Year of the Snake: Keeping Your Distance


If you haven’t seen your first snake of 2019 yet, you haven’t been paying attention. Snakes of every stripe are out and about with the warm weather and whether you’re hiking, biking, jogging or driving, you’re going to encounter a snake every once in awhile. How you react during those encounters is going to have a direct impact on your physical and mental well-being and the life of the animal.

Direct contact with all snakes, both venomous and nonvenomous should be avoided. Unless you have accidentally stepped on the animal, it’s highly unlikely the snake is going to actively seek your company. In their attempts to escape, snakes may take a route that runs past your feet, but only because they’ve assessed it’s the quickest way to cover and safety, not because they think you need a reprimand. Most of the time snakes will retreat in a direction away from humans. A safe outcome for all is as simple as allowing the animal the space and time it needs to move off. Some snakes are more curious than others.

Some might think the best course of action when confronted by approaching humans is to sit still and allow their natural camouflaging to keep them from being spotted. Either way, you will occasionally come across a snake that doesn’t seem bothered or anxious about your presence. In these situations it’s key to remember just how close you have to be to a snake to be in any danger. Snakes are able to lunge between one-third to one-half their total body length. The largest snake species in North Carolina is the black rat snake, which can attain lengths of more than six feet. Therefore, just to be on the absolutely safe side, one should maintain a minimum distance of four feet from any snake. That shouldn’t be too hard, should it?

The fact is, the vast majority of snakebites occur when people are trying to catch or kill the animal. With a little common sense and respect, we humans can share the landscape with snakes and enjoy a great benefits they bring to our lives; be it through eating unwanted pests like mice and rats or simply by occasionally gracing us with their impressive beauty and presence.