The battle of the corn snake vs copperhead is one that’s been going on for centuries. Here on Urban Reptiles, we don’t like people harming animals. Unfortunately, people not understanding the difference between a corn snake vs a copperhead is one of the main reasons why innocent corn snakes are killed.

In this article, we’ll go into some of the differences between the corn snake and the copper head, as well as why people not knowing the difference causes so many problems.

A corn snake telling you not to be scared and think it's a copperhead

Quick overview:

Corn snakes are much more docile than copper heads and you can usually tell the difference by behavior alone. Another big difference is the thickness of the snake. When viewed from above, copperheads are a lot thicker and their head is flatter than that of a corn snake.

A copperhead’s markings also travel much further down the side of its body than those of a corn snake. The triangular shape of the head and thicker size are the biggest giveaways though.

In general, neither of these snakes are dangerous as long as you respect their space. It’s best to make a lot of noise if you’re in a  place where venomous snakes could be present. By stomping your feet they will feel you coming from a mile away and will leave. This prevents them from feeling threatened and any close calls causing issues.

Why is the difference between corn snakes and copperheads important?

Well, mainly because a lot of innocent corn snakes are killed due to them being wrongly identified. Corn snakes are very docile and “friendly” snakes, especially when kept as pets.

It’s a shame for anyone to be killing reptiles at all, but if it’s due to a case of miss-identification it’s even more of a shame.

Next time you come across a snake you suspect may be a copperhead, then keep this article in mind and think carefully before you start trying to kill the snake!

The corn snake

Corn snakes are relatively docile snakes and are very popular in the pet trade for this exact reason. Corn snakes rank just below ball pythons when it comes to the most popular pet snakes to have.

Corn snakes present absolutely no harm to humans and will prefer to move away from you than to stand its ground. They’re a great snake to have around the garden and will help to deter pest animals and even other snakes!

The copper head

Copperheads are a little less polite and do have the tendency to strike when they feel threatened. They also possess venom which can cause some nasty side effects, but generally won’t kill a healthy adult.

These snakes are best left alone and it’s best not to agitate them if you do find yourself face-to-face with one.

Killing a copperhead isn’t necessary, in most cases it will move away in its own time.

Corn snake versus copperhead, the differences

There are a few major differences between the copperhead and the corn snake. We’re going to cover the most obvious differences to start with in order to provide you with the best ways to differentiate between the two snakes.


If you’re struggling to determine whether you have a copperhead in front of you or a corn snake, then the shape that the animal has is often a dead giveaway.

Copperheads are generally a lot thicker in the middle, while corn snakes are a lot more slender. As you move from the tail towards the head, a copperhead becomes a lot thicker in the middle of its body.

A corn snake stays pretty slim throughout the length of its body and doesn’t get much fatter in the middle.

This is a great way of determining whether you have a corn snake on your hands, versus a copperhead. The only issue with this method is that it can be hard to tell the difference between the two when they are still juveniles.


The patterns a copperhead has are quite different from a corn snake’s. The markings on a corn snake’s back do not travel very far to the side of their body, while a copperheads markings travel way down the side.

You can learn more about the differences on this site!

This article has a lot more information about the differences in the markings of copperheads vs corn snakes.

It takes some experience to be able to tell the difference straight away, so taking a look at some examples will definitely help you out!


Corn snakes are slender snakes, we’ve already covered that. However, their head is also thin and runs almost exactly in line with their body.

This means they do not have a pronounced head and this is a tell-tale sign that you’ve got a corn snake on your hands instead of a copperhead.

Copperheads, on the other hand, have much wider “adder-like” heads that are a more triangular shape. This makes them look a whole lot more menacing and dangerous too!

The only issue you have with this identification method is that corn snakes will sometimes try to flatten their head slightly to look more like a dangerous snake. This makes determining the difference a little more challenging.

Luckily, you can combine this method with the others and collect more information to determine which one it is.


This is the trickiest one and also the least effective, but it can be used as a deciding clue. A copperhead is often more likely to stand their ground and much more likely to lunge out and bite a human.

Corn snakes are much timider and will tend to leave when you bother them. This isn’t to say that some copperheads won’t either, or that all corn snakes will…

The real thing to take away from this part of the post is that if a snake isn’t aggressive, then just leave it be.

There’s no need to harm a snake at all really, especially not if they’re not doing anything to you.

Image of someone running away from a corn snake and the corn snake saying: I'm not that scary!

In a fight, who would win?

I know some of you may have come to this article thinking that you had a fight on your hands.

“Corn snake vs copperhead” it’s called! This is bound to be a great match up.

Well, most likely a copperhead would since its venom is very potent and a corn snake can’t do very much. However, it depends on the circumstances I guess. For now, let’s agree that a bird of prey or a truck would win and not get too caught up in these violent speculations ?


As you can see, there’s a big difference between copperheads and corn snakes. After reading this article, you should know exactly when you have a corn snake vs a copperhead in front of you, and vice versa.

If there’s anything you feel we’ve missed in this article, then please shoot us a message. We’re always looking to improve our resources and would love to get your feedback!

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