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National Park Service warns tourists of timber rattlesnakes on NC’s Outer Banks

Hurricanes, rip currents, sharks and now rattlesnakes?

Sam Corlis caught this huge snake, a canebrake or timber rattlesnake, on the northern tip of Ocracoke Island as it headed out in the NC surf.
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Sam Corlis caught this huge snake, a canebrake or timber rattlesnake, on the northern tip of Ocracoke Island as it headed out in the NC surf.

North Carolina’s beaches aren’t typically associated with rattlesnakes, but Cape Hatteras National Seashore has issued an alert that the venomous snakes are showing up at the most inopportune of places on the Outer Banks.

As an example, the park service posted a May 9 photo on Facebook of a timber rattlesnake found curled up beside the bottom step of a staff building near Bodie Island Light Station. That’s among the Outer Banks’ most popular tourist attractions.

"Rattlesnakes strike when threatened or deliberately provoked," said the post.

The warning also included a list of preventative measures, such as avoiding the plentiful “tall grass, weeds, and heavy underbrush" along Outer Bank’s beaches. That is where the rattlesnakes like to hide during the day, officials said.

This marks the second time in nine months that an Outer Banks rattlesnake has been featured prominently on social media.

Ted Wilson, a captain with the Islamorada Fishing Guide, came across a five-foot Eastern diamondback rattlesnake swimming in the waters near the Florida Keys. The Eastern diamondback is the heaviest though not the longest venomous snake in the Ame

In August, a video surfaced on Facebook of a large rattlesnake swimming in the surf at the northeast end of Ocracoke Island. The video showed the reptile slithering out to sea, with its head above the water.

However, experts say tourists lounging on beach towels on the national seashore are not likely to be bitten while wiggling their toes in the sand.

"They don’t get on the hot sand in the middle of the day. It’s too hot for snakes," said Grover Barfield, director of the Carolinas Reptile Rescue and Education Center.

Bluffton veterinarian Ben Parker took this video of a giant rattlesnake swimming to their boat as they floated near the mouth of the May River.

"It’s only in the evenings and the mornings that people might see them there. It’s the trails (to the beach) that people are more likely to see one."

North Carolina poison control officials report there were 71 calls about venomous snake bites in 2017, according to TV station WLOS.

The counties with the highest number of bites were Wake and Mecklenburg counties, according to data released last summer by the state.

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Mark Price: 704-358-5245, @markprice_obs
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