The struggle to survive isn't always a fair fight. Here's what separates nature's winners from its losers.
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.
Copperheads deploy sharp, hollow fangs to pump venom deep inside prey or predators. The toxic cocktail causes internal bleeding and harms organs.
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.
Pit organs detect heat given off by living things, helping a copperhead “see” prey and predators even in total darkness.
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.
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.
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.
Nichole LeClair Terrill