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Copperhead Sighting

05/30/05:  Seen on Rte 208 just outside of Washingtonville, NY.

This article garnered much comment. After reading it see COPPERHEADERS STRIKE BACK.

Today I left a ride due to a broken shifter cable. Later my wife returned from the ride and reported two Copperheads were seen just a dozen or two miles from where we live. Last Saturday after being dropped by the double AA's, I stopped on Dog Hill to see what I thought might be a Copperhead, and was caught by a slower group because of it, not to mention being disappointed to find it was only a Garter Snake, and also not to mention I endured copious trash talk from those who found me standing on the side of the road looking down at my feet like I thought something was going on. Therefore, an actual Copperhead sighting pleased me perfectly.

To give this a quick perspective: I have lived in Upstate NY for close to thirty years. I have never heard of a snake sighting where the critter in question was not called a Copperhead.

When we first moved to the area, I often heard that Copperheads were numerous among the rocks in the mountains behind our house, and I always took it as a wise caution, because we hiked there often. Besides, the stories were so often repeated they must be true. Right? However, it seemed everybody was fortunate to see Copperheads on a regular occasion, except for me.

Finally, somebody reported that a dead Copperhead was still on the road less than a quarter mile from our house, so I was very excited to see it. On arriving at the scene of the tire versus reptile catastrophe, I was immediately shocked by seeing not a Copperhead, but a mere Garter Snake of muted color.

Ever afterwards, I always made it a project to finally see an actual Copperhead, so routinely I try to view reported snakes first hand. In the 25 years since that first disappointment, I have yet to see a single one. Oh, I've seen Milk Snakes, Black Snakes, Water Snakes, and Garter Snakes all being called Copperheads, but I have never seen an actual Copperhead.

My poor luck, or good luck depending on your feelings about seeing a Copperhead, has been uniform. In my mind, not seeing one is far worse, but you will have to decide your own feelings about this. In any case, I eventually acquired the habit of always saying, "You know, a Garter Snake, what the locals call a Copperhead."

Not one person I have ever mentioned this to has but said, "Yeah, I know it is crazy what people think they've seen. But I actually saw one..."

In any case, this most recent Copperhead sighting severely piqued my interest, because I was  told that somebody on the ride, "...really knows their snakes," plus my wife said that these snakes were the most incredible ones she had ever seen.

She had never seen nothin' like 'em before, "...definitely Copperheads." So even though the snakes were reported to be alive and most certainly moved on, I needed to go take a look.

Last year after a ride I was told I just missed a Timber Rattler crossing off the shoulder of the road up in the protected areas. I traveled back in the car to look for myself—just in case it wasn't quite off the road yet. I also missed the bear they had seen only moments before the rattler and looked for it also. Therefore, it is not surprising I followed today's Copperhead lead. Maybe the snakes were dead. Maybe there was something I could see. Just maybe I am slightly obsessed about this and can't resist.

My wife remembered just where the snakes were seen, so off we went in the car. We made a drive by first, and she exclaimed, "They are still there!"

I circled the car back and parked just down the road to walk over. Sure enough, they were brilliantly beautiful snakes. They were also not only merely dead, they were really most sincerely dead...and they were most sincerely NOT Copperheads.

Unfortunately, I knew I would never be believed. After all, one of the people on the ride was an actual woodsman, a hunter, an expert. Plus, nobody else in these parts has ever NOT seen a Copperhead. So we went home, got the camera and took the photos below. [Be sure to see the photos of an actual Copperhead I placed immediately below my own three photos of these Northern Watersnakes.] [sic]

NOT COPPERHEADS (see photos further below for the real deal)

actually not even Northern Water Snakes

I am somewhat relieved these were not Copperheads, but rather were Northern Water Snakes [sic], because now I don't feel so left out having missed last year's Timber Rattler, which was probably a woodchuck. The bear was probably a mere Yeti.

Here's a link to some more about the species of snake above, the Northern Water Snake  [sic]. It is said to have, "the largest geographic range of any water snake in the United States." Maybe I'm wrong and the snakes pictured above are something else, so report back if you have solid reasons to disagree with my conclusion.

[Dr. Art thinks they may be Milk Snakes, which was also my first conclusion before searching the Internet.

Tomorrow, I'll go back and kick them over to photograph there bellies [see below] which he says would reveal, "a 'piano-key' underbelly which is the clincher for Milk Snakes." Seems that's what I recall they had, but I don't like cars whizzing by my ear at 60 mph in a 35 mph speed zone while the drivers give me the finger unless I'm on my bike, so I missed the under belly photo.

Dr. Art has also further disappointed me by swearing that he has himself actually seen Copperheads, in the zoo, field museums, etc. I don't believe it for a moment, because those places would be shut down immediately if they ever presented a Copperhead that didn't look exactly like a Garter Snake. Nobody would believe them, and their funding would be removed. Final Judgment Below.]

Otherwise, do a Google  search for more info...and quit killing hapless creatures for no reason. On the other hand, there is no real reason to be grabbing hold of snakes you are not absolutely sure about either. I did not touch these guys. Maybe they died of the bird flu, and I did not want to get it from their rubbery carcasses. As for yourself, you should also avoid any coiled and poisonous Timber Woodchucks.

Actual Copperhead

Note the cat-eyes, not round eyes like the snakes pictured above—as with all other non-venomous snakes indigenous to the U.S., except of course Coral Snakes which do have round eyes. Also note the thick and stubby badass viper body, very unlike the long and lithesome bodies of the snakes shown above. I'm thinking if anybody ever actually saw a Copperhead in the wild (say maybe sunning itself beside their in-ground pool), they'd more than likely confuse it for a rattler, if they weren't otherwise occupied confusing a woodchuck for a rattler, or being distracted by a Yeti that looked eerily like a black bear.

Is this not the most beautiful creature you have ever seen?

The above three photos stolen from:  I only stole them in case the site disappears from the web. It took so long chasing down good photos, I would hate to see them lost. Please click over to the actual site for descriptions, etc. Plus do a Google search for more info.

And stop killing hapless critters for no reason.

Follow-up to Dr. Art's righting my bad

Ok, so Dr. Art is right. I went back this morning (05/31/05), flipped 'em over, took the picture below, then flipped 'em back so's the next person can have the fun of finding Copperheads. Probably the crows have got 'em by now.

I'm leaving everything above as is, because it shows how hard it is to say for certain such things as, "Yeah that's a Slithery Type snake...for sure." Plus this all reinforces how easily the Internet can lead one astray. Maybe the pictures on the sites I reviewed were not what they purported to be. Maybe the sites themselves were bogus. You'd be surprised how many people think that the American Road Cycling website actually exists. is just a figment of my imagination, no matter how many people rave to the contrary.

It also shows how absolutely certain people can be about the most uncertain of things. Maybe we should launch into a review of such things as: Terrorist vs. Freedom Fighter, or Anti-American vs. Exercising Constitutional Rights,  or Good Words vs. Bad Words, or whether or not people whose only offense is being  homeless should be treated like humans and allowed to ride bikes. But doing so would come very close to not being a bike ride at all, just like those snakes didn't come close to being Copperheads, or even Northern Water Snakes.

In any case, would everybody stop telling me over and over again how shocked they are that Dr. Art's Road Rash Comics are really funny. I mean, he's a fucking Chiropractor for fuck's sake. Why is everybody so goofy surprised that he knows precisely how to tickle their fucking funny bones?

Uh, oh. I guess my language just lost the "family values" crowd again. Good riddance, though. They were going to continue teaching their kids to kill anything that didn't agree with them anyway, while keeping them as scared of bad words as they possibly can, and making sure they avert their eyes downward when a homeless person passes. Those are sweet people, that family values crowd. Whoops. I've run off the tracks again.

Here's the photo.

Under belly of the Eastern Milk Snakes (shown above)


This article garnered much comment. After reading it see COPPERHEADERS STRIKE BACK.



this page last updated: 02/01/2015 10:38:48 PM

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