COPPERHEADS


  • Common (Lowland) copperhead Austrelaps superbus
  • Pygmy (Dwarf or Adelaide Hills) copperhead Austrelaps labialis
  • Highlands (Alpine) copperhead Austrelaps ramsayi

This information should be read in conjunction with the detailed background information on Australian snakebite.

Antivenom

Tiger Snake: 1 ampoule

Bite Site

? 70% effective bite, ? minimal local pain

Principle venom effect

Predominantly paralysis, minor myolysis, mild coagulopathy

Copperheads have a limited distribution in SE Australia in wetter, cooler areas in the upper reaches of mountain ranges, usually around swamps and very few bites are recorded. For the NSW species, Austrelaps ramsayi, it appears that bites may result in quite severe envenomation, akin to that seen with tiger snake bites. They should therefore be considered as potentially lethal.

Heavily built snakes, reddish or coppery-brown to black and striped upper lip.

Relatively little is known about copperhead venom. For practical purposes, it should be considered similar to tiger snake venom but a little less potent. In severe envenomation, paralysis could be expected, but coagulopathy, myolysis and renal failure are uncertain.
NOTE: May give positive result in both tiger snake and black snake tubes of Venom Detection Kit.

Preferred antivenom is CSL Tiger Snake Antivenom.

REFERENCES


Shea GM. The distribution and identification of dangerously venomous Australian terrestrial snakes. Aust.Vet.J. 1999;77(12):791-8.
Sutherland SK, Tibballs J. Treatment of snake bite in Australia. In: Sutherland SK, Tibballs J, editors. Australian Animal Toxins. 2nd ed. Melbourne: Oxford University Press; 2001. p. 286-342.
White J. Clinical Toxicology of Snakebite in Australia and New Guinea. In: Meier J, White J, editors. Handbook of Clinical Toxicology of Animal Venoms and Poisons. 1st ed. New York: CRC Press; 1995. p. 595-618.