Mallory Maher loves snakes. She considers copperheads beautiful creatures with important work of keeping rodents in check in the wild.
In the wild is the key phrase for the Natural Resources Extension associate for Clemson Extension Service.
She doesn’t recommend them as pets.
But the truth is, South Carolina says yes to copperheads and other venomous snakes as pets. Many states do, too.
“South Carolina has zero snake law,” Maher said. “It’s sort of creepy that your neighbor could have a copperhead in their house.”
She said most private keepers of venomous snakes are nature centers or collectors of many different species.
Andrew Grosse, South Carolina’s State Herpetologist, said while there is no permit required, there are laws against having — and especially releasing — non native species of any kind. Copperheads are native.
Should you want a copperhead as a pet, the website Regarding Reptiles has the information you need. Copperheads are considered a good starter pet among venomous snakes because their venom is not as potent as others like cottonmouths, the website said. And they’re the most common venomous snake in the state, but don’t think you’re ever going to tame them.
They grow to about 3 feet, which would mean you’d need at least a 30 gallon or 3 foot long tank to hold it. A 55 gallon (4 feet) tank is even better.
If you want to not stress the animal, give it hiding spaces and half logs. The website recommends making the tank look as natural as possible. They even go so far as to suggest you keep the foliage looking like the season you’re in.
Here’s something you don’t see everywhere regarding pets. Label the tank and keep information about what nearby hospital has antivenom.
You’ll need small rats or large mice for their dining pleasure, once every 10 days for adults, every week for babies. Don’t overfeed. They can get fat.
Don’t handle them with your bare hands. Use a snake hook or, Maher recommends, a golf club, which she said is the best way to get them out of your yard if you must.
Don’t handle them alone and only when absolutely necessary, the website said.
“Copperheads are a little more high strung than your average nonvenomous snake,” Regarding Reptiles said. “They’re a little more on edge and nervous, but when calm they can be fairly docile.”
To gauge their level of annoyance, look for a vibrating tail, jerky movements, pulling their head back, quick and sudden changes of direction.
Regarding Reptiles website wants you to remember this: “As a pet owner, you are not only responsible for your own safety, but also for the safety and well being of others.”
Don’t let it get out.