OMG! A Snake!


Written by Anthony Morelli

On July 2, 2019

One of the main benefits of living out in nature is getting to see lots of beautiful native wildlife.  However, we tend to pick and choose which of these creatures we like and which we consider pests.

Too often, snakes fall into the latter category when they actually do more to control pests than become nuisances themselves. Many snakes consume a large number of rodents and other small mammals that destroy our farmers’ crops, chew through electrical wires which leads to house fires, and spread diseases including Lyme Disease.  While some may find them creepy, snakes are a vital part of our ecosystems and incredibly useful to humans.

If you see a snake, your initial reaction might be to grab a shovel or hoe to kill it.  Sadly this is how many of our native snakes die.  This is a slow, painful death as reptile brains can remain active up to an hour after decapitation.

Most snakes are nonvenomous, however, most people cannot accurately identify their local snakes and assume every snake is a Copperhead or another venomous species.  If you see a snake, rather than attempting to harm it, which exponentially increases your chances of a bite, choose one of these options:

  1. Walk away
  2. Spray it with a water hose to encourage it to move along
  3. Gently pick it up with a shovel and move it away from your house
  4. Contact a ‘relocator’ (like me) to safely remove it.

Some may be finding snakes more often on their property.  This can be caused by several factors.  The most likely is that you’re in a beautiful area with diverse wildlife, shelter, and water.  If you would prefer snakes away from your house, keep your grass short, keep a tidy yard with minimal shelter and debris for small critters, and don’t leave out animal feed that can attract rodents.  Even though some believe otherwise, no chemical has been proven to deter snakes, and these pesticides leach into our soil and water and harm our wildlife.

Consider that these creatures are simply doing their best to survive and would much rather stay out of your way.  Be spatially aware and watch where you put your hands and feet to avoid startling these purely defensive creatures.

Fun Fact:  Our native Eastern Copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix) venom is being studied to help people with breast cancer!  The disintegrin made from the venom, called Contortrostatin, has been found to inhibit the growth of certain breast cancers and inoperable gliomas.  Many other venomous species are being studied to help people suffering from heart attacks, strokes, chronic pain, and more.  Thus, there are no “bad snakes.”

I’m always happy to identify snakes for you and remove them if necessary.  I encourage you to try to coexist with our native snakes, they might surprise you and not live up to the myths you’ve heard.  Most folks aren’t aware that killing snakes is illegal in Virginia, and serves no purpose.  You can tag me in a post in the Lake Holiday Facebook Group for IDs and relocation.  Texting, calling, or Facebook messaging me is best.

~Yona Britto – is the “Unofficial Snake Lady” and resident of Lake Holiday. She can be reached at 540.450.6188 if you have a snake that needs relocating.

The photos above are just a few of the type neighbors have called upon Yona to carefully relocate!  Don’t be shy, give her a call or text or instant message if you have a reptilian visitor you need relocated!

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