Summertime Snakes

— Written By and last updated by Jami Hooper
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As of early June, the snakes are out in Craven County (and elsewhere). But that’s only part of the story. In eastern NC, you might encounter a poisonous snake, such as a water moccasin or copperhead, on a moderately warm winter day. Or even a slightly cool winter afternoon, if the snake has a sunny spot to enjoy.
The challenge with summer is that first, snakes are obviously a lot more active; and second, there’s a lot more vegetation out there to conceal their whereabouts. Garden carefully. Consider taking a long stick to shake and disturb the foliage and stems of a heavy perennial planting before diving in to pull weeds. Always make sure you have good visibility of where your hands are going, and don’t place your head and face too close to heavy vegetation without carefully checking things out first. Maintain some open spaces, especially adjacent to the foundation of your house. Keep the lawn mowed on a timely basis to improve visibility. Avoid the accumulation of debris, such as wood scraps and broken furniture, that could create hiding places for snakes.
The use of mothballs to repel snakes is discouraged for two reasons. First, there’s no scientific cause and effect evidence that it works. Secondly, placement of mothballs in the landscape constitutes a misuse of pesticides (per the EPA) and poses an ingestion hazard for small children and some animals. If you’ll keep things cleaned up to the best of your ability and be aware of your surroundings when outdoors, your risk of a snake bite this summer will be quite low.
copperhead snake

A copperhead snake spotted under a New Bern boat rack on June 3. Notice the vertically slit pupils, which are characteristic of pit viper snakes such as water moccasins, copperheads and rattlesnakes. Copperheads blend in with forest floor color patterns extremely well, so it’s important to take that second and third look when moving about in forests, parks and natural landscapes.