5-Year-Old Child Gets Bitten by Copperhead: "Snakes Can Be in Your Shoes"

Local experts in the area warn that snakes are becoming more active as the weather warms up.

It's safe to say that most people hope to steer clear of venomous snakes like copperheads when they're out in nature. Even though they're a vital part of the ecosystem and aren't aggressive toward humans, accidentally getting too close to one can result in a painful bite. Unfortunately, while most adults know to stay alert for reptiles while hiking or taking care of their yard, young children and pets can sometimes wind up injured due to an accidental run-in. And in one of the latest examples, a 5-year-old boy was bitten by a copperhead snake while playing outside. Read on to see how you can avoid a close encounter of your own.

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Recently, a young boy in North Carolina was bitten by a copperhead while exploring at a zoo.

A closeup of a copperhead snake sitting on rocks with its head raised
iStock / Madelyn Wilkime

Animal exhibits can often be a way for us to get near enough to observe creatures without getting too close. But on June 8, a young boy was bitten by a copperhead snake during a visit to the North Carolina Zoo, local FOX affiliate WGHP reported.

The 5-year-old victim was initially treated by emergency medical personnel before he was transported to a nearby hospital, where his condition remains unknown, per WGHP. Zoo officials also responded to the incident by closing the park's Kidzone children's play area for an undisclosed amount of time.

Other zoo guests pointed out that snakes "can be anywhere" after the incident.

Copperhead Basking on the Road

Staff are accustomed to seeing native snakes within the zoo as the 500-acre park is surrounded by undeveloped wilderness—and are even trained on how to remove them safely. Other guests even pointed out that they had seen the reptiles out and about at the park before.

"I just keep them in front of me," Angela Jones, a North Carolina Zoo visitor, told WGHP. "I look ahead just to make sure we don't cross any paths…We just have to watch where we step."

She went on to caution that the reptiles tend to hide in tight or small spaces, where people should be especially aware of the danger. "Even in your shoes," she told the news outlet. "Baby snakes can be in your shoes. They can be anywhere."

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Shoes can be an inviting hiding place for copperheads and other venomous snake species.

Pile of Shoes at the Door
Linda Hughes Photography/Shutterstock

While you might expect to see them in nature, recent incidents show that Jones' warning about snakes hiding in footwear is one that could be worth following. Last month, a homeowner in Georgia was shocked to find that a pair of copperhead snakes had managed to find their way into his garage before hiding in and around shoes stacked by his garage entry door.

"I walked over, assuming this to be a garter or rat snake," Josh Dameron, a neighbor who helped trap and safely relocate the snakes, told Newsweek. "When he opened the door, he saw them both sitting right on the doorsteps," adding that the reptiles were "surprisingly non-aggressive but fairly large."

Last month, a Louisiana resident narrowly avoided stepping on a baby cottonmouth snake when going to slip on a pair of clogs. "My shoes were on the back patio," Jeffery Tucker told Newsweek. "I went to put in my foot and he stuck his head out for a second."

And it's not just porches and garages that can be risky. In May 2022, a woman in Southlake, Texas called the police for help removing what appeared to be a baby cottonmouth snake hiding in her shoe in an interior closet, MySanAntonio.com reported. She discovered the reptile after her two dogs began acting strangely in the area, after which officers safely removed and relocated the animal to a nearby park.

Experts say there are a few ways to protect yourself from getting too close to a venomous reptile.

copperheard snake

Even though their reputations may make them seem fearsome, venomous snakes are still non-aggressive and can be relatively easy to avoid simply by staying alert. And as these incidents show, this can often involve taking a little extra care to look around before lacing up.

"[Snakes like] cottonmouths are opportunistic eaters who love frogs, lizards, and toads—and frogs and toads often find the inside of shoes as a safe, dark place to hide," Kevin Hood, a representative from Louisiana Snake ID, told Newsweek.

If you do come across a snake using your loafer as a living room, it's best to stay calm, keep away from it, and don't try to capture or kill it, according to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. It's best to call a professional snake removal service if the animal doesn't go away on its own.

But just because the reptiles are out and about as the weather warms up, experts say it still isn't any reason to put your life on hold. "Snakes like to get up underneath things. They like to be in log piles and rocks," Tish Gailmard, a representative with Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, told local NBC affiliate WRCB-TV. "Think about those things when you're out in the wild, but don't be afraid to go outside, just be knowledgeable and aware."

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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