Though a viral video featuring a long black rat snake descending upon a Charlotte kitchen might induce a wave of anxiety for some residents, experts say North Carolinians have little to fear.
The video, shot by Robert Hildreth and Laura Neff of northwest Charlotte, had nearly 695,000 views on Facebook Tuesday night. And nervous homeowners may wonder: Should the region expect an increasing number of snake visits this summer?
Michael Dorcas, a professor of biology at Davidson College and author of “A Guide to the Snakes of North Carolina,” said there’s no increase in sightings this year. If anything, he said, the snake population in metropolitan areas is decreasing.
Dorcas, whose book was adapted into a free iPhone app (Snakes of North Carolina), said residents might encounter more snakes in the warmer months.
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“When the weather is nice and we want to be outside, so do snakes,” said Jason Clark, president of Southeastern Reptile Rescue in Georgia.
But Dorcas said of the six species of poisonous snakes in the state, Charlotte-area residents can only expect to see copperheads and, rarely, a timber rattlesnake.
He said the most common large snakes found in the home are the harmless black rat snakes. But people tend to expect the worst.
Dorcas said more people in the United States die from vending machines falling on them than poisonous snake bites.
Tim Terwilliger, owner of A All Animal Control of Charlotte, said snakes are often follow smaller critters into attics, and can squeeze into holes as small as a quarter.
But Chris Flanagan, general manager of Critter Control in Charlotte, said snakes are never permanent fixtures. “Snakes are pretty much nomads,” he said. “They don’t have a home they go back to every day.”
The best way to keep snakes out is to seal cracks in foundations, and limit food and water sources in yards, such as bird feeders or kids’ swimming pools, he said.
But Dorcas said even the most extreme measures won’t keep a property entirely secure from snakes.
“At some point it just becomes ridiculous. I’ve had people ask me if they should put up an 8-foot wall,” he said. “You can do that, or pave over the entire yard.”