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Into the Outdoors: Copperheads and Butterflies

A female copperhead and her young. Notice the yellow tail tips, which are supposedly used as a hunting lure.


This week, I thought it might be fun to open with a few miscellaneous subjects, which would not necessarily to be enough for separate columns.

Since it’s one of their mating periods now, let’s take a little look at copperhead snakes, one of our state’s venomous species. They are pit vipers, and are related to rattlesnakes. They aren’t rare, but are still seldom seen. In fact, I have only ever seen one in my life, and that was while jogging along the Allegheny River.

Copperheads are ovoviviparous (now there’s a mouthful), which means that eggs hatch inside the mother and the babies are born alive. When born, they have both venom and fangs. As you can see in the photo, the young snakes have yellow tail tips. It is believed that these are used to lure frogs and other small creatures within striking range.

While deaths from copperheads are rare, a bite demands prompt medical attention. Certain other snakes, most notably the brown watersnake, are often mistaken for copperheads. Brown watersnakes are nasty, and will bite. They are not poisonous, but the bite is prone to infection.

It has been a great summer for seeing butterflies. I am, however, somewhat disappointed that I have not seen even one monarch. From what I have read, the species is in trouble, mainly because of herbicides being used to kill milkweed. Adult monarchs feed from a variety of flowers, but the caterpillars must have milkweed. I’m thinking of trying to plant some for next year. I should note that I find it extremely hard to photograph butterflies. They are pretty shy little critters. I am featuring a photo of a tiger swallowtail, but I didn’t take it. (left)

One of the most depressing things about this time of year, at least for me, is the disappearance of birds, especially robins. When the grass gets mowed, the yard is full of robins. After the last mowing, I didn’t see a single one. That is a sad sign.

I had lunch today with an old friend. After we solved all of the world’s problems, we got to talking about fishing, and what a terrible year it has been. Due to so much rain, the river has been high and muddy most of the time, just as have the streams. My son and I went to our favorite bluegill pond, and it was high, as well as being muddy several feet out from shore. Just not good.

With geezer season just around the corner, the old trigger finger is getting a bit itchy, although not as itchy as it would have been forty or so years ago. Ever since the Covid, I have found that I tire more easily, and don’t know if I could drag a deer out. Fortunately, my son is willing to help me. The early season is the best one for me, as I find myself increasingly intolerant of cold. I still like venison, though.

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