Several pest-control companies say the rainy weather is pushing more snakes into people’s homes in the Charlotte area.
One expert isn’t so sure. But Kevin Hyatt knows what he saw in his Charlotte home, and he knows he’s never seen it before.
His 4-year-old son, Cy, awoke recently around 4 a.m.. calling, “Mommy? Daddy? There’s something in my room.”
Armed with a broom and his daughter’s butterfly net, Hyatt captured a 3-foot grayish-brown snake with net-like markings in a storage bin and carried it alive to Reedy Creek Park, where he said rangers were unable to identify it.
When Hyatt called a snake control professional to inspect his house, he was told there was a four-day waiting list because business was so busy.
Snakes are typically most prevalent right about now, wildlife control professionals say, and some are responding to more snake reports than usual during this abnormally rainy season.
Selena Delimata had never seen a snake up close before she found the tail of a 2-foot black snake poking out of her pantry this week in Charlotte’s University City area. She tried to coax it onto a broom so she could toss it outside, but it slithered into a small opening that led under a kitchen cabinet – which she promptly sealed with duct tape.
Despite what area residents like Delimata and the Hyatts may be seeing, some experts say the slithery critters are probably not particularly more abundant than they have been in other years – but they are apparently more visible and warranting more removal calls.
“I get this question every year,” said Michael Dorcas, a Davidson College biology professor and ecologist who focuses on the conservation of amphibians and reptiles. “If it’s a dry year, people say we’re finding more snakes around our homes because they’re looking for water. And now (people say) they’re trying to escape that water. The reality is that’s probably not the case at all.”
Snakes may be a little more active than they would be in a dry year, Dorcas said, but not substantially so.
Of course, he said, in a wet season, snakes are probably eager to get out of the rain and seek dry shelter, which could be driving them into people’s homes.
“If you were sitting out in the rain and it’s pummeling you in the head, you would want to get out of the rain. I suspect snakes would, too,” Dorcas said. “Just like us, they need food, they need shelter, they need mates.”
Ann Terwilliger of A All Animal Control in Charlotte estimates her company has seen about a 50 percent increase in the number of calls for snakes around people’s homes this year compared with last year. She says they’ve gotten as many as five to 10 calls a day about snakes over the last month.
More calls come the day after it rains, she said.
People are mainly reporting snakes in their yards, crawl spaces and attics, but Terwilliger said she’s gotten at least eight calls in the last three months about a snake inside a house. In those instances, she said, the snakes showed up in bedrooms, kitchens or closets – particularly in areas of the house near piping or drains where snakes can crawl in from outside.
Carolina Pest Management, which serves the Charlotte area, has also seen an increase in the number of snake reports compared with previous years, president Kristin Dodd said.
Field workers are finding snakes on porches and under houses, and “that’s not normal,” Dodd said.
“(Snakes are) fairly common, but not at this volume,” she said.
But not all pest-control companies are experiencing increased business.
Wildlife removal company Animal Control Experts is responding to anywhere from 50 to 100 snake calls a week in the Charlotte area, which is no more than normal, co-owner and general manager Robert Hood said.
“Typically, this time of year you expect to have this many snakes,” Hood said. “The only difference I see with this kind of weather is we have more water snakes in the area than we might normally.”
The biggest impact that the weather may be having on snakes in the area is the amount of food available, Dorcas said. Many snakes feed on small rodents or amphibians, and some, like the common brown snake, on insects, slugs and worms.
The rainy season has made those food sources more available to snakes, Dorcas said, so it may be that they’re more visible to humans these days.
Hood agreed. “As long as there’s a population of rodents and small birds, snakes in the area are going to tend to stay on top of that food source,” he said.
More food for snakes this season could also mean better reproductive conditions, which could potentially lead to an increase in next year’s snake population, Dorcas and Hood said.
Despite many people’s aversion to snakes, most in the area are not harmful and are in fact beneficial, playing a role as both predator and prey in the ecosystem, Dorcas said.
“Snakes are a really cool part of our natural heritage in North Carolina and should be appreciated just like the birds and other wildlife that we get to see,” Dorcas said. “If you’re scared of snakes, that’s OK, but just acknowledge that your fears are not justified.”
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