More snakes this year? No it’s just the early warm weather.

As someone who has a wife completely terrified of snakes I’m always on look out for them around the yard. Don’t tell my wife but I see them all the time and I rarely kill them I relocate them. shhhh!

This year though my Facebook and Twitter pages have filled with pictures and comments about all the snakes. You may have even seen this picture from down in Columbia, SC which was of a snake climbing a tree and it was almost 10’ long.


It even has it’s own Twitter account @SlitherSnake

Some of the biggest snakes in the Carolinas are also the most beneficial and least harmful to humans. Their size not only scares you but scares away predators. Two of the most common big snakes you’ll see are the Black Rat Snake(left below) and the Black Racer(right below).


The black rat snake sometimes isn’t even black and can have yellow to green markings on the body depending on the area its in. These are the ones that will climb trees, fence posts and just about anything to reach bird eggs in their nests. The Black Races are fast movers like their name implies and are the ones you most often seen hit by cars. Neither of these snakes are venomous they are actually constrictors and kill their prey by squeezing them.

Some of the most common backyard snakes are the brown snakes(left below) and garter snake( right below). I see the brown ones all the time. They are tiny and usually less than 1 foot long. The one problem with the brown snake is because of it’s tiny pattern and size people often think it’s a baby Copperhead and kill them.  Sad smile

Storeria dekayi - 9.29.02 - Davidson College, NC - 2Thamnophis_sirtalis_sirtalis-WataugaCo.NC-VanDevender2

Then there is the large King Snake( not venomous) which is very beneficial because it actually eats and kills venomous snakes. You know those snakes you really don’t want to run into. Below is a picture of a King Snake actually eating a Copperhead.

Lampropeltis getula niger-2-VanDevender

Which leads me to the most feared snake in the Carolinas which is the Copperhead below. Notice the distinctive large banding pattern and the cooper colored head where it gets it’s name. These are highly venomous with  the baby Copperheads as the most poisonous. The juvenile Copperheads have very concentrated venom and have little control on how much they inject when they bit. So they tend to unload it all in one bite.


So what’s the deal with all of the sightings this year?

Pretty simple the warm weather. We had a very early Spring with record-breaking temperatures in March. This allowed for plants and many food sources( bugs/moths) for birds to come out early. This in turned made the nesting season of many species of birds to start early and often in the Carolinas. The snakes on the other hand usually are most active in summer when both the days and nights are warm. Remember they are cold-blooded and need sunlight and warm air to heat their bodies. This year summer like weather started early. So we had a cross-over of the active snake season and bird nesting season. When you have both prey and predators active at the same time you see both more. Then throw in the fact that we all carry cell phones with high quality cameras on them. You then get more people capturing their encounters with snakes on camera and sharing them with the world via Facebook and Twitter.

So while it seems there are more snakes there likely is just more sightings and more sharing of those sightings via Social Media. Throw in the large population of people like my wife who are terrified of snakes and you get the perfect storm. Which reminds me of @SlitherSnake the 10 foot snake seen in Columbia. He’s still missing so be on the look out for him and send me a picture. Smile

  • Thanks for this!

  • omg, i’m scared of my feet being under my desk now.YIKES!!!!

  • This is very good info! Thank you for sharing! 🙂

  • My problem is not “with” the snakes, but identifying the babies. In particular, the baby copperheads. I seem to struggle finding adequate images of baby snakes.

    • Here is the best way to tell a poisonous from non in all cases in the Carolinas, except the coral snakes. Non-poisonous have round pupils (though not everyone wants to get that close) and poisonous snakes have slit pupils, like cats eyes.

      • Kat S

        Better yet – poisenous snakes mostly have triangular heads, most non-poisenous snakes do not.

  • Beth Ann Boyd

    I’m with you on not killing snakes…most of the time. We’ve had a few black snakes and Eastern garter snakes in the yard this year, and even one in our garage. However, when I had a small/baby snake in my house earlier this year, all bets were off! We couldn’t decide if it were a baby copperhead or a black rat, so we definitely killed the thing. I couldn’t sleep in our house for a few days even after convincing myself after the fact that it was just a black rat. Ugh!

  • Luvnut

    Ahhhhh, Carolina living. No thanks.

    • Kat S

      Better you stay up north anyway – don’t need more librals down here…thank you very much !!!

      • joshua

        or crazy drivers! Got enough transplants driving like dopes down here now!

  • Very nice, but I think you have the Black Racer and Black Rat Snake backwards. The Rat Snake is shiny black with a white belly. They actually move fairly slowly, which is why you see many of them killed on the road. The Black Racer has the color variance you described for the rat snake, and moves much faster. Definitely agree with you on relo rather than termination. I have also spotted (in the WNC mountains) a couple of juvenile timber rattlers this year – and just tried to leave them be. Saw a garter snake pull a large Carolina Red Toad out from under my front steps – a rather ambitious swallowing project – but I guess he finished and went on his way (me and my smart phone had to leave!)

  • ignatiusjreilly44194419

    You need a proofreader.

    • wxbrad

      If you can do it for free the jobs is yours.

  • 427Heel

    You wrote that kingsnakes eat “other venomous snakes.” Kingsnakes aren’t venomous, however they will eat venomous snakes.

    • wxbrad

      I know they aren’t venomous wasn’t trying to imply that they were. I’ll reword it, thanks!

  • david scheller

    I have lived in my current house for 20 years. Prior to this year, I had seen about a dozen snakes on the property. So far this year I have seen six. While I agree that it’s the warm weather causing it, I have to disagree with your conclusion that there aren’t “more snakes this year” We had a mild winter, generally mild winters make for a worse bug problem in the sprint and summer, more food for the snakes, which means their population can grow.
    (And good lord at the black snake hanging in the tree. Looks like a boa. They aren’t cross breeding with the invading species are they?)

  • Melvin Purvis

    I’m new to western NC but not new to snakes. I found my first Brown Snake today and was able to ID it from your post, and it was released. Now, a bit of what I’ve learned since moving here: The good news is that there are no poisonous snakes in NC. The bad news is that there are a few venomous snakes, as you have correctly stated. If a snake were poisonous, that would mean it would be toxic to eat, and you can eat all the copperheads and rattlers you like; just be sure to remove the heads! Last I heard, the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake is responsible for the most deaths by snakebite in North America, the result of bites from a large snake with a lot of powerful venom. They are rare, thank goodness, but I have already encountered two of the more common Timber Rattlers here in the mountains of western NC. I also found out that NC law prohibits killing a rattler! I have a feeling that is a law that gets broken a lot. Copperheads are too common a nuisance here, but nothing to worry about if pay attention to your surroundings while outdoors.