Copperheads are the most common venomous snakes in North Carolina. Hey, there is even a roller coaster at Carowinds that shares its name with the creatures. The snakes begin to appear in the spring as the weather gets warmer. But it isn’t until later in the summer, around late August that the baby copperheads start to arrive. But what should you do if you come across one of these snakes? Probably not what I did when I turned around in my parents’ garage last summer and was face to face with one. I lept over the snake, and ran, my dad, did kill it though. I on the other hand didn’t venture into their garage again until after the first freeze of the year.
Baby copperheads are mostly born in late August or early September although the exact timing depends on the weather. Unlike other snakes, they are born live, not hatched from eggs. Female copperheads have one litter per year consisting of 2-18 snakes. The newborn snakes are 8-10 inches long. While baby copperheads do look like their older counterparts, they have a bright yellow-green tail.
It’s a well-circulated rumor that a bite from a young snake is more dangerous than that of an adult. The thinking behind this is that the young snakes aren’t able to control the amount of venom. This may or may not be true. While young snakes are possibly less able to control their venom they also don’t have as much at their disposal. If the intent of the bite is to kill the bite will be stronger than if the snake feels threatened. Also, keep in mind that bites from babies aren’t as common as from adults. While copperhead bites can be dangerous they aren’t typically fatal.
The US Army has some good advice listed on their website about how to look out for snakes and what to do if you encounter one.
- Use the buddy system when walking or running on trails near wooded areas.
- Do not step or put your hands where you cannot see.
- Wear over-the-ankle boots, thick socks and long loose pants, especially when venturing off of heavily used trails.
- Tap ahead of you with a walking stick before entering an area where you can’t see your feet. Snakes will try to avoid you if given enough warning.
- When possible, step on logs and rocks, never over them as you may surprise a sheltering snake.
- Avoid walking through dense brush or blackberry thickets.
- Be careful when stepping over a doorstep. Snakes like to crawl along the edge of buildings where they are protected on one side.
- Avoid wandering around in the dark. If you are out at night, always use a flashlight, because most snakes are active on warm nights.
- Never try to pick up a snake, even if it is dead. A snake’s reflexes can still cause the snake to strike up to an hour after it has died.
- If you have an encounter with a snake, give it the right-of-way. Do not attempt to kill the snake, just move out of the snake’s way.
- If you encounter a snake in the housing area or in your yard, call the police desk at 255-2222 and follow their instructions.
- If you hike often, consider buying a snake bite kit – available from hiking supply stores. Do not use older snake bite kits, such as those containing razor blades and suction bulbs.
If you are bitten by a copperhead seek medical attention immediately. A good resource is the Carolinas Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.