Local News

Hospital ER Offers Proof Snake Season Has Begun

Posted May 24, 2004

— Winter is long gone. Spring is dwindling.

Welcome to snake season -- the time of year when bites spike.

The hot weather and beginning of the yard-work season led to a lot of snake bites over the weekend.

This month, Rex Hospital's emergency room has seen six snake-bite patients. That is two more than it saw in all of May last year.

"That's probably a little bit more than what we see this early," Dr. Brian Quigley said. "But, again, the weather is starting to heat up a little bit earlier than it usually does."

Alvin Braswell, curator of reptiles and amphibians at the

North Carolina Museum of Natural Science,

said snakes are a lot like people in one way: they stay put when the weather is hot.

As the sun goes down, they get out and move around.

That is when man and serpent often meet.

"You don't have to be paranoid," Braswell said. "But you do have to be careful. And be aware that there are

copperheads

out there."

Copperheads can be found on the edge of forests and nearby property. Braswell said their bite, though painful, is rarely fatal.

Copperheads are responsible for more venomous snake bites in the eastern United States than all other venomous snakes combined.

It is important to identify the snake that bit you, so doctors can prescribe the right anti-venom.

Many snakes share the same color, but copperheads have a distinctive pattern. Their bands are

narrow on the middle of the back and wider on the side of the body

-- like an hour glass or saddlebags.

Knowing what copperheads look like, and where and when they travel, could keep you far from their fangs.

There also are

important things to remember if you are bitten by a snake.

Primarily, don't panic and -- unlike the old Western movies -- do not try to remove the venom on your own.

Of the 37 species of snakes in North Carolina, only six are venomous.

Copperheads and

timber rattlesnakes

are found throughout the state.

Eastern diamondback

and

pigmy rattlesnakes

are more common in the Southeast.

The

coral snake

is seen in Southern and Southeastern areas, while the

Cottonmouth

-- or water moccasin -- primarily is found in the Eastern half of North Carolina.

According to the

Food and Drug Administration,

about 8,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes each year. Of that number, between nine and 15 die. In fact, more people die from wasp or bee stings.

Reporter/Photographer

Rick Armstrong

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