Cooperative Extension Service


  1. Why shouldn't I kill any snake I find?
    Most people are bitten when trying to kill or handle a snake. As a general rule, snakes are just as frightened of you as possibly you are of them. Often they move as quickly as possible in the other direction. Snakes cause no property damage, but seeing a snake or its shed (skin) may frighten some people. Snakes--with their diet of rodents and insects--can actually help protect the plants in your yard and garden.
  2. How many kinds of venomous snakes are in North Carolina?
    Six of North Carolina's 37 snake species are venomous. Only three of those are found in the Piedmont area of North Carolina. They are copperheads, rattlesnakes, and sometimes cottonmouths. Cottonmouths are typically found east of Gaston County beginning in Union County and east of there to the coast.
  3. Aren't all the patterned snakes dangerous?
    Most patterned snakes are not venomous and therefore not dangerous to people or pets. In fact, several of our most beneficial snakes are often killed by people who mistake them for venomous snakes. Many young snakes have patterns that they will lose by adulthood. The patterns vhelp them hide from predators.
  4. How can I tell venomous & nonvenomous snakes apart?
    The rattlesnakes, copperhead, and cottonmouth are pit vipers. They are characterized by a pit between and slightly below the eye and nostril, long movable fangs, a vertically elliptical "cat's eye" pupil, undivided scales on the underside of the tail, and a large triangular-shaped head that has a small, smooth, shiny cap over the nose. Nonvenomous snakes have round pupils, a large smooth cap over the top of the head past the eyes, divided scales on the underside of the tail, no pits and no long fangs. Unlike venomous snakes, most nonvenomous snakes cannot bite through clothing.
  5. Aren't all snake bites dangerous?
    Unlike venomous snakes, most nonvenomous snakes cannot bite through clothing, because non venomous snakes have many tiny teeth. On bare skin, these small teeth will make superficial cuts similar to briar scratches. If you, a child or a pet is bitten by a nonvenomous snake, the bite will look like a horseshoe of tiny scratches. If you or your pet are bitten by any snake that you suspect is venomous, get medical attention immediately. Clean any snake bite area well with soap and water and wipe it with hydrogen peroxide. If only one or two puncture wounds are present, or if you are allergic to snakes, or if you are not sure the snake is nonvenomous, go to a doctor. Many more people die each year from bee stings than from snakebites.
  6. How far can a snake strike?
    A snake can only strike with authority within a distance of one- half its body length. So a distance of four feet or more will keep you safe. Give the snake time to go on its way. Remember, most snakes -- even venomous ones -- are not aggressive and would rather avoid a confrontation with people.
  7. How can I avoid snake bites in my yard or while hiking?
    Keep grass short. Eliminate weeds and brush. Do not place haqnds or feet into dark places. Stay out of dense vegetation. Watch where you step. Click here for more tips.
  8. Can snakes bite while swimming?
    Only if the snake and the human swim into each other. A snake can raise its body 1/4 to 1/3 of its length from the water surface using water tension, but water tension is insufficient for a coiling strike or for jumping into boats. Snakes usually flee humans, both in and out of the water. See watersnakes.
  9. Will snake repellant keep snakes out of my yard?
    Mothballs and many other so-called snake repellants don't work. Snakes can be discouraged from staying in an area by cutting off their food supply and cover. Mow closely around homes and outbuildings, and store firewood and lumber away from residences. Reduce mulch layers around shrubs to about 2 to 3 inches in depth to discourage small animals. Snakes also are often found in or near mulch piles and compost piles.
  10. How can I keep snakes out of my house?
    Snakes sometimes enter buildings looking for food. In spring and fall, young black rat snakes are the most frequent "visitors". Nonlethal control measures are the most commonly practiced forms of control. Close cracks and crevices in building exterior walls and floors and around pipes and utility connections with 1/4-inch mesh hardware cloth, mortar or sheet metal. All doors and windows should have tightly fitting screens. Add weatherstripping around exterior door frames.