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Congratulations, it's a Baby Copperhead!

October 20, 2010 at 12:51:pm
Congratulations, it's a Baby Copperhead!
A young copperhead

Hot off the press!  The WNC Nature Center now proudly displaying the latest additions to our reptilian family, a female copperhead snake and her new born baby!  Check out the press release below for more details.

Copperhead Babies an Exciting Surprise for Western North Carolina Nature Center

Asheville, NC – Sunday August 1st proved to be a special day at the Western North Carolina Nature Center.

Several months prior, on April 20th, the Nature Center received a female copperhead with the plan of introducing her in with another female already on exhibit.  What wasn’t known at the time was that she was carrying several eggs.  “We had been planning on adding a dark-phased copperhead to our exhibit to join our light-phased for many months” notes Savannah Trantham, herpetologist at the Nature Center. “The female was in our reptile quarantine area when we noticed she was getting bulkier” continues Trantham.  The Nature Center’s health staff decided to palpate her to determine the cause of this “bulk”.  The procedure revealed that she was indeed gravid -- reptile-speak for carrying eggs.  “Even though a snake may be gravid” says Trantham “it doesn’t mean that she will successfully produce babies.  Often, the eggs do not develop fully and the female re-absorbs them.”  Copperheads are ovoviparus which means their eggs actually break when they are being laid producing a sort of live birth.  Many snakes produce eggs which are incubated and later hatch.

When Trantham made her daily rounds on August 1st, she discovered a surprise – baby copperheads!  The youngsters were born sometime between Saturday night’s final check and Sunday morning’s early check.  The young were immediately removed from the exhibit and put in individual exhibit containers.  “Young copperheads can be very aggressive and active,” says Trantham.  "They are also born with a nice compliment of venom so we wanted to take make sure they were put in a container where they could be monitored and secured in the same way we secure our adults for our security and theirs.”

Surprisingly, young copperheads are in many ways more dangerous than their parents.  Often, an adult copperhead will deliver a “dry bite” meaning their bite doesn’t inject venom into the victim.  Not so with the babies - they do all that they can to protect themselves, even if it means giving up their venom reserve.

The copperhead babies represent the first ones to be born at the Nature Center in many years.  Working through local wildlife authorities, the decision was made to release three of the youngsters in Madison County – where the mom originally came from.  The other will be on display in Appalachian Station starting this Saturday October 23rd as part of the annual Howl-O-Ween event.

The Western North Carolina Nature Center features over 250 animals native to the Southern Appalachians including red wolves, otters, birds of prey, black bears, and reptiles.  The Nature Center is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and welcomes over 80,000 visitors annually.

For more information, contact Chris Gentile, Director of the Western North Carolina Nature Center, at 828-298-5600.

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