CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – It’s a pretty common thing: you’re out doing yard work or maybe doing some spring cleaning in the garage and there it is — a snake. But before you panic, experts say the best thing you can do is leave it alone.
“If you don’t know what it is, don’t mess with it,” that’s the advice from Grover Barfield, director of Carolina Reptile Rescue & Education Center.
Barfield has been a snake expert for years. He’s no stranger to removing snakes safely from homes on a weekly basis.
But if you’re not an expert on snakes and you happen to run into one – “The first thing you should do, particularly this time of year since its mating season, is stop, look and listen,” says Barfield.
He says you should leave the snake alone and back away slowly, staying two or three feet away. He says it’s important to avoid running away if you see a snake because there might be other snakes nearby and you could accidentally step on another snake.
“There’s no need to kill any snake”
“In North Carolina, six species of snakes are threatened or endangered and it’s against the law to kill those or have those in your possession,” says Barfield.
The six venomous snakes Barfield is talking about are the copperhead, cottonmouth, timber, pigmy, and eastern diamondback rattlesnakes along with the eastern coral snake. Barfield says in Mecklenburg County, the most common venomous snake you might run into is the copperhead, but timber, rattlesnake sightings have also been recorded.
“The key things for copperheads is they can vary from a grey to a coppery brown, but their heads always have this coppery color on it, when you’re standing over them, [the head] definitely is triangular shaped,” Barfield said.
He says people sometimes mistake venomous snakes for harmless rat-snakes or even king-snakes.
“[A king-snake] is a good one to have around because they like to eat other snakes, particularly venomous snakes because they are immune to the venom,” explained Barfield.
Another snake commonly found in gardens or yards in our area – the Dekay’s Brown snake – which is harmless. But how do you figure if it’s a venomous or non-venomous snake?
“You have to take several things into consideration. You can’t just go by one thing. All non-venomous snakes can flatten their heads, spread their jaws out and look venomous, most snakes when they get upset, they’ll vibrate their tale regardless of if they have rattlers,” says Barfield.
So what’s the safest thing to do, if you see a snake and don’t know whether it’s venomous or not and you want it removed for free?
Barfield says, ‘You can go on Facebook and join the group Free Snake Removal Directory, there’s a list of experts and verified people who will come and remove the snakes.”
According to State By State Gardening. There are also 31 non-venomous species in North Carolina, for a total of 37 species.
In South Carolina, it’s illegal to kill, harm or harass a snake unless you have a permit, according to State By State Gardening.
You can find out more information about snakes in the Carolinas here.
If for some reason you think you’ve been bitten by a venomous snake, experts suggest seeking medical attention as soon as you can.
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