(WGHP) — North Carolina has six venomous snakes to be on the lookout for when you’re on a hike or spending an afternoon by the water over the summer.
Some of them are familiar to most of us while others are spotted less often.
The snakes are venomous and not poisonous: the difference being venomous animals inject toxins, and poisonous animals unload toxins when you eat them.
- Cottonmouth (also called Water Moccasin)
- Eastern Coral Snake (state listed as endangered)
- Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake (state listed as endangered)
- Pigmy Rattlesnake (state listed as special)
- Timber Rattlesnake (state listed as special concern)
You can’t legally kill all six venomous NC snakes
You can’t legally kill the Eastern Coral Snake or Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake due to their endangered status.
The two snakes are the most uncommon on the list and are found predominantly in the lower tip of NC in Bladen, Brunswick, Carteret, Columbus, New Hanover, Onslow, Pender and Robeson Counties.
The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake is the largest species of rattlesnake in the world and possibly the most dangerous snake native to the United States, according to NC herpetology officials.
An Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake’s bite injects a great deal of venom. Being bitten by one can be a matter of life and death, but when threatened, they rely on camouflage to try and remain undetected instead of striking.
Even if disturbed while hiding, they’re still reluctant to bite and will usually try to escape first. If they can’t get away, they will rattle loudly as a warning signal before biting.
Most common snakes of the bunch
The Copperhead is by far the most common snake out of the six since you can find them just about anywhere in NC.
The Cottonmouth is also fairly common and can be found in almost half of the state. It’s the only species of venomous watersnake in NC and will defend itself if threatened.
The Timber Rattlesnake has a far reach as well, mostly inhabiting the mountains, coastal plains and lower Piedmont.
Pigmy Rattlesnakes get their name by being the smallest species of rattlesnake found in the United States. Much like the Eastern Coral Snake and Eastern Diamondback, you’re likely to find one in the lower tip of NC.
What to do if you get bitten
If you are bitten by a venomous snake, call 911 immediately and monitor the bitten area to see if it begins changing color or swelling. Even if the bite doesn’t hurt initially, you still need to treat it as fast as possible because it has the potential to be life-threatening.
Remove any jewelry or watches. Accessories could cut into your skin if swelling happens. Keep the bitten area below your heart to slow the spread of venom through your bloodstream.
Try to stay calm and roll over on your side if you can and rest in the recovery position. The more you move, the more quickly venom spreads through your body.
To treat the bite, cover it with a clean and dry bandage. Try to use a bandage that can be tightly wrapped around the bitten area. Then wrap another bandage around the entire bitten limb to immobilize it.
Many emergency rooms stock antivenom drugs specifically for snakebites.
Can you own an exotic snake in NC?
Animal control caught a zebra cobra last month, more than two days after it got loose in a neighborhood in northwest Raleigh.
Authorities say the snake belongs to a homeowner in the area, which is legal in NC. The state is one of only a few in the country that has no statewide laws on private ownership of exotic animals.
Parker Whitt is an environmental specialist for the Department of Agriculture. He says the snake is native to southern Africa. He thinks it’s highly unlikely the striped snake would be for sale anywhere in the state.
“He probably bought it somewhere out of state and either drove and found it or went to a hot show and found it or had it shipped,” Whitt said.
He says while it’s legal, there are exceptions and strict rules. North Carolina law requires owners to provide an escape-proof container and an escape recovery plan. Each county can also set its own ordinances dealing with exotic animals.
“When you have any kind of exotic snake, you’re supposed to take pictures of the habitat, take pictures of the enclosures, let animal control in your county know you’ve got them. Have poison control cards where antivenom is accessible,” Whitt said.
Whitt says the zebra cobra can spit venom from up to 12 feet away, making its capture and containment critical.
“Very, very toxic venom. Neurotoxic, hemotoxic, destroys tissues. He is not going to go out seeking to bite, but you could accidentally step on him, and his reaction is to bite you,” Whitt said.