. earthworms
    8. eggs of birds and lizards.

    Depending on the region of residence, the diet of this species is significantly different. For example, in the southwestern regions of the country, snakes feed mainly on lizards; in swamps and forest areas, they prefer small mammals.

    In addition to the habitat, the age of the snake also affects preferences. Young growth prefers lizards and slow slugs, while adults usually feed on small mammals, especially juvenile mice.

    In search of food, the snake slowly and carefully envelops the surrounding area and examines it for potential prey. Her wonderful sense of smell helps her to hunt. She sticks out her tongue and catches odor molecules from her environment. Then, she transfers them to the so-called organ of Jacobson, which decrypts the meaning of “smell”. Thus, the coppers can easily find lizards or frogs in the cracks of rocks, houses or in burrows, in the dark.

    When she slowly and carefully crept up to the victim, the snake quickly grabs it with its sharp teeth and immediately grasps it. The victim cannot breathe due to strong pressure and dies from a lack of oxygen.

    Even young individuals adhere to such tactics. They do not need to study the tactics of hunting, as it is embedded in their DNA at the genetic level.

    Very small prey such as young mice, small lizards and insects are caught by the mouth and absorbed directly, because there is no need to strangle them.

    Copper gets water from dew on plants, from puddles, or from other sources.

    In suitable habitats, which are characterized by sunny areas, good places for wintering with an abundance of food, the copperfish shows its high “local connections”. That is, she moves through this zone throughout the year covering several hundred square meters. Therefore, you should not be surprised if you meet the same copperfish several times a season in different parts of the city or even the country.


    As mentioned above, puberty usually occurs between the ages of three to four years. Mating usually occurs in April or May.

    The male first crawls around the female until both bodies are parallel to each other. Then the male rests his head on the neck of the female. If she tries to run away or resists, he can bite her by the neck to restrain her. When mating, the male genital organ penetrates the female and “fastens” the reptiles. The mating procedure usually takes from 20 to 45 minutes. At the same time, all this time the snakes do not contact each other in any way.

    Copper is a viviparous snake. All embryonic development occurs in the womb, but in "self-sufficient" egg shells that do not require nutrition from the mother's body.

    The gestation period is at least four to five months. Therefore, cubs are usually born in late August or early September. Immediately at birth or a little later, young growth can get out of a thin egg shell to become a completely independent reptile.

    On average, one female leads from six to eight snakes. Their weight is in the region of three grams, and the length does not exceed 20 centimeters. Large females are more prolific and can give birth to up to 20 cubs at a time.