As copperhead sightings rise in Onslow, what to know about the poisonous snake

Biologist Jeff Hall said he hears a lot about copperheads

Biologist Jeff Hall said he often hears the copperhead markings described as a line of Hershey kisses.

As Onslow’s weather warms, snake activity also increases, and residents have their eyes on one species in particular: the copperhead.

Jeff Hall, a biologist with the North Carolina Wildlife Commission, said copperheads can survive in a wide variety of habitat types, including where people live. He said this was partly due to their varied diet.

“Because they eat all these different types of prey, they can live in a lot of different places, and they’re quite adaptable,” Hall said. “Relatively speaking, it’s a common species statewide, and eastern North Carolina is certainly no different from that.

Hall said copperheads eat everything from insect larvae, to amphibians like frogs and salamanders, to other reptiles like lizards and small snakes, to birds and a variety of small mammals.

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“Unlike some larger snake species, they seem to tolerate human development reasonably well,” Hall said. “As long as there’s a little stick of wood here, a little stream or a drain there, something like that, you know, you’re going to see copper heads around.”

However, copperheads are not as dangerous as many might think.

Hall said that although copperheads are venomous, they are quite low in terms of danger level and there has only ever been one recorded death in North Carolina. That death, according to Hall, was that of a one-year-old child in the 1950s.

He said that although the effective dose of a Copperhead is generally not a big deal for most healthy adults, any time you are bitten by a potentially venomous snake seek medical attention.

“There’s no reason anyone who thinks they’ve been bitten by a poisonous snake shouldn’t go to the doctor,” Hall said.

“It’s not something people need to worry about dying, but there can be some sort of complications like tissue damage or things of that nature. So if you’re bitten, you definitely want see a doctor.”

Hall recommended against using tourniquets or any of the old “suck and cut” tools, as they can cause more harm than good.

Residents of Onslow are posting their sightings on Facebook, and Hall said they’re much more afraid of you than you are of them.

Hubert resident Sadie Floyd encountered a copperhead outside her home last week.

Hubert resident Sadie Floyd encountered a copperhead outside her home last week.

“Most snake species, copperheads included, are pretty low on the food chain,” Hall said. “So there are a lot of things that want to eat them. So therefore camouflage is of monumental importance to all species of snakes. Their goal is to try and stay hidden at all times, if they can.”

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Hall said the Copperheads would come out if they were looking for water, a place to hide, a mate, or something to eat. He said these cases usually occur when spotted by residents.

“If we get out of their way, they’re going to go ahead and do whatever they need to do and we don’t need to have any issues with that,” Hall said. “If we give animals time and space, they will usually move on and move away.”

Hall said of noticing the size difference between snakes and humans, and realizing that snakes are usually afraid to eat lunch when they see a human.

“Generally speaking, when people have encounters with snakes that they’re afraid of, it’s because the snake is defensive, because it’s afraid it will turn into a meal,” Hall said. “One of the most important things people can do to help learn and learn about their surroundings is to learn about the species of snakes that are found in the area where they live.”

Hall said this was important because brass heads are often misidentified.

“Almost every time someone sees a snake and they don’t know what it is, they assume it’s a copperhead,” Hall said. “It’s just not, it’s very very often that it’s not true.”

Hall said the often misidentified snakes are juvenile ratsnakes and juvenile black racers. Although they both have spotted patterns, adult black racers are solid black, while ratsnakes are gray-green in color with four black bands running down the length of the body, at least in the Onslow County area, Hall said.

On the other hand, Hall said that copper heads have bands running around their sides, in the shape of an hourglass.

“I’ve had people say if you look to the side, it looks like a row of Hershey kisses to the side,” Hall said. “If you see a snake that has spots, not bands, it won’t be a copperhead.”

Copperheads are fairly low on the venom spectrum, with only one death recorded in North Carolina.

Copperheads are fairly low on the venom spectrum, with only one death recorded in North Carolina.

Hall added that freshly hatched copperheads, often seen in late summer and early fall, have brightly colored tail tips, usually bright yellow or chartreuse.

“So if you see a little banded snake that has a brightly colored tip of its tail, like I said, this brightly colored green, then you know for sure it’s a copper head,” said Hall said.

For those hoping to keep the little guys out of their yards and homes, Hall said there’s really nothing you can do to make sure you never see one, but there are ways to cut back. the chances.

He said it was a good idea to check around your house to make sure there were no gaps or holes, and to remove brush piles or piles of wood/debris , as snakes and other small animals tend to like hanging out there.

“The other thing you can do is not mulch around your house a lot or have a lot of bushes around your house,” Hall said. “Another thing they can do is mow their grass a little more frequently, keeping it as low as possible. Basically, a yard with grass is a wasteland for most wildlife.”

Hall added that if a snake shows up in your manicured yard, it won’t stay around for long. However, he said that if you have bird feeders, you should probably remove them if you want to make sure snakes stay out of your yard.

“Absolutely petrified people should remove anything from their garden that could potentially attract wildlife,” Hall said.

Hall encouraged residents to learn more about the snakes in the area and to realize that they are part of ENC wildlife, that they can be enjoyed.

“Snakes have fascinating lives,” Hall said. “They have fascinating behaviors, and a lot of them are very nicely colored like corn snakes and hog-nosed snakes, so if people learn a little more about them and become a little less fearful, they can also be enjoyed as part of our state’s wildlife.”

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For those wishing to learn more about the types of snakes in Onslow, or to identify the slippery creature in your garden, visit herpsofnc.org.

Additionally, Hall said the Wildlife Commission is trying to keep up with rattlesnakes in the area and encouraged residents to report sightings. If you see a rattlesnake, report the sighting to rattlesnake@ncwildlife.org.

Journalist Morgan Starling can be reached at mstarling@gannett.com

This article originally appeared on The Daily News: Copperhead sightings increase in Onslow: what you need to know about the snake

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