It is that time of year again, the weather warms up, the trees and flowers blooms, and…the snakes come out. Like many people, the latter gives me heart palpitations. I am completely terrified, I mean phobic of snakes, even the littlest, non-venomous variety.
Snakes aren’t going anywhere though and particularly if you live south of the Mason-Dixon where the climate is warmer longer, you have to be smart and aware and you plan your outdoor activities. Here in North Carolina, we are lucky enough to have approximately 37 species of snakes. Six species out of those 37 are venomous. Only 3 out of the 6 venomous varieties are found in the Piedmont region (that’s where we are). The three venomous snakes that you could have the unfortunate luck of bumping into around here (Oh, hey! Nice to meet you, please don’t bite me and afflict permanent nerve damage to me limbs.) are Copperheads, Rattlesnakes and sometimes Cottonmouths, although the Eastern part of the state most commonly gets the pleasure of their company.
Each year around this time, I hear lots of people talking about snakes in person and on social media. The unfortunate thing is, there is always a lot of misinformation that accompanies the discussion. Now, as stated above, I don’t ever want to bump into a snake, so talking about them isn’t really at the top of my list either, but I truly believe in the importance of being informed. As also stated above, snakes are here to stay and if I am outside playing with my toddler and see a snake, I want to know exactly what I am dealing with.
I reached out to Jeana Myers, a Horticulture Agent for Wake County and she was kind enough to send me some information and answer a few of the questions I had.
Q: I often hear that baby copperheads are the most dangerous because they cannot control their venom. Is this accurate?
A: There is partial truth that baby copperheads are the most dangerous because they cannot control their venom, or at least the research is not certain. Adults will have more venom than young snakes, so in terms of quantity, they have potential for inflicting more harm. Adults have shown some signs of choosing how much to venom to use, although the reasons for this are not known. There is a good deal of variation among snakes as to how much venom they deliver, even among young snakes or among older snakes. Bottom line is, baby copperheads can deliver a serious bite so avoid them just as you would an adult.
Q: I have heard that king snakes or “black snakes” keep other snakes away. Is this true?
A: King snakes and black racers are predators of other snakes such as copperheads.
Q: What is the best thing to do if a snake should somehow get into your garage or house?
A: If a snake gets into your home or garage, leave a door open so it can escape and call an animal control officer. Do not attempt to catch the snakeyourself as most snakebites occur at this time.
Q: What is the best thing to do if you spot a likely poisonous snake in your yard?
A: If a poisonous snake is seen in your yard, the best thing to do is scout your yard and clear out any woodpiles, overgrown weedy areas, ground covers such as English ivy or other places that snakes like to live within. This work is best done during winter months when the danger of coming across an active snake is unlikely. During warm months, keep areas around the house mowed and cleared.
Jeana also shared some great links with me that contain very informative and comprehensive information on snakes that you will find in North Carolina and our region. This information is all free and available through the NC Cooperative Extension.
Book mark this page on your phone as contains several photos of adult and young snakes of each common species.
Copperheads are likely the biggest concern as far as venomous snakes go for us in the Triangle. Favorite hiding places for Copperheads include wood piles, compost, piles, decaying stumps and abandoned debris. Have something like in your backyard? Might want to consider some spring cleaning. To the left is a picture of a baby Copperhead. A couple things to note about this photo are the uniquely yellow tipped tail and also the size…look at the ant next to the snake in the picture.
So what is the best way to prevent snakes in your yard? The truth is, you can’t really prevent them because they are just part of nature. Snakes prefer to avoid humans and remain hidden though, so keep your grass and vegetation trimmed and clear and keep your yard free of brush piles and debris. Also, don’t leave out any potential food sources for rodents, who are food sources for the snakes! More information and tips here: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/gaston/Pests/reptiles/copperhead.htm .
A big thank you to Jeana Myers, Horticulture Agent for Wake County and the NC Cooperative Extension for taking the time to share their expertise and such comprehensive information with us.