Thursday, December 1, 2022

“Danger Noodles”: Five things to know about local snakes

An eastern garter snake. (WYDaily/Photo courtesy of wikipedia)

STATEWIDE — Nope rope. Danger noodle. Spicy pasta. Slippery tube dudes. Whatever you call them, snakes are now out and about thanks to the warmer weather. 

With snake season comes the many social media posts asking what kind of snake that a resident spotted or if it is, indeed, a life-threatening “danger noodle.”

First order of business: snakes cannot be poisonous unless you eat them and die. Snakes can be venomous, which means they may have the ability to inject you with venom and kill you. Remember: it’s venomous, not poisonous.

Here are the five facts you probably actually wanted to know about local “nope ropes.”

  1. What do you do if you find a snake in your yard? J.D. Kleopfer is a herpetologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and has worked with snakes for nearly 40 years. His advice for handling snakes? “Four magical words: just leave them alone,” he said. But what if it’s venomous? This rule still applies. Kleopher said that almost all snakes in Virginia are not actively aggressive and are most likely passing through. If you leave them alone, they will leave you alone, quite simple. 
  2. What if I want to identify the snake? Kleopher recommended taking a photo of the snake and sharing it with the Virginia Herpetological Society (VHS). Venomous snakes usually have a diamond-shaped head versus a triangular-shaped head associated with non-venomous snakes. But this can be tricky. “Most people want to make the worst out of what’s in front of them,” Kleopher said. If you want help identifying a snake, click here for information on how to contact the VHS. 
  3. What do I do if my pet or if I get bitten? Did you try to boop a snake thinking it wasn’t a “danger noodle”? “Do not self treat,” Kleopher said. He advises residents to not pull a John Wayne and try to suck the venom out. He said to first take off any jewelry, especially if you were bitten on the hand, before swelling starts. Call 911 and they can provide the appropriate medical assistance.  If your pet is the one who tried playing with the “nope rope,” then know where your nearest emergency animal clinic is. (For after hours animal care in the Historic Triangle, go to the Animal Emergency Center, located at 2025 George Washington Memorial Hwy.) Kleopher added that most dogs fully recover from snake bites. 
  4. What if I never, ever want to see a snake in my yard? Move to Ireland. Or just make your home less appealing to snakes. “Use a rake to brush out any brush piles or dirt piles where snakes might be,” Kleopher said. Keep any brush piles away from your house and keep grassy areas mowed. This will help eliminate attraction for mice and cover for snakes.
  5. What else should I know about snakes? Kleopher said, “Learn what does occur in your area.” He added that most people kill snakes out of unjustified fear. “I find that when people learn more about something, their fear tends to go down. You won’t be a snake wrangler by the end of the day, but maybe you’ll have a better understanding about them.”

To learn more about snakes, the Virginia Living Museum has exhibits on local species. The VHS also has resources for those who want to learn more about the strange, limbless creatures we call snakes.

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