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Researchers Studying Copperheads At Red River Gorge

copperhead snake
Chuck Burton
Copperhead snakes can be found as far north as New England and as far south as Mexico.

A team of researchers at Eastern Kentucky University is leading an ongoing study of copperhead snakes in Red River Gorge.

The goal is to learn more about the snakes and minimize their interaction with the tourists.

Copperheads are fairly common in eastern Kentucky, according to Dr. Stephen Richter, associate director of EKU’s Division of Natural Areas and biology professor. Richter's team at EKU is studying the snakes for a variety of reasons. He says the snakes are being looked at in Red River Gorge, not because they are abundant there, but because it's a popular tourist destination. He says eight snakes with radio transmitters have been released back into the gorge.

"And with that, we're able to track them from up to or over just a half a mile away," he explains. "So we can see larger areas they use outside of those recreational areas. And how much time they're spending in recreational areas versus non-recreational."

Dr. Richter also has some practical tips to avoid getting bit by a copperhead. "Be able to see where you're putting your hands and your feet. So if there's a log across a trail and stepping over it, to make sure there's nothing under it. If you're climbing, that you see where you're putting your hands if there's a larger crevice. That you're not rolling over logs or rocks without seeing where you're putting your hands."

Dr. Richter says copperheads are one of the least venomous snakes but if you are bitten, take it seriously and go to the hospital or call 911. The study includes participation by the U.S. Forest Service, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Louisville Zoo.

This story first appeared on WEKU. For more stories like this, visit weku.fm now