Health Team

Snake bites common in N.C.

Posted July 7, 2010

North Carolina leads the nation in the number of people bitten annually by snakes, both venomous and non-venomous.
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— North Carolina leads the nation in the number of people annually bitten by snakes, both venomous and non-venomous.

People can take some steps to avoid being bitten and learn how to treat snake bites.

"A number of bites I see in the (emergency room) are the result of either people walking around barefoot in the yard or people walking around in flip-flops," said Dr. Ben German, an emergency room physician at WakeMed in Raleigh.

German, who also is a snake hobbyist, said snakes bite only when they're surprised and feel threatened. He advised people to watch where they walk and to be careful about picking up objects in the yard.

Whenever a snake is seen, don't try to handle it – just leave it alone and keep children and pets away from it.

If someone is bitten, don't try the old first aid tip for snake bites of cutting into the bite to try to suck the venom out.

Snake in the grass Snake bites common in N.C.

"From the moment you're bitten, call 911 or have someone call 911," German said, adding that people who have encountered one snake need to be alert for a second snake nearby.

If needed, anti-venom administered at a hospital can save a limb. There's no need to bring the snake to the hospital as well, German said, and people shouldn't try to kill the animal.

"I don't kill them. It wasn't the snake's fault," said Grover Barfield, director of the Carolinas Reptile Rescue and Education Center in Mount Holly, who was bitten by a venomous water moccasin eight years ago.

"I spent two to three nights in intensive care (and received) 10 vials of anti-venom," he said.

Water moccasins, also known as cottonmouths, are found primarily in swampy areas of North Carolina, while timber rattlesnakes are found in the mountains and coastal plains.

Meanwhile, copperheads can be found anywhere in the state. Barfield said their bite can be serious but is rarely life-threatening.


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  • wp Jul 14, 2010

    Not kill them. I think he's crazy. I see one, it dies. Just like the copperhead I almost stepped on beside my car this week. He is no longer of this world!!!

  • jamie6 Jul 13, 2010

    We had a "snake encounter" in our garage last weekend in Lochmere. The snake had a viper-shaped head and both of us believe we saw it have a rattle. I know that rattlers are not common (if at all) in this area. We decided to give it some space and it eventually left. We always wear shoes in the garage now!

    Interesting, we called the police (just like you see on TV). They said that since the snake was not in the dwelling itself they could not do anything and suggested we call a pest removal. They were very nice and helpful, though.

  • grasshopperrtp2 Jul 13, 2010

    I was told a few years ago that the copperhead is on the endangered species list.It is against the law to kill one.I think you have the right to defend yourself against one if you must be you can't just go out and kill one.

  • sweet4you Jul 13, 2010

    Weetie I am with you.

  • Preebok Jul 13, 2010

    Awww... They can't help what they were born as...

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Jul 13, 2010

    nsakher: "Where in NC are you all located that have seen poisonous snakes? Just curious. I live in Apex and have seen black snakes (rat and racer), but that is it."

    Go to your local park. There's almost always a creek or ditch running through the park. You'll find poisonous snakes in this area, especially if its wooded. I've seen plenty at Bond Park near the baseball fields. Black Snakes and Copperheads. Very dangerous as kids run into the woods near small creeks to retrieve baseballs.

  • fisunt Jul 12, 2010

    nsaker I've seen quite a few poisonous snakes in Apex. Year before last when they were disturbing the area near us clearing and building a new neighborhood I killed 7 copperheads from a few inches long to three feet long. All in my yard, and one on my parking pad. Killed one in the woods year before that. Haven't seen any this year and only a couple last year but be careful especially now that it is so dry. They seem to travel a bit more in search of water I guess, as I see more when it is so dry.

  • pjnoobie2 Jul 9, 2010

    I kill them all...if they are in my yard...die...if they are in their territory...then I'll leave them be...I dont kill green snakes..they are so cute...

  • Shadow213 Jul 9, 2010

    nsakher-- COPPERHEADS! Let's just say I've seen quite a few in my lifetime in these areas. Also seen 2 or three cottonmouths, too-- but they are always in/around crabtree creek. Copperheads can be anywhere. Just watch where you (and your kids/pets) step!

  • Weetie Jul 9, 2010

    Little, big, poisonous or non-poisonous, black, green or pink - A snake is a snake and the best snake is a DEAD SNAKE!