Venomous copperhead snake spotted in Lancaster County; what to do if you see one


RAPHO TOWNSHIP, Pa. (WHTM) — Keep your eyes open while hiking and biking this summer.

A local reptile expert found a venomous copperhead snake on a popular trail Tuesday.

There are 21 snake species in Pennsylvania. Two in the Midstate are venomous, but if you watch where you’re walking and biking, you should be fine.

May through September is when snakes are most active in Pennsylvania.

“Snakes really don’t want to bother us, don’t want to interact with us, but we need to be aware when we’re out on these trails, that we have left our living room and we are now in their living room,” said Jesse Rothacker, president of Forgotten Friend Reptile Sanctuary.

Rothacker came across a Northern copperhead snake on Tuesday.

“I cannot tell you how overjoyed I am to see this,” Rothacker said in an instructional video posted to YouTube. “This is not only my first one of the year. This is actually the first one in my life that’s small enough to have its bright yellow tail.”

That’s one of the two venomous snakes in the Midstate. The other is a Timber rattlesnake, which is easily identifiable because of the rattle.

“Look at that neat Hershey kiss pattern. The Hershey kiss pattern is the way I like to identify copperheads,” Rothacker said.

Rothacker says if you see a snake, just step back and give them 10 feet of distance.

“They’re great predators that help keep down populations in our woods, in and around your homes even, you may not (have) even heard about it, but it’s not something that we want to be out picking up,” said Gavin Smith, assistant park manager at Gifford Pinchot State Park.

Rothacker did help the copperhead to the other side of the trail, but for anyone else not experienced with reptiles, it’s important not to touch them or feed them.

“We don’t want to underestimate the potential danger of any wildlife you might encounter,” Smith said. “And that’s from a bird protecting its nest to the insects that we might encounter from time to time.”

Other reptiles you might see include snapping turtles. May and June is turtle nesting season.

“And they’re going to be laying their eggs,” Rothacker said. “If you see a turtle digging a hole with her back legs, remember reptile nests are protected by law in Pennsylvania.”

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