Vol. 15 No. 1 (2020)
Articles

Don’t tread on me: an examination of the anti-predatory behavior of Eastern Copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix)

Andrew Adams
STEM Division, Harford Community College, 401 Thomas Run Road, Bel Air, Maryland, 21015, USA
John Garrison
Susquehannock Wildlife Society, 1725 Trappe Church Road, Darlington, Maryland, 21034, USA
Scott McDaniel
Susquehannock Wildlife Society, 1725 Trappe Church Road, Darlington, Maryland, 21034, USA
Emily Bueche
Susquehannock Wildlife Society, 1725 Trappe Church Road, Darlington, Maryland, 21034, USA
Hunter Howell
Susquehannock Wildlife Society, 1725 Trappe Church Road, Darlington, Maryland, 21034, USA
Published May 17, 2020
Keywords
  • Human-wildlife conflict,
  • optimality theory,
  • venomous species,
  • Viper,
  • Viperidae
How to Cite
Adams, A., Garrison, J., McDaniel, S., Bueche, E., & Howell, H. (2020). Don’t tread on me: an examination of the anti-predatory behavior of Eastern Copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix). Acta Herpetologica, 15(1), 31-37. https://doi.org/10.13128/a_h-7757

Abstract

Venomous snake species across the globe have been historically categorized as aggressive and dangerous, leading to widespread persecution and killings. Despite the conservation importance of educating the public about the docile nature of these species, few studies have attempted to quantify the response of viperid species to human interactions. Here we report the responses of free-ranging copperheads to a potential human encounter using a set of hierarchical behavioral trials. Out of a total of 69 snakes, only two individuals feigned striking and only two attempted to bite (3% of all individuals). Our results support the findings of previous studies documenting the docile nature of other viperid species and can hopefully be used to change the public perception of venomous snakes. Convincing the public and policy makers that viperid species are docile is critical to long-term conservation of these species in the U.S. and around the globe.

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