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Copperhead Records of Northwest Florida

                            Copperhead Records of Northwest Floridaand Adjacent Alabama and Georgia
                                     By Karl R. Studenroth Jr.  24 May, 2007; Revised 29 January, 2011  

  Between 1992 and 2009 I documented 24 Southern Copperheads (Agkistrodon c. contortrix) within the Florida Panhandle and adjacent Alabama and Georgia.  Nineteen of those snakes were documented within northwest Florida, one snake was documented in extreme southeastern Alabama, two snakes were documented in extreme southwestern Alabama, and two snakes were documented in extreme southwestern Georgia.
 
  The Southern Copperhead reaches the far southern limits of its range in North America in northwest Florida, and is considered to be a rare or uncommon snake in this region.  In northwest Florida this species is primarily found in the drainage systems of the Chattahoochee/Apalachicola and Chipola Rivers.  Occasionally the species is found in other counties of north Florida, but such valid records are extremely limited.
  The range and abundance of this snake historically in northwest Florida seems to have fluctuated over the past 100 years.  Also, the occurrence of this snake in the Chipola River drainage appears to have greatly declined over recent decades, due to habitat loss and alteration, malicious killing and the numerous accounts from individuals in Jackson and Calhoun counties.  Of course the accuracy and validity of such accounts from the general public and personal stories can not be proved.  The records of the 22 Southern Copperheads in this report greatly increases the known distribution and abundance of this snake in this region and at the terminus of its range.  Table 1 lists the locality information for the 22 Southern Copperheads I have documented since 1992.  Map 1 lists the approximate locality of each Copperhead.   

  Seven of the 22 documented Copperheads in this report are significant.  Significant records include the documentation of a road-killed Copperhead, in Houston County, in extreme southeastern Alabama, less than two road miles north of the Florida state line, and is the most northern record in this report. 

  Two more significant records include the documentation of two road-killed Copperheads in Decatur County, in extreme southwestern Georgia, less than two air miles north of the Florida state line. 

  Three significant records of the Southern Copperhead are also included for Jackson County Florida, which increases the westward known range of this species in northwest Florida.  Also an individual, road-killed Copperhead was documented within the town of Blountstown in Calhoun County FL, which is the most southwestern record in this report.  Lastly, the most southern and southeastern Copperhead record was a road-killed snake c. 6.5 air miles south of Bristol, FL (c. 0.5 miles south of the community of Woods).

  Fifteen of the Copperhead records in this report were either documented within Torreya State Park, in Liberty County FL, or within three air miles of the Park.  For many decades Torreya State Park has been one of the most well known locations for the documented occurrence of Southern Copperheads in Florida.            

  Lastly, to date I have filed 15 of the 19 Florida Copperhead records and data with the Florida Natural Areas inventory (FNAI).  In the future I will submit the last four records to FNAI.  Additionally, eight of the dead and road killed animals were collected and preserved.  The Calhoun County, FL Copperhead has already been deposited into the Florida Museum of Natural History.  The other seven preserved Copperheads are in my personal collection now and will later be deposited into the Florida museum.  Also, photographs 1 – 6 are of Copperheads documented within this report.

Table 1. Southern Copperhead Locality Data

#

Date

Condition

County

Location

1

April, 1992

DOR

Houston, AL

SR 89, 1 mile north Chattahoochee S.P. entrance. 

2

30 October, 1993

DOR

Calhoun, FL

Blountstown.  SR 69, 1/10 mile north SR 71.  Deposited in the FL Museum, UF 91601.

3

24 April, 1994

DOR

Decatur, GA

U.S. Army Corp of Engineer -  Chattahoochee Park.  Above tennis courts, way up hill on road leading to boat ramps.

4

3 June, 1994

RL

Liberty, FL

Torreya State Park (TSP).  Below and northeast of Gregory house in river floodplain, near mouth of Rock Creek. 

5

18 May, 1999

AOR

Liberty, FL

CR 270, 1.3 miles south of Copper Point Rd (Rockyville Rd).

6

20 May, 1999

DOR

Liberty, FL

TSP.  End of road, across from parking lot of Gregory House.  Collected & preserved.

7

23 May, 1999

DOR

Liberty, FL

TSP.  Through small circle of woods, on road, across from Gregory House parking lot.  Collected & preserved. 

8

4 June, 1999

RL

Liberty, FL

TSP.  West side of Gregory House trail, mid way down slope of trail, along primary bluff.

9

15 October, 1999

RL

Liberty, FL

TSP.  Rock Creek Tract (RCT).  T2N, R7W, Sec.15.  Near drift fence array C.

10

15 October, 1999

RL

Liberty, FL

TSP, RCT.  T2N, R7W, Sec.22.  Old TSP entrance road, near top of hill. 

11

16 October, 1999

RL

Liberty, FL

TSP, RCT.  T2N, R7W, Sec.15.  Near drift fence array C. 

12

20 October, 1999

RD

Liberty, FL

TSP.  Mid way down Gregory House brick walkway.  Found dead, recently killed.  Collected & preserved. 

13

20 October, 1999

DOR

Liberty, FL

Copper Point Rd (Richard Hardy Rd), 1/10 mile north CR 270.

14

22 October, 1999

RL

Liberty, FL

T2N, R7W, Sec.30.  North-central section 30.  East side of Apalachicola River, within 100 ft of River.  Dr. Raban Bontrager’s old land (sold to TNC).  Under log on cool morning.

15

2 November, 1999

DOR

Liberty, FL

Roy, FL.  CR 270, 3/10 mile south Copper Point Rd (Richard Hardy Rd).  Collected & preserved.

16

12 October, 2000

DOR

Liberty, FL

SR 12, 4/10 mile north Johnson Mill Branch.  Collected & preserved.

17

15 June, 2003

DOR

Jackson, FL

T5N, R9W, Sec.2.  SR 69, 1.7 miles north of Two Egg.  4.4 miles north CR 164.  Snake was still barely alive when found.  Collected & preserved.

18

24 June, 2005

DOR

Jackson, FL

T4N, R8W, Sec. 34.  SR69A, 2/10 mile south Jct. SR 69. 

19

6 August, 2006

AOR

Jackson, FL

T3N, R7W, Sec. 9.    

20

23 September, 2007

DOR

Decatur, GA

Hewett-Bundy Dr.  Mid-way down loop at lowest point of road (off Booster Club Rd.).  1650 hrs.  Small adult.  Photographed.

21

23 September, 2007

AOR

Liberty, FL

CR 270, 2/10 mile south entrance Torreya State Park.  T2N, R7W, Sec. 21.  2010 hrs.  Small adult male.

22

23 September, 2007

DOR

Liberty, FL

Roy, FL.  CR 270, 1/2 mile south Copper Point Rd (Richard Hardy Rd.).  T2N, R7W, Sec. 23.  2025 hrs.  Collected & preserved.  Neonate. 

23

28 April, 2009. 

AOR

Baldwin, AL

SR 59, c. 2 miles south of Tensaw/jct CR 80.  AOR.  Crossing road west to east.  c. 20 inches total length.  About 7:00 pm, no photos. 

24

31 October, 2009

DOR

Baldwin, AL

CR 96 (Old Ganey Rd.), 2/10 mile north jct. CR 47.  DOR (did not collect).  2:15 pm.  Photographed. 

 

Table Summaries:

 

Months Documented

Month

# Documented

April

3

May

3

June

4

August

1

September

3

October

9

November

1

Total

24

 

 

Condition of Copperheads

AOR = Alive on road

4

DOR = Dead on road

13

RL = Random live encounters

6

RD = Random dead encounters

1

Total

24

 

 

Additional Notes & Observations:

 

  The Copperhead documented on 18 May, 1999 was collected to photograph.  I noticed that this Copperhead was very healthy and quite plump in stature and I suspected it was carrying young.  So, I kept this snake in captivity and on 14 September, 1999, between 1000 and 1400 hours, the snake gave birth to four young.  On 23 September, 1999 the young were measured and the following total body lengths were documented: 206 mm, 211 mm, 212 mm and 213 mm.  Photographs 5 and 6 are of the newborn Copperheads. 

  Also, on 2 October, 1999, one juvenile snake ate one mouse pinky.  In early October, 1999 I released the adult female and the four young near the original site that the adult was collected.

  In April and October, 2009 two additional Copperheads were documented in Baldwin County, Alabama.  Maps 2 & 3 indicate the approximate locations of these snakes.  Copperhead #23 was documented approximately 8 miles northwest of the most northwestern corner of the Florida Panhandle, in Escambia County, Florida.  Copperhead #24 was documented approximately 16 miles northwest of the most northwestern corner of the Florida Panhandle, in Escambia County, Florida.  Both of these records are significant in that they are two of the most southern documented localities for Copperheads in the State of Alabama.  Photo 7 is the DOR Copperhead #24.

 

Acknowledgments:

 

  I wish to thank two individuals for assistance and comments on Copperhead records and distribution within this report. 
  First, Jeff Beane, of the North Carolina Museum of Natural History accompanied me in the field and documented the locality information for the Houston County Alabama Copperhead. 
  Second, Paul Moler made comments of some snakes in this report and provided me locality data of other known Southern Copperhead records in northwest Florida.
  Lastly, I'd like to thank Joe Retherford for accompying me in the filed when we documented three Southern Copperheads in one day on September 23rd, 2007! 
 

Map 1.

24sep.jpg

chmap2.jpg

(Above) Map 2. The red X indicates the approximate location of Copperhead #23.
 
Both records are in extreme southwestern Alabama, in Baldwin County.
 
(Below) Map 3.  The red X indicates the approximate location of Copperhead #24.

chmap3.jpg

 
(Below) Photo 1. Adult Southern Copperhead.  Liberty Co., FL.  Torreya State Park, Rock Creek Tract.  15 October, 1999.  Second documented Copperhead of the day.

copperhead2.jpg

(Below) Photo 2. Adult Southern Copperhead.  Liberty Co., FL.  Torreya State Park, Rock Creek Tract.  15 October, 1999.  First documented Copperhead of the day.

torreyacop.jpg

(Below) Photo 3. Adult Southern Copperhead.  Jackson Co., FL.  6 August, 2006.

cop99.jpg

(Below) Photo 4. Adult Southern Copperhead.  Jackson Co., FL.  15 June, 2003.  DOR.

26june05.jpg

(Below) Photo 5.  Four newborn S. Copperheads.  Born 23 September, 1999.  Mother collected 18 May, 1999.  Liberty Co., FL.

litcops.jpg

(Below) Photo 6.  One of four newborn S. Copperheads.  Born 23 September, 1999.  Mother collected 18 May, 1999.  Liberty Co., FL.  Note the small size compared to the penny.

litcop2.jpg

ch24.jpg

(Above) Photo 7.  Copperhead #24 (DOR).  Baldwin Co., AL.

Pg. 3 Cottonmouth Observations