Look out for Copperhead snakes this summer! Heres what you need to know about identifying and avoiding the shy, but venomous, reptiles.
The summer of 2015 and 2016 were both declared the "worst summer for Copperheads yet."
Now, it looks like 2017 will be even worse
than summer 2016. After a few incidents of copperheads biting people and their pets gained media attention, many folks in Virginia are on the look out for the venomous reptiles.
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The Northern Copperhead has distinctive patterns and a green/yellow tail that often fades with maturity.[/caption]
Rich Perry, owner of Virginia Wildlife Management and Control
, said this year he started receiving calls
about Copperhead snake sighting as early as February. Typically, Perry says, the reports start coming in during the spring time, usually when it warms up in April; this year's early calls suggest an unsettling uptick in Copperhead populations, which Perry blames on a warmer winter.
The sightings have occurred all over central Virginia: In April, Paula Hood was bitten on the hand while gardening outside her home in Capitol Heights, Virginia. In late May. Mel Cawley sighted one
just outside her front door in Lake Monticello, Virginia, but escaped unscathed. She posted about it in a community Facebook page, writing "Almost stepped on a copperhead
just now on my walkway in front of my front porch. Ungated Riverside. They're nocturnal when it's hot out, apparently." Around that same time, a resident of Bluefield, Virginia removed three snakes from his property in the span of two days.
Most recently, a woman in Silver Spring, Maryland, was bitten by a Copperhead snake twice. In her own bed.
But before you panic, consider how likely it is to be bitten, and what precautions you can take to keep snakes away from your home.
How likely is it to be bitten?
The Virginia Poison Center
reported that about 50 to 75 percent of snake bite calls to the poison center involved copperheads. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
estimates that 7,000 to 8,000 Americans sustain poisonous snake bites each year in the United States. That’s a rate of about one in every 37,500 Americans
, according to the University of Florida’s Department of Wildlife Ecology & Conservation Lab. There are about six fatalities each year from snake bite in this country, and less than 15 in Virginia over a 30-year period.
What to do if you see a Copperhead or other snake
Rich Perry suggested
a few precautions to take deter Copperheads away from your home. He said, "the biggest thing that attract snakes, especially copperheads, is leaf piles, brush, debris... Don't leave that stuff laying around because they are a perfect habitat for snakes. They are literally drawn to them."
Perry also recommended cutting your grass cut low and closing your garage door when working in the yard: "If you open your garage, the snake will detect the cold air [and cool concrete] and will come on in," Perry said. Before working in the yard, he suggested making noise and rustling leaving to scare away lurking snakes. "It's always good to have heavy gloves on. And wear boots," Perry added.
John Kleopfer, a herpetologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
in Charles City County has some recommendations on how to react to snakes in more rural settings:
“There is no other group of animals that has more folklore and misinformation about them... In the United States, you are more likely to be killed by horse than a snake. So get outside and enjoy the outdoors. And if you happen to encounter a snake, just keep a safe distance and leave it alone"
If you do see a snake, keep your distance, and, if you can, snap a photo using your phone or camera. It is important to not kill snakes you encounter in the outdoors, especially before identifying them. Many species of snake, such as the black king snake, actually kill and eat venomous snakes like Copperheads.
Rich Perry of Virginia Wildlife Management and Control has launched a 24-hour snake identification hotline. If you see a snake, give them a call or text them a photo at 804-617-7086. You can also stay connected with them via Facebook
, where they actively post videos and photos of their wildlife removals, as well as answer questions. The Virginia Herpetological Society
also provides information on accurately identifying snakes!
Seen any Copperheads around your area recently? Drop a comment below and let us know!