Because there are many hunters and other adventurers out in the forests at this time of year, we’d like to warn you about a certain little critter that just may not have hibernated yet – the copperhead snake. Copperheads heavily occupy the eastern United States, but are in several southern states, as well. They also live in parts of Mexico, such as Coahuila and Chihuahua. North Carolina has the distinction of the most venomous snakebites in the United States.
“Copperhead bites are typically not fatal,” says Dr. Peter Bromley, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Specialist in Zoology. Most bites from copperheads are not as serious as from other venomous snakes, such as rattlesnakes and cottonmouth water moccasins because they do not inject as much venom in their bites. However, bites from copperhead snakes are extremely painful and may cause extensive scarring and loss of use of limb where bitten. Don’t take chances; avoid these snakes. Seek prompt medical attention. Bites may be fatal to small animals, so if you suspect that your pet has been bitten, get him/her to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
Copperheads are distinctively marked with hourglass shaped bands on their bodies, and so-named because of the copper color of their heads. Young copperheads have bright yellow tail tips. These snakes normally hibernate in October, but in warmer climates, be sure to watch for them, as they are easily camouflaged by their markings, and may still be rustling around. Take care when you are strolling through the leaves or forests!
If you live in one of the states where copperhead snakes (or any venomous snakes) reside, keep these tips in mind:
- Keep your lawn cut low;
- Remove rocks, limbs and other debris from the yard;
- Wear shoes when you go outside;
- Use extra care when you are around rocks, logs, creek banks, etc;
- Watch for snakes to visit your garden, porches, and decks. (They enjoy sunning, too!)
- Keep a First Aid Kit handy – you never know when you may need it!
Experts say that most times copperhead snakes will avoid humans; they usually freeze when they feel threatened. Persons who try to catch or handle them risk being bitten.
It isn’t uncommon for those who live around copperheads to be bitten while doing some simple outside task. I had a friend that got bitten when she reached into a bucket in her yard. It took a long time for her hand to heal.
When in your yard, watch for uninvited guests; when it’s in the snake’s yard (forest, etc.), watch even closer!