that we had a big argument about how likely it was to encounter copperheads in and around water a while back. Copperheads aren't aquatic, so are certainly no more likely to be found around water than any other terrestrial snake...not to say they WON'T be found around water occasionally. In 50 years or so of frequenting streams, mostly in the Ozarks where copperheads are very common, I can count on the fingers of both hands with a few digits left over the number of copperheads I've seen in and around the water. Most people don't have a clue how to ID copperheads, and so any brown snake with any kind of darker blotches is automatically a copperhead to them, meaning every common water snake.
Having said that, I wouldn't be surprised if it really was a copperhead on the stump. One of those very few times I've encountered a copperhead in the water was last spring. I was solo floating the James River in Missouri, and happened to glance upstream and saw a large snake swimming downstream toward me, a good fifty yards away. My first thought was "cottonmouth", because the snake was swimming like a cottonmouth. Cottonmouths usually swim with their whole bodies only partially submerged, as if their bodies are much lighter than the water, and their heads held a little higher and at a 45 degree angle, while common non-poisonous water snakes usually swim with only their heads out of the water, their bodies completely submerged. This one was swimming just like a cottonmouth, but it was the wrong color, and I was pretty sure it was a big copperhead because of the very bright coppery color I could see even at that distance. I turned the canoe sideways in the very slow current and watched the snake come closer and closer until it was only about six feet from the canoe. At this point, if I believed all the hype about snakes charging people, I would have been certain that was what was happening. But I knew the snake was only investigating the canoe as a possible place to get out of the water. Still, I didn't want a three foot plus copperhead coming into the canoe with me, so I pushed the paddle blade toward it. It veered away from the paddle and swam under the very front end of the canoe, out the other side, and on down to a small log jam thirty feet downstream, where it crawled out and stretched out in the sun. I paddled close and took a couple photos...beautiful snake and about the biggest copperhead I can remember seeing.
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