STATE: Commission offers tips on dealing with snakes

Published 9:26 am Tuesday, May 2, 2023

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From the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission

The warm weather means more snakes will start to show up along trails, in the woods, crossing roads and in our yards. Wildlife Diversity biologists at the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission request that if you see a snake, do not be alarmed, do not kill it, give it plenty of room, and if you see a pine snake or rattlesnake, report it. 

“Snakes play crucial roles within ecosystems and help control the rodent, slug and insect populations,” said Jeff Hall, reptile conservation biologist with the Wildlife Commission. “There are many ways to coexist with snakes, which is important because of 38 of North Carolina’s native snake species, ten are listed endangered, threatened or of special concern.”  

Of the six native venomous snake species, three are rattlesnakesthe timber, the pigmy and the Eastern diamondback. Each one is in decline, due mainly to persecution by humans and habitat destruction, and protected by the North Carolina Endangered Species Act.  

One example of a native threatened, nonvenomous snake species is the Northern pine snake. Agency biologists want to know more about the distribution of the pine snake and request the public report any sightings. It ranges between 4 and 5 feet long but can get as large as 7 ½ feet and has a white or tan background color with dark brown or black markings that begin as solid coloring or messy blotches near the head before gradually becoming distinct saddle-like blotches toward the tail. They prefer open areas within pine-oak forests with well-drained, sandy soil and are mostly found in the Sandhills and the southern Coastal Plain, although there are confirmed reports of pine snakes in Cherokee and Swain counties.  

“Public assistance in recording and documenting the pine snake will be a huge help, because it’s difficult to conserve a species when we don’t know all the places it occurs,” stated Mike Martin, wildlife technician with the Wildlife Commission. “We are partnering with several organizations and agencies to conduct surveys in the areas where pine snakes have either been seen or areas with potentially good habitat.” 

Sightings of these snakes in the wild can be reported in one of two ways, via a mobile app or by email. The agency partners with the HerpMapper mobile app to track amphibian and reptile species. Download the app to your mobile device or tablet and enter information about your sighting. If reporting by email send a photo (required), the date and time the snake was observed and location (GPS coordinates preferred) to for Northern pine snakes and to for rattlesnakes. 

Most snakes will leave people alone if they aren’t bothered and are provided an escape route. Effective habits for safely co-existing with snakes include watching for snakes and giving them a wide berth. If you see a snake in your yard and would prefer it to reside elsewhere, you can safely encourage it to leave by gently spraying it with a garden hose. To make your yard less hospitable for snakes clean up clutter such as stick and rock piles, keep your lawn mowed, close gaps and holes in your siding and foundation, and seal openings under doors, windows and around waterpipes. 

Keep in mind that some species have similar patterns to Northern pine snakes, especially juvenile rat snakes and racers. For help with identifying snake species visit Questions about human-wildlife interactions can be directed to the agency’s NC Wildlife Helpline, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., at 866-318-2401 or by email,