Missouri researchers tracking copperhead snakes across the state

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KIRKWOOD, Mo. – Tracking copperhead snakes. Many of you may not be keen on the idea but the Missouri Department of Conservation is putting trackers on the venomous snakes.

Dr. Ben Jellen, an associate professor of biology at the St. Louis College of Pharmacy, visited Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center Thursday morning on a quest to find copperheads.

“There are radio transmitters inside the snakes, so we can follow their movements, where they hibernate, and their ecology and population numbers as well,” he said. “That signal, we’re able to hopefully locate what they’re doing today.”

The snake’s coloration allows them to blend in perfectly with the dead leaves of a forest floor. You can identify these pit vipers by the dark brown markings along their backs that are shaped like a bow tie or hourglass. These medium-sized snakes—about 24 to 36 inches long—are as afraid of you as you are them.

Jellen regularly brings his students out into nature to find copperheads.

The St. Louis Zoo recently performed surgery on three snakes at Powder Valley, inserting tiny transmitters to help track their movements.

Copperheads eat rodents, voles, and mice; think of them as a natural controller of destructive rodents.

“With venomous snakes, there are a lot of toxins that are in the venom that can be used for medicine, particularly cancer as well, people are looking into things like that,” Jellen said.

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