Snake bites and sightings on the rise across North Carolina

A copperhead yawns at Serpentarium Magic in Mills River in North Carolina.

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes? If Indiana Jones had a home in North Carolina, he likely wouldn’t be too happy.

The North Carolina Poison Control Center reports calls about snake bites have nearly quadrupled compared to this time last year, likely because of a more mild winter.

Asheville Wildlife Removal said it had recently seen a large spike in the number of calls it had received for snakes, and even snake dens, or snakes with babies.

Bites aren’t only on the rise among people. The Western Carolina Regional Animal Hospital said nine dogs were treated for snake bites just over the weekend, with one pet even passing away. Hospital officials said they only saw about 50 cases total last year.

For people who are active with their dogs outdoors, there is a vaccine that could help protect your furry friend from a poisonous snake bite.

“It might not completely resolve or prevent an actual reaction, but it does lessen the severity of it,” Dr. Natalie Morris, a veterinarian, said. “So, even if your dog has had the rattlesnake vaccine, we recommend that you come in and have them treated and evaluated after it (a bite) happens.”

So, what should you do if you’re bitten by a snake?

“Really the best thing is to just stay calm, potentially elevate the area that you have a bite. Wash it,” Savannah Trantham, a WNC Nature Center animal curator, said. “If it’s a nonvenomous snake bite, for sure, you can just wash the bacteria before you go to the doctor. But getting to the doctor as soon as possible is going to be your best bet.”

Dogs will often yelp when bitten by a snake, and if it’s venomous, acute swelling will occur near the bite site. If your dog is bite in the face or head, Dr. Morris recommends removing the dog’s collar to help prevent asphyxiation.

Snakes often hide in areas where their prey (mice) likes to hide food. Piles of brush or leaves, rock crevasses, and logs are common hiding spots for the only two venomous snake species in the North Carolina mountains, the copperhead and timber rattlesnake. Cottonmouths, also known as water moccasins, can be found in the foothills.

These species can often be identified by their arrow shaped heads and unique patterns on their back. Rattlesnakes of course have their rattle, with a tail that is often much darker than the rest of their body.

Snake bites are rarely fatal, especially those by copperheads, which account for ten times the number of bites than other species in the state.

Source: WLOS