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Tips to prevent summertime snake bites

The summer months are peak snake bite season in the Carolinas.

A copperhead snake slithers over a branch in a herpaquarium.

The eastern copperhead is one of six venomous species of snakes native to North Carolina.

Photo by CLTtoday

Here’s a slithering statistic: North Carolina leads the nation in the number of people annually bitten by snakes. On average, 157 people are bitten every year.

Duke University Hospital reports the emergency department has already treated 10 people so far this season with anti-venom for snake bites.

Snake bites most commonly occur in suburban neighborhoods in the summer months. People tend to get bitten while in their own yard, unaware a snake was nearby.

“A very common reason for getting bitten is at dusk or in the evening, they go out in their flipflops and take out the trash and they get bitten,” said Dr. Charles Gerardo with Duke University Hospital.

Grover Garfield, Director of the Carolinas Reptile Rescue spoke to WCNC on what triggers human encounters with snakes. Sometimes, it’s our bird feeders. “Birds are sloppy eaters. A lot of it falls on the ground. Those seeds will attract rodents. Rodents will attract the snakes.”

There are six venomous snake species native to North Carolina:

  • Copperhead
  • Pygmy rattlesnake
  • Cottonmouth
  • Timber rattlesnake
  • Eastern diamondback
  • Coral snake rattlesnake
A copperhead snake is huddled in a glass herpaquarium.

Humans are more likely to be bitten by copperheads in part because of the snakes’ effective camouflage.

Photo via WCNC

N.C. Wildlife reports 90% of reported snake bites are caused by copperheads.

Copperhead bites are rarely lethal, but doctors warn anyone bitten should seek medical attention immediately.

If you are bitten, call Carolinas Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.


Keep a watchful eye for rattlesnakes while hiking in the North Carolina mountains this summer.

Photo by Evan Grimes via Wikimedia Commons

Ways to avoid snake bites:

  • Remove debris, mulch, and wood near your house.
  • Get rid of standing water.
  • Keep an eye for small holes in your yard.
  • Consider wearing gloves or close-toed shoes when gardening or taking out the garbage.

Barfield emphasized “If you can’t see where you’re putting your feet or your hands... don’t.”
Editor’s note: Bites happen because the snake feels threatened or provoked. If you encounter a snake, back away slowly.

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