Local News

Few Poisonous Snakes Slither Through North Carolina

Posted June 4, 1999

— Snakes like to hide under bushes, in brush, or in wood piles. It is also important to know that there are 35 different species of harmless snakes in North Carolina, and just six species that are poisonous: Copperhead, Cotton Mouth, Coral snake, and three different types of rattlesnakes.

Jenny Holder, 8, was bitten by a copperhead snake in her backyard three summers ago. She says the snakebite felt "like a really sharp knife."

Most snakes in North Carolina, like the mole king snake, are harmless, but the best rule of thumb is to leave them alone.

It is easy to confuse a harmless snake with a poisonous one. David Davenport, curator at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, says poisonous snakes generally have triangular heads that are slightly bigger than their necks.

"They only bite in defense, if they feel threatened," he says.

Despite their reputation, snakes are valuable because they eat rodents, "so they're important in keeping the balance, nature's balance," says Davenport.

Jenny has come up with her own way to balance the snake kingdom and her personal safety.

"Most of the time I wear tennis shoes [in the backyard]," she said, "and my dad tries to keep the grass pretty short."

If bitten by a snake, experts suggest going to the hospital immediately. Do not try to handle it by yourself like they do in the movies.

The new Museum of Sciences opens in April 2000. It will have an exhibit with poisonous snakes and their harmless look-alikes side by side to help people distinguish between the two.

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