Australian Copperhead

Austrelaps is a genus of venomous elapid snakes native to the relatively fertile, temperate, southern and eastern part of the Australian continent. Three species are currently recognized, with no subspecies. They are commonly called copperheads or Australian copperheads. Despite sharing a name with the American copperhead, Agkistrodon contortrix, they are not related.

The three species of Australian copperheads, i.e., the pygmy, highlands, and common copperheads, vary in size. The pygmy copperhead is 60 cm (2 ft) long, and lives in South Australia and on Kangaroo Island. The highlands copperhead is 1.25 m (4 ft) in length and lives in northern Victoria to southern New South Wales. The common copperhead reaches 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in) in length and lives in southern Victoria into Tasmania.

Australian copperheads are usually of medium size, 1.4-1.7 m (4.5-5.5 feet), only rarely being more than 1.8 m (6 ft) long, and have a moderate build. Their colour varies a great deal, from a coppery mid-brown to yellowish, reddish, grey or even black, depending on the individual. The copper head colouring that gave rise to the common name is sometimes present, sometimes not. Some individuals also have visible markings just behind the head. Perhaps in consequence of this great variation, it was not realised until the second half of the 20th century that there were in fact three different species.

Common names include copperhead, diamond snake, superb snake, lowland snake, and highland snake.