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Durham copperhead reports a reminder NC’s most common venomous snake

A copperhead watches visitors from its habitat at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. Calls about snake bites to the Carolinas Poison Center are up compared to the same time period last year. The copperhead is the most frequent culprit in bites in North Carolina.
A copperhead watches visitors from its habitat at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. Calls about snake bites to the Carolinas Poison Center are up compared to the same time period last year. The copperhead is the most frequent culprit in bites in North Carolina. cliddy@newsobserver.com

Copperhead bites of residents and their pets have been a hot topic recently in some Durham communities.

Several encounters were reported on the Watts Hospital-Hillandale Neighborhood Association listserv, which keeps private the identity of those making the posts.

On Friday, a resident of the Northgate Park community, near Northgate Mall, reported being bitten on the ankle after stepping on a copperhead in their freshly cut lawn at dusk on Thursday.

“I had to spend the night in the ER and the bite was extremely painful,” wrote the person, who expected to fully recover.

The person also offered ways they could have avoided being bitten – by not walking barefoot in the yard at sundown.

Another person reported their sister’s three dogs had to be taken to an emergency veterinary hospital after they were bitten by a copperhead the week before in northern Durham.

“The vet said she was four, five and six on copperhead bites just that day,” the person posted. “So, it appears ‘tis the season.”

Indeed, it is the season. And among the venomous species of snakes native to North Carolina – copperheads, cottonmouths, rattlesnakes and coral snakes – copperheads, which can live to 18 years, are the most plentiful.

In the spring, the Carolinas Poison Center in Charlotte reported receiving 10 times more calls about copperhead bites than calls about all other snakes combined.

A report from N.C. Cooperative Extension, a partnership of N.C. State and N.C. A&T State universities, indicates copperheads differ from North Carolina’s other venomous snakes in that they show a tendency to strike immediately when threatened. The bites are often the result of people trying to kill or handle copperheads.

The good news: While said to be extremely painful, copperhead bites are not typically fatal but could be in the case of a small animal, according to the report.

Copperheads bite more people in most years than any other U.S. species, but they also have the mildest venom, the report said.

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