RALEIGH – Warm weather means more snakes will start to appear along trails, in woods, across roads and in our yards. Wildlife diversity biologists from the NC Wildlife Resources Commission ask that if you see a snake, don’t worry, don’t kill it, give it plenty of room and if you see a pine snake or a bell, report it.
“Snakes are an important part of the ecosystem and help control rodent, slug and insect populations,” said Jeff Hall, reptile conservation biologist at the Wildlife Commission. “There are many ways snakes co-exist, which is important because 38 of North Carolina’s native snake species, ten are listed as endangered, threatened, or of special concern.”
An example of an endangered native snake species is the northern pine snake. Agency biologists want to know more about the pine snake’s distribution and are asking the public to report sightings. It is non-venomous and measures between 4 and 5 feet long, but can reach 7 ½ feet. It has a white or tan ground color with dark brown or black markings that begin as solid coloration or messy spots near the head before gradually becoming distinct saddle-shaped spots towards the tail. It is found primarily in the Sandhills and the southern Coastal Plain, although there are confirmed reports of pine snakes in Cherokee and Swain counties. They prefer open areas in pine and oak forests with well-drained sandy soil.
“We are partnering with several organizations and agencies to conduct surveys in areas where pine snakes have been observed or in areas with potentially good habitat,” said Gabrielle Graeter, conservation biologist at the Wildlife Commission. “It’s hard to conserve a species when we don’t even know all the places it is found. Help from citizens in recording and documenting the pine snake will be of great help. Websites like HerpsofNC.org are great for helping people identify snake species.
If you see a snake in your yard and you prefer it to reside elsewhere, you can safely entice it away by gently misting it with a garden hose. You can also make your yard less welcoming to snakes by cleaning up clutter like piles of sticks and rocks, keeping your lawn mowed, filling gaps and holes in your siding and foundation, and sealing openings under doors, windows and around water pipes.
Most snakes will leave people alone if left undisturbed and given an escape route. Watching snakes and giving them a wide berth are effective habits for safely coexisting with snakes.