Marion County man says copperheads back again


Published Saturday, August 05, 2006

YELLVILLE (AP) - Again copperheads are gathering inexplicably on Chuck Miller's property outside Yellville.

Usually, copperheads travel together in October to dens and hibernate. But for the second summer in a row, they have come to Miller's property in remote woods in Marion County.

"All day they are all hidden," Miller says. "At night, it's like someone let them out of a bucket."

The snakes congregate among a clump of trees in Miller's yard, staying for a few hours. Most of them are males, he says.

They begin arriving about mid-July, appearing every night. Last year, they spent about a month at Miller's place, then presumably went into hibernation.

Stan Trauth, a zoology professor at Arkansas State University, began studying Miller's copperheads last year. He and a graduate student tag the snakes, and have placed temperature loggers around the property.

"We're keeping up with the temperature in a 24-hour cycle," Trauth says.

After Miller catches the snakes with a long-handled device, a graduate student takes them back to ASU, where a tracking device about the size of a grain of rice is inserted under the snakes' skin. The animals are then released back on Miller's property.

Miller says another unusual event occurred this summer - a king snake ate a copperhead. He says an ASU student using a transmitter found a tagged copperhead inside the king snake.

Copperheads are venomous and thrive in rocky, rugged habitat. The snakes' brown and tan markings help it blend in with the leaves and rocks of the Ozarks.

Although Miller spends most of his time outside, he says he has never been bitten by a poisonous snake.