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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Thomasville, NC

    Venomous Snakes Of NC

    Had a conversation today with a herpetologist friend of mine. he had just returned from Onslow County, where he had been involved with a NCWRC program to determine the numbers of the eastern diamondback rattlesnake in NC. This species, the largest venomous snake in the US, is endangered in our state.
    So, I figured it would be a good time to do a post on the dangerous snakes of our state, which leads the nation in snakebite cases.
    First, the most common, the copperhead.
    Agkistrodon contortrix
    Found in forested areas, and sometimes leaf litter in yards, the copperhead is the least venomous of our pit vipers, but still can deliver a nasty bite, and the elderly and children are most vulnerable. Occurs in two subspecies, the northern, and southern varieties. The northern is more common from the mountains to the piedmont, and the southern from the piedmont to the coast. The northern is a darker snake with wider bands, the southern is a pale snake with narrower bands,but intergrades in the piedmont are sometimes found.
    Cottonmouth.
    Agkistrodon piscivorus
    A large, heavy bodied pit viper, the cottonmouth can be found from just east of Raleigh to the coast. Often mistaken for some species of harmless water snakes.
    The cottonmouth is an olive colored snake with darker bands, but some older specimens can be nearly black. Throws back its head in an aggressive display, revealing the white inside of its mouth, hence the name. Cottonmouths are extremely venomous, and somewhat aggressive, standing their ground when disturbed.
    Also called water moccasin, because of its habitat, usually near water.
    Timber Rattlesnake.
    Crotalus horridus
    The timber rattler can be found in rural areas across the state, but more common in the mountains and coastal plain. In the piedmont, populations can be found in Montgomery, Moore, Randolph, and Davidson counties. This snake occurs in two subspecies here, the mountain variety, which has wide cross bands, and the coastal plain, which has chevrons crossing the back. This race is sometimes called the "canebrake" rattler. The timber rattlesnake is a dangerous snake, and although not extremely aggressive, can deliver a deadly bite. Usually found around rocks and downed trees. The timber rattlesnake is considered a threatened species in NC.
    Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake.
    Crotalus adamanteus
    A large, extremely venomous snake, the eastern diamondback is now very rare in NC. Found in the southern coastal plain, today most numerous in Pender, Onslow, and Brunswick counties. A recent survey turned up 22 in Onslow, 13 in Pender, and 3 in Brunswick. Another 7 were found on the Camp Lejeune Marine base.
    This snake can grow to eight feet in length, the record coming from Carteret County, NC, in 1959. Found mainly in pine forests and palmetto woodlots, this snake is usually an olive gray color with darker diamond bands, and hides in ambush to take its prey. The most dangerous of our pit vipers, mainly because of the amount of venom injected with each bite. The eastern diamondback is endangered in NC, and is afforded protection.
    Pygmy rattlesnake.
    Sistrus miliarius
    A tiny, less than two feet long species, the pygmy rattlesnake is found in the southern half of the state, mainly in the coastal plain. Some specimens are reddish, while others are gray. All, however, have the circular markings on the back. The tiny rattle sounds like the buzzing of an insect, and can barely be detected a few feet away. Despite its tiny size, this small rattler can deliver a quite nasty bite requiring urgent medical attention. Most of the red specimens occur in the Pamlico Sound area. The pygmy rattlesnake is still fairly common across its range. Found in woodlots, and open, sandy hedge row country.
    Coral snake.
    Micrurus fulvius
    The "Candy cane snake". Black, yellow, and red bands. Snout black, yellow and black bands touch. Related to cobras and mambas, coral snakes are our only venomous snake that is not a pit viper. Extremely venomous, however their short fangs make it difficult to bite human beings except in places like between the fingers. Still, deaths have occurred, and this snake should not be handled. Found in the southern coastal plain, where it is rarely seen, mainly because of its habit of crawling through leaf litter after its prey. Children are often bitten by this snake because of its attractive coloration.
    Well, that's our list of venomous snakes, and with winter coming on, they will soon be gone into hibernation. Hope this bit of info was interesting and helpful..

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    New Bern, NC unless it's a home football game then I'm grilling on Devil's Alley
    I love snakes, and while I don't have any now, I used to have a ton. Especially when I last lived in Durham, then the mountains. Loved taking off with a pillow sack to see what I could come home with. I'd keep my catches for a while and turn them loose before the cold months set in.
    While I ran across plenty of poisonous ones, I NEVER kept them. Out of the dozens of snakes I owned, I think I can count on one hand how many didn't get out at some point. (Always fun when a guest made that discovery, lol.) From my snake hunting experience, I never came across a rattler that used its rattle on me. (Only canebrake and timbers, never a pygmy or diamondback.) Even to the point of almost being stepped on, they kept very quiet. Wanna see how fast someone can turn ghost white? Thankfully the phrase "if it was a snake it woulda bit you" never came to pass.

    Always wanted to find a coral, but besides being out of habitat (pretty much extreme southeastern NC) they are very secretive.

    Cool thread! I'll see if I can't scan a pic or two of a couple I've come across.

    PS...quick story on a copperhead that was in my yard in Durham. I moved it to keep it away from my dogs and cats, and used a broom handle to do so. It bit it...good lord that was a ton of venom that snake pumped out. Was fascinating to watch, but wow. One of those "gotta be there to see it" events, but it was between 1 and 2 full tablespoons. For being a relatively small snake, it was a whole lotta toxic goo.
    Q "Why do you like Duke, you didn't even go there." A "Because my art school didn't have a basketball team."

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Thomasville, NC
    Quote Originally Posted by CameronBornAndBred View Post
    I love snakes, and while I don't have any now, I used to have a ton. Especially when I last lived in Durham, then the mountains. Loved taking off with a pillow sack to see what I could come home with. I'd keep my catches for a while and turn them loose before the cold months set in.
    While I ran across plenty of poisonous ones, I NEVER kept them. Out of the dozens of snakes I owned, I think I can count on one hand how many didn't get out at some point. (Always fun when a guest made that discovery, lol.) From my snake hunting experience, I never came across a rattler that used its rattle on me. (Only canebrake and timbers, never a pygmy or diamondback.) Even to the point of almost being stepped on, they kept very quiet. Wanna see how fast someone can turn ghost white? Thankfully the phrase "if it was a snake it woulda bit you" never came to pass.

    Always wanted to find a coral, but besides being out of habitat (pretty much extreme southeastern NC) they are very secretive.

    Cool thread! I'll see if I can't scan a pic or two of a couple I've come across.

    PS...quick story on a copperhead that was in my yard in Durham. I moved it to keep it away from my dogs and cats, and used a broom handle to do so. It bit it...good lord that was a ton of venom that snake pumped out. Was fascinating to watch, but wow. One of those "gotta be there to see it" events, but it was between 1 and 2 full tablespoons. For being a relatively small snake, it was a whole lotta toxic goo.
    I've only seen one coral snake, and that one was under a piece of tin roofing my cousin and I were moving out of the back yard of his home in Supply (near Shallotte). We took him and released him a few miles away. Saw one eastern diamondback in the Nature Conservancy land in the Green Swamp. A mere five footer, he was behind a tree and rattled when we were fifty some feet away. He crawled away, but never took his eyes off us..lol

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Charlotte, North Carolina
    One question...

    I live near Lake Norman with family in the Winston Salem area, and there are many reports from friends and family of seeing or encountering cottonmouths in and around the waters in these areas. Are they mistaken, or are there some of those west of Raleigh?

    Thanks for the informative post!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Thomasville, NC
    Quote Originally Posted by davekay1971 View Post
    One question...

    I live near Lake Norman with family in the Winston Salem area, and there are many reports from friends and family of seeing or encountering cottonmouths in and around the waters in these areas. Are they mistaken, or are there some of those west of Raleigh?

    Thanks for the informative post!
    You're welcome, and your friends were almost certainly mistaken. The closest record I have come across to those areas is from Candor. Many non venomous water snakes are mistaken for cottonmouths. Especially the brown water snake, and the northern water snake. Both of these are heavy bodied reptiles, and often act aggressive, but are not venomous.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by davekay1971 View Post
    One question...

    I live near Lake Norman with family in the Winston Salem area, and there are many reports from friends and family of seeing or encountering cottonmouths in and around the waters in these areas. Are they mistaken, or are there some of those west of Raleigh?

    Thanks for the informative post!
    Growing up in Charlotte, it seemed kids and adults alike called any snake in the water a "water moccasin," and would argue to the death that they knew what they were talking about.

    Same folks who think every spider in the attic is a brown recluse.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Chesapeake, VA.
    I grew up in Utah and my grandparents on both sides lives in southern Utah. On multiple occasions I came across rattlers in the wild out there. There are a TON of rattlers in southern Utah. And yes, they rattled at me. Even as stupid kids we knew enough to stay back when we heard that sound.
    "We are not provided with wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can take for us, an effort which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world." --M. Proust

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    New Bern, NC unless it's a home football game then I'm grilling on Devil's Alley
    Quote Originally Posted by Mtn.Devil.91.92.01.10.15 View Post
    Growing up in Charlotte, it seemed kids and adults alike called any snake in the water a "water moccasin," and would argue to the death that they knew what they were talking about.

    Same folks who think every spider in the attic is a brown recluse.
    To tie spiders and snakes together, very often I would turn over a rock in hopes of a snake only to find a black widow. (Which was still a pretty cool find.)
    Q "Why do you like Duke, you didn't even go there." A "Because my art school didn't have a basketball team."

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by davekay1971 View Post
    One question...

    I live near Lake Norman with family in the Winston Salem area, and there are many reports from friends and family of seeing or encountering cottonmouths in and around the waters in these areas. Are they mistaken, or are there some of those west of Raleigh?

    Thanks for the informative post!
    Yeah you probably won't see a cotton mouth away from the coastal plains and even then not often in populated areas. They are plentiful in the low country swamps of SC but I've never seen one in lakes, rivers and creeks where people usually swim. My house is on a private neighborhood lake and I killed 5 or 6 brown water snakes before I learned to recognize a cottonmouth. The faded bands of a cotton mouth go all the way around the the snake but the brown water snake has a pattern of disconnected markings. Both are pit vipers with triangular heads but a cotton mouth's head is huge even compared to its fat body. It's unmistakable once you see one. Drop by the Francis Biedler swamp for a tour to see a bunch of swamp snakes safely from a raised walkway.

    I spend a lot of time trail-building in the woods and paddling low country waterways. I came across 2 cain break rattlers one day I was with a lawyer friend of mine so lawyer jokes ensued about attracting "other" snakes. I came across an almost 5 ft timber rattler sunning on a rock face in Stone Mt State Park near Roaring Gap. He was blocking the trail and in no hurry to vacate so we exercised extreme patience. Copperheads are ubiquitous here and I've killed many in the woods, yards and streets of our neighborhoods. Seems like someone I know gets bit by one every year from walking bare foot or sticking their hand in some leaf debris, wood pile or pile of bricks. Considering how common it is for people and pets to suffer copperhead bites I'm amazed that the anti-venom dose costs $70 - $80K and the total hospital stay is over $100K each time. Apparently only 1 company produces anti-venom these days.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Thomasville, NC
    Quote Originally Posted by CameronBornAndBred View Post
    To tie spiders and snakes together, very often I would turn over a rock in hopes of a snake only to find a black widow. (Which was still a pretty cool find.)
    The black widow is the only dangerous spider found across NC.
    The brown recluse spider's range barely touches western NC, where it is extremely rare. Sometimes, however, these spiders hitch a ride on trucks from the midwest to our state, and establish colonies, which rarely last for long.
    There was a case a few years ago of a student bitten by a brown recluse in Greensboro. The attending doctor confirmed the bite. The student then went to another facility for treatments, where it was discovered it was only some sort of staph infection, not a bite at all. The sloughing off of skin around the wound mimics the bite of the brown recluse.
    https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=...mDH78gWiCvYy_z
    Last edited by Devilwin; 10-30-2017 at 05:22 PM.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    New Bern, NC unless it's a home football game then I'm grilling on Devil's Alley
    Quote Originally Posted by lotusland View Post
    My house is on a private neighborhood lake and I killed 5 or 6 brown water snakes before I learned to recognize a cottonmouth. The faded bands of a cotton mouth go all the way around the the snake but the brown water snake has a pattern of disconnected markings. Both are pit vipers with triangular heads but a cotton mouth's head is huge even compared to its fat body.
    No, they aren't. One is a pit viper, one is simply a mean foul smelling bastard.
    Q "Why do you like Duke, you didn't even go there." A "Because my art school didn't have a basketball team."

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Charlotte, North Carolina
    Quote Originally Posted by Mtn.Devil.91.92.01.10.15 View Post
    Growing up in Charlotte, it seemed kids and adults alike called any snake in the water a "water moccasin," and would argue to the death that they knew what they were talking about.

    Same folks who think every spider in the attic is a brown recluse.
    My father in law, when asked if a particular snake was a copperhead, answered with firm conviction, "They're all copperheads, as far as I care."

    I would say the same about attic spiders. They're all brown recluses.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Charlotte, North Carolina
    Quote Originally Posted by lotusland View Post
    Considering how common it is for people and pets to suffer copperhead bites I'm amazed that the anti-venom dose costs $70 - $80K and the total hospital stay is over $100K each time. Apparently only 1 company produces anti-venom these days.
    This is, as far as I know, true. I'm a cardiologist, not an ER doc, so any ER nurse, doc, PA, NP, etc who reads may be more accurate than I, but from what I remember, there is only one company producing the anti-venom, but the anti-venom is commonly effective against copperheads, cottonmouths, rattlesnakes, and coral snakes. So the only problem (medically, not financially) is when someone gets bitten by a snake not native to the area.

    Especially if that someone won't admit to it because they are the owner of a snake not legally possessed in these parts. Like the fine gentleman at Medical College of Virginia many years ago back when I was an internal medicine resident there who nearly lost his arm because he kept telling the doctors he had been bitten by a copperhead, rather than by the exotic and poisonous snake he kept illegally as a pet. Shockingly, the anti-venom appropriate for copperheads had no effect on his rapidly progressing condition.

    He lived. Kept his arm. Lost the snake.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Thomasville, NC
    Quote Originally Posted by davekay1971 View Post
    This is, as far as I know, true. I'm a cardiologist, not an ER doc, so any ER nurse, doc, PA, NP, etc who reads may be more accurate than I, but from what I remember, there is only one company producing the anti-venom, but the anti-venom is commonly effective against copperheads, cottonmouths, rattlesnakes, and coral snakes. So the only problem (medically, not financially) is when someone gets bitten by a snake not native to the area.

    Especially if that someone won't admit to it because they are the owner of a snake not legally possessed in these parts. Like the fine gentleman at Medical College of Virginia many years ago back when I was an internal medicine resident there who nearly lost his arm because he kept telling the doctors he had been bitten by a copperhead, rather than by the exotic and poisonous snake he kept illegally as a pet. Shockingly, the anti-venom appropriate for copperheads had no effect on his rapidly progressing condition.

    He lived. Kept his arm. Lost the snake.
    The antivenin "CroFab", (Crotalidae polyvalent immune fab) which is the most commonly stocked, works only on pit vipers like the copperhead, cottonmouth, and rattlesnakes.
    Coral snake bite is treated with Wyeth antivenin Micrurus fulvius. Coral snakes are related to cobras, mambas, and tiger snakes, so Crofab will not work for them.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Charlotte, North Carolina
    Quote Originally Posted by Devilwin View Post
    The antivenin "CroFab", (Crotalidae polyvalent immune fab) which is the most commonly stocked, works only on pit vipers like the copperhead, cottonmouth, and rattlesnakes.
    Coral snake bite is treated with Wyeth antivenin Micrurus fulvius. Coral snakes are related to cobras, mambas, and tiger snakes, so Crofab will not work for them.
    Ah ha. I was mistaken. Shows what 14 years away from an individual case and steady work in a completely different field of medicine will do to your memory!

    Still, tell your doctors the truth. Especially when you were bitten by some exotic snake from the Pacific basin, not a regular ole' copperhead...

    Of course, if you're being taken care of by a cardiologist for your snake bite, you're still screwed.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    New Bern, NC unless it's a home football game then I'm grilling on Devil's Alley
    Quote Originally Posted by davekay1971 View Post
    Of course, if you're being taken care of by a cardiologist for your snake bite, you're still screwed.
    But he might offer you up a REALLY good beer to drown you sorrows in!
    Q "Why do you like Duke, you didn't even go there." A "Because my art school didn't have a basketball team."

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Charlotte, North Carolina
    Quote Originally Posted by CameronBornAndBred View Post
    But he might offer you up a REALLY good beer to drown you sorrows in!
    Like a Stone Xocoveza, which I enjoyed tonight. Wait...wrong thread.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Raleigh
    Quote Originally Posted by davekay1971 View Post
    Like a Stone Xocoveza, which I enjoyed tonight. Wait...wrong thread.
    I chose a 6er of Stone's Mocha IPA over the Xocoveza a couple weeks ago. The peppers scared me away. Was there much "heat" in your brew? Oh, wait, still the wrong thread .
    [redacted] them and the horses they rode in on.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Summerville ,S.C.
    We have a new. Well new to me rattle snake in south carolina you do not want. Canebreak rattle snake. It's like a cotton mouth on steroids. It bites and will come after you and bite again. Very aggressive, and usually they conserve venom. A kid got bit several times by one. He survived though.
    Last edited by Newton_14; 11-04-2017 at 11:20 PM. Reason: Fixed the numerous errors to make it readable

  20. #20
    Reading “ Snakes of the legislature”....by Rollie Burger...copy available in Rollie

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