Predator vs. Pray: Kingsnake vs. Copperhead

By | June 1, 2012
From Xplor: June/July 2012

The struggle to survive isn't always a fair fight. Here's what separates nature's winners from its losers.

Injection Protection

A kingsnake doesn’t let a snakebite stand in the way of dinner. Kingsnakes are immune to venom from all of Missouri’s pit vipers, including copperheads.

Venom Injection

Copperheads deploy sharp, hollow fangs to pump venom deep inside prey or predators. The toxic cocktail causes internal bleeding and harms organs.

Invisible Skin

A copperhead’s tan and brown pattern makes it nearly invisible among leaves on the forest floor and helps it hide from predators and prey.

Sixth Sense

Pit organs detect heat given off by living things, helping a copperhead “see” prey and predators even in total darkness.

Killer Coils

Kingsnakes loop around their prey and squeeze, tightening their coils until prey can’t breathe. They don’t quit squeezing until they feel their victims’ hearts stop beating.

Smelly Tongue

A kingsnake gathers scents on its flicking tongue and uses an organ in its mouth to identify the odors. This organ is so sensitive, a snake can tell whether a smell is stronger on the right or left fork of its tongue.

And the winner is...

Large copperheads can hold their own, but little ones are no match against a kingsnake’s big squeeze. This copperhead has drawn its final breath.

And More...

This Issue's Staff

David Besenger
Bonnie Chasteen
Chris Cloyd
Peg Craft
Brett Dufur
Les Fortenberry
Chris Haefke
Karen Hudson
Regina Knauer
Kevin Lanahan
Kevin Muenks
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
Tim Smith
David Stonner
Nichole LeClair Terrill
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White
Kipp Woods