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  • Writer's pictureDotty Ann Harding

Snakes!!! Yikes!!!

Snakes are fascinating creatures that play an essential role in the environment. For example, they help control rodents, moles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, ticks, and other insects that can damage your home and yard. It's also an indicator of a healthy ecosystem to have a snake in your yard (or garden). However, some people may have fears or concerns about snakes, especially if they have pets that may encounter them.

Why such fear of snakes? I have never seen a snake chasing a person down the road, but I have seen dead snakes killed on that road by a motorized vehicle. Snakes usually remain out of sight, minding their own business unless disturbed, surprised, or threatened.

I remember the time I was walking in my side yard checking for snakes before allowing my dogs to venture out. In our yard, many Laurel-type trees with smallsized slender brown, oblong leaves always seemed to fall at will, regardless of the season. As I returned to retrieve my dogs, I walked within inches of a copperhead I had just passed without noticing, as the fallen leaves served well to camouflage the snake's presence. For the first time in my life, I got to experience my knees buckling, and I honestly thought I would not make it back into the house. I called out loudly for my husband because I could not believe what I had encountered, being out in the yard looking for snakes and did not see the copperhead. My husband Mark loved and respected all animals, including snakes and turtles, and he quickly came to assess the situation.. He looked out into the yard in the direction where the snake was lying, and he could not see that snake, which was perfectly camouflaged in nature. I repeated to him at least four times that the snake was ten feet away, and it wasn't until he was much closer that he saw him. The snake never moved, showing no signs of aggression throughout this ordeal, even when Mark took a large handled garden tool and gently put the snake over the fence outside the yard. I'm not recommending anyone do this, but to return to the safety of their home and let the snake slip away.

My daughter Jennifer was recently visiting and helping me with new plantings around the house when she was startled by a large garden-type snake. She felt a presence and then caught movement, which scared her, and I believe her scream startled the snake as he rapidly retreated under the fence into my neighbor's yard. Several years had passed between those two abovementioned incidents and relocation to a different home, but the response felt by all who shared these encounters remained the same.

Dogs and cats are natural predators, so they encounter snakes due to curiosity and intrigue. Inquisitive dogs often get snake bites on the face or mouth trying to pick up or bite them, as well as cats attempting to hunt outdoors. In these scenarios, the pet often has more than one bite if not deterred immediately and can be more severe than accidental encounters.

I do the following to discourage snake encounters in my yard.

· I do not plant bushes I can't see under in areas where my dogs can occupy my yard.

· Do not use Salt Hay or Pine Needle Mulch in my garden beds.

· I do not plant tall ornamental grasses

· Use hose hangers, not curling the hose up in a large container.

· No stacking wood or twig piles to use to start firepits.

· Eliminating overturned plastic kiddie pools.

· When out hiking stay on the trail and keep your pup on a leash.

· Rattlesnakes are nocturnal, meaning daytime walks are best.

Dog Snakebite Symptoms

· Snakebite marks (often on the face, neck, or legs)

· Swelling and bruising around the bite

· Sudden weakness and collapse

· Newfound aggression from the dog due to discomfort from the bite

· Bleeding from the bite

· Shock

· Unsteadiness in the hind legs

· Bloody urine

· Diarrhea

· Vomiting

· Excessive salivation or drooling from the mouth

· Dilated pupils

What To Do When Your Dog Has Been Bitten By A Snake

· Call your veterinarian to let them know what happened, and you are on your way

· If possible, take a photo of the snake; do not try to capture or contain the snake.

· Rinse the wound with water to minimize the effects of the venom.

· Keep the wound below the heart to discourage venom from spreading to other body parts.

· If your dog has stopped breathing, apply CPR; if not, you can ask for guidance when on the phone with the vet.

Rattlesnakes and coral snakebites are the most life-threatening to your dog and require anti-venom administration. Copperhead bites are typically treated with a combination of antihistamines, antibiotics, and fluid therapy.

Local Common Snakes

There are 37 species of snakes in North Carolina, and seven are venomous. The venomous snakes belong to two families: Elapids and Vipers. The only elapid snake in NC is the eastern coral snake, which has red, yellow, and black bands and a black nose. The coral snake is rare and shy, and its bite is very dangerous but uncommon. The other six venomous snakes are pit vipers.

The pit vipers in NC are

· Cottonmouth (water moccasin): A semi-aquatic snake that lives near swamps, creeks, rivers, ponds, and lakes.

· Copperhead: A terrestrial snake that inhabits wooded areas, rocky hillsides, fields, and farms. It has a copper-colored head and body with dark hourglass-shaped bands.

· Pygmy rattlesnake: A small snake that lives in pine flatwoods, sandhills, wetlands, and coastal islands. It has gray or tan coloration with dark blotches and a rattle at the end of its tail.

· Timber rattlesnake: A large snake that inhabits mountain forests, hardwood bottoms, swamps, and canebrakes. It has yellow, brown, gray, or black coloration with dark chevron-shaped bands and a rattle at the end of its tail.

· Eastern diamondback rattlesnake: The largest venomous snake in North America that lives in coastal lowlands, pine flatwoods, sandhills, and barrier islands. It has brown or black coloration with diamond-shaped markings and a rattle at the end of its tail.

Some of the most common nonvenomous snakes in coastal NC are:

· Corn snake: A terrestrial snake that lives in fields, forest openings, and abandoned farms. It has orange or brown coloration with red or black blotches.

· Black rat snake: A terrestrial snake that lives in woodlands, fields, barns, and attics. It has black coloration with white or gray markings on its belly.

· Eastern garter snake: A terrestrial snake in meadows, marshes, and woodlands.

On our Community Nextdoor, there are many photo postings of snakes where folks ask what type of snake it is and the location. This is extremely helpful as very knowledgeable folks willing to help you regularly offer replies.

Stay safe out there!

Copperhead | Rattlesnake


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