Lake Wylie resident Elizabeth Hartley recently had a scary encounter with a long, slithering snake. On April 29, Hartley thought she saw a rattlesnake in her front yard.
“As soon as I walked near it, it was a distinctive and long rattle,” she said.
Though she is unsure the snake was a rattlesnake, Hartley said it mimicked the sound well as it made its way into pine needles in the front yard. She chased it away with a leaf blower.
Hartley said she also once stepped on a baby copperhead in her neighborhood. While she is fine with rat snakes and others that eat pests, Hartley said she does not want dangerous snakes near her home.
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“There are more (snakes) now than I have seen or been aware of before in all of our time living in Lake Wylie,” she said. “The good ones we are happy to have around.”
Hartley’s story is just one of many recent snake sightings shared on social media and in the news.
What to do when you see a snake
Sara Lee, environmental educator for the Anne Springs Close Greenway in Fort Mill, says the worst thing people can do is to grab or kill a snake.
“Most people that get bit by a snake are either handling them or have had an unfortunate encounter where they’ve stepped on them or they picked them up while gardening,” she said. “That’s when a lot of people get bitten, they’re trying to kill a snake and get rid of it.”
That’s when a lot of people get bitten is they’re trying to kill a snake and get rid of it.
Sara Lee, environmental educator
About six of the 38 species in South Carolina are venomous, Lee said. In this area, the venomous snake is the copperhead. Some rattlesnakes are in this area, but are not as likely to be spotted as the copperhead.
People can identify copperheads by their skin, which has a distinctive hourglass-like pattern, much like two Hershey kisses meeting over the spine, Lee said.
If a snake bites you, Lee said the best thing to do is to stay calm and get to the hospital, keeping the infected area raised above your heart if possible. That means elevating your leg or arm if that’s where the bite occurs.
“As you move more, your heart pumps more blood around the body (and spreads the venom faster) so you want to stay nice and calm,” she said.
People should not try to catch the snake, Lee said.
“The doctors will be able to tell if it’s a venomous snake or not,” she said.
Snakes give warning signs before biting. They may rattle their tails in debris or leaves to make noise, or rear up, or try to hide, Lee said. She said it is best for people to give snakes at least six feet of room.
“They want to be as far away from you as possible and their last form of defense is to bite,” she said. “You never want to corner an animal because then you give them no other option but to bite you.”
Venomous snakes, Lee said, have a limited supply of venom and want to use it on prey they can actually eat.
“A lot of snakes will dry bite,” she said. “So they can bite you and not actually eject any venom.”
The exception, Lee said, are baby snakes that are venomous. They do not know how to control their venom output and may put it all into a bite.
Lee said people who see snakes should not try to kill them.
“Snakes play a really important part in this ecosystem,” she said. “They are a really good friend to farmers and gardeners.”
Snakes play a really important part in this ecosystem.
Sara Lee, environmental educator
To keep them away from homes, Lee said residents should avoid having areas that will attract snakes. Any gardens with a water source, bird feeders or other food that attract small animals also can bring snakes.
“For the most part you can leave them; they’re harmless,” Lee said. “Let them control your chipmunk population and just enjoy seeing them out there.”
If residents want to discourage snakes, they should remove piles of wood or debris that create cool, damp places, she said.
To have a snake removed residents should call animal control or the Department of Natural Resources.
Teaching family members to identify dangerous snakes and to keep their distance also will help mitigate problems, Lee said.
“Give them their room and don’t try to pick them up,” she said. “Just enjoy seeing them. They are a really interesting part of our ecosystem.”