Copperhead Encounters Spark New Warnings: "They Are Not Shy Snakes"
Experts also caution we're entering another potentially dangerous season for venomous reptiles.
It's not exactly uncommon knowledge that you should always avoid venomous snakes like copperheads. Despite their importance to the ecosystem, any run-ins with them and their dangerous bite can lead to serious medical emergencies. Staying alert and keeping your eyes peeled for potential risks can often help avoid problems before they happen. But now, a string of copperhead encounters has sparked new warnings from officials and experts who caution "they are not shy snakes." Read on to see how you can keep yourself safe.
Recent copperhead incidents in New Jersey sparked warnings from officials.
One of the summer's best perks is getting outdoors and taking in nature. But on Aug. 4, a man got home from walking with his golden retriever in Liberty Park in Peapack, New Jersey, to discover what appeared to be inflammation on his pet's paw, Patch reports. A veterinarian's analysis of the wound then found that the dog's blood contained venom that could have come from a snake bite, according to local authorities.
The following day, two residents walking through the same park reported seeing a copperhead snake resting on a bridge before it slithered away. Police considered the pair of incidents a sufficient reason to issue a warning to locals.
"Please keep your pets on a leash when walking with them and be aware of your surroundings. If anyone is bitten by a snake or their pet is bitten, please contact the Police Department," the Peapack And Gladstone Police Department wrote in a Facebook post on Aug. 9.
The two reports come just two weeks after a woman in nearby Bridgewater, New Jersey, was bitten twice on her feet by a copperhead while standing in her driveway late at night. While the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) says the venomous species is "uncommon" in the area, the agency still urged residents to exercise caution while outdoors.
Another series of sightings at a dog park in Oklahoma sparked warnings from officials.
Meanwhile, residents in Mustang, Oklahoma, have also become concerned after venomous snake sightings of their own. Locals reported finding a handmade sign posted at the town's dog park that warned: "Beware of snakes: Second copperhead seen in the last week," local Fox affiliate KOKH reported.
The spike in sightings has some people concerned. "We're worried about our dog," Mustang resident Jake House told the news outlet. "We're obviously worried about our kids too. We didn't want them having to pick it up, playing with it, or getting bit by it."
Officials with the Mustang Parks and Recreation Department said that a resident had contacted them after he had "killed one snake and then saw another and wanted to alert the public," according to a statement issued to KOKH. However, a joint effort with the local animal control shelter to locate more copperheads yielded no results. The paper sign has also since been removed, with officials saying there is "no danger to the public."
Still, residents are being urged to stay vigilant. "If you see one, observe from a distance and just leave it alone," Micah Holmes, a spokesperson for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC), told KOKH. "That's the best plan."
Experts are also warning about the return of another serious copperhead concern.
Even though the warm weather of spring and summer means the return of snake season, we're also about to enter another hazardous time of year for venomous reptiles. Experts in North Carolina caution that mid-August is also the beginning of baby copperhead season when females produce litters of three to 14 live offspring, The News & Observer reports.
The tiny snakes typically go off on their own to fend for themselves, identifiable by a bright yellow tip on their tails that fades with age. But while lore about baby copperheads' venom being more potent isn't true, the increase in number could make it more likely for one to be hiding in spots around your yard, home, or in nature.
And while they're not aggressive, the species is a particular concern due to their bold tendencies and the overlap of human activity in their natural habitat. "The big thing I tell folks about copperheads is, they are not shy snakes," Talena Chavis, certified wildlife relocation expert and owner of NC Snake Catcher, told The News & Observer.
Be sure to stay on the lookout and keep your distance if you spot a copperhead.
With weeks of warm weather left, experts caution that staying aware of your surroundings outdoors is still essential—even if it's on your own property. That's why Chavis encourages people to quickly scan their yard before letting children or pets outdoors to play.
"They are good at camouflaging themselves, but they are not shy," she told The News & Observer. "They hunt at night, so try to let the dogs out before dark, if you can, and wear your boots. We get bitten at night because we put on our little flip-flops and grab the trash and walk out, and that's when we get tagged."
Experts recommend avoiding putting your hands in places you can't see around your yard or garden, including places like wood or leaf piles. And of course, it's also best to stay away from any snakes you come across and call professionals to safely remove and relocate them instead of trying to handle them yourself.
"Admire them from a safe distance and leave them alone," Jeff Beane, Herpetology Collection Manager at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science, told The News & Observer. "Many bites and other injuries have occurred while people were attempting to kill snakes. No one was ever bitten by a snake while they were leaving it alone."