Snakes have an extreme biblical bad rap; mentioned over eighty times in extremely negative connotations. After all, it was a serpent that offered Eve the “apple” in the Garden of Eden and caused the curse on all snakes followed by the subsequent curse on humanity for eternity. Imagine, if you will, carrying the weight of the downfall of humanity on your back. That is bad press on a level that is almost impossible to come back from.
As an example, my Grandmother Jenny was a saint and should have been canonized, Catholic or not. This angelic woman of such a gentle, sweet, kind, compassionate and loving nature would turn into a murderous hoe-wielding ninja in the presence of snakes. She would chop any snake in half, quarters, eighths and sixteenths with a vengeance and feel justified like she had done the community and the world in general, a favor. For her and countless others, killing snakes was the unspoken 11th commandment.
Here at Umstead State Park, we are trying to buck the tide of negative press and look charitably and dare I say admiringly, on our legless friends. We will look at the only venomous snake found in the park, the copperhead, which also is the most common venomous snake in the majority of North Carolina.
The copperhead, as well as the cottonmouth and rattlesnakes are all pit vipers with movable fangs in the front of their mouth that actually fold against the roof of their mouths when not injecting venom into prey. What makes these snakes state-of-the-art is the pits that look like holes between the eye and nostril. These pits are heat sensing organs that sense infrared radiation which is the heat produced by their prey. The downside of these amazing organs is that snakes probably have the shortest game of hide and go seek imaginable.
To identify a copperhead, look for a heavy bodied snake with a light brown body and darker hourglass shaped crossbands (some say they look like large Hershey kisses.) The top of their head is normally a solid coppery brown. In leaf litter or grass their coloring is extremely effective. Copperhead babies look like the adults but have a yellow tip to their tail.
Copperheads are found in the majority of terrestrial habitats and eat a wide variety of prey that consists of mice, voles, other snakes, frogs, lizards, birds, and even insects.
The bad news about copperheads is that they are responsible for about 80% of the snakebites on any given year in N.C. The good news is that most of those bites are avoidable when you simply leave the copperhead alone and do not mess with it. Their bite is rarely ever fatal to humans but very painful. Perhaps more painful is the medical bill if you have to get antivenom which may take six to eight vials at $2000 to $3000 a pop. Ouch indeed.
It is time to stop hating on our snake friends and appreciate how awesome they are. With a little awareness and restraint, we can all get along. View this video for a fun look at snake names.
Know more to see more,
How many copperheads do you see?
The Umstead Coalition is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
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