The life span of the copperhead is 18 years. Both sexes reach sexual maturity at 4 years when they are about two feet in length. However, Ernst (1989) notes that the age and size of maturity in the male copperhead is unknown. The breeding season is from February to May and from August to October. Females who breed in autumn can store the sperm until after she emerges from the overwintering site (Tyning 1990). The length of time that the sperm can be stored appears to differ depending on where it is being stored. If the sperm is stored in the cloaca, it only lasts a relatively short time, whereas if it is stored in the upper end of the oviducts in vascular tissues specialized as seminal receptacles it seems to last much longer (Ernst 1989). Copperheads have a gestation period of 3-9 months. They are a live-bearing snake, typically producing 2-10 young, where larger females produce larger broods. After birth, the female provides no direct care for the young (Tyning 1990).
Females are ovoviviparous. Eggs develop in the body of the female and hatch within or immediately after being expelled. They produce large, yolk-filled eggs and store the eggs in the reproductive tract for development. The embryo, during this time, receives no nourishment from the female, only from the yolk. The young are expelled in a membranous sac. At birth they weigh less than an ounce and are 7-10 inches in length (Ohio DNR 1999).
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; ovoviviparous
Average number of offspring: 6.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
Sex: male: 730 days.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
Sex: female: 730 days.
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