Reported snake bites on the rise in North Carolina

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The reported number of snake bites in North Carolina is going up this spring. One of the latest was a student at Pleasant Garden Elementary School in Guilford County, who was bitten by a snake while playing during recess.

It's the only snake bite to happen at a Guilford County school this year. It happened Monday morning on a patch of grass next to the playground.

"It's not unexpected. They're a part of life. They're a part of our community. It's just being aware of them and where they're likely to be," said David Jones, a parent visiting the Greensboro Science Center.

Experts say a snake bite can happen just about anywhere in North Carolina when you're outside.

"It's not uncommon to see, as it gets warmer earlier, to see more of these snakes on the move," said Rick Bolling. He's the curator of reptiles and amphibians at the Greensboro Science Center.

The school district says it can't release the child's condition. They also couldn't confirm what kind of snake attacked.

Bolling says if it were a venomous snake, it was likely the copperhead, the only venomous snake found in Guilford County.

There are 37 species of snakes in North Carolina, but only six of them are venomous. According to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, they are the copperhead, canebrake rattlesnake, eastern diamondback rattlesnake, pigmy rattlesnake, cottonmouth (or water moccasin) and coral snake.

"Copperheads are tan, a little bit darker brown, hourglass patterns and they can easily camouflage themselves," Bolling said.

The district says the school called 911 and got the student medical attention right away.

These kinds of calls are on the rise this year. The Carolinas Poison Center got 71 calls for snake bites last month, compared to 19 calls in April 2016.

Bolling blames a mild winter, driving the snakes out of hibernation early.

"Then it really warmed up and it warmed up very early," he said.

"Snakes are cold blooded animals, so their body temperature will change with the climate and so as they get warm in the spring, they're ready to come out," Bolling added.

That means you'll likely see more snakes in your yards or gardens this summer.

"The best thing to do is just to stay back from it, leave it alone," Bolling said.

He also suggests keeping your yards tidy.

"If you have wood piles or rock piles, maybe put those further back on the property," Bolling said.

"This is where the animals are," Jones said. "Snakes, the spiders, just very dangerous animals out there than can cause us problems. Just keep away from them, just be respectful. It's their habitat as well."

If you get bitten by a snake you think is venomous, Bolling says to take off any rings, bracelets, or jewelry, since your body may swell. Try to keep the area that was bit at heart level. He also suggests calling 911, rather than driving yourself to the hospital.

Non-venomous snakes also bite, and the wounds can become infected if they're not cleaned and treated properly.

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