Don’t let the cold weather fool you; copperhead snakes are still out and about in Virginia


ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — We’ve been seeing cooler temperatures in the Roanoke Valley, and there are those who believe colder weather means snakes go into hibernation.

That may be true, to an extent.

In truth, this is the time when copperhead snakes are being born. According to experts at Mill Mountain Zoo, the timing of copperheads being born this time of year is because there’s more prey.

“Specifically around here, it’s the molting cicadas,” said Kontessa St. Clair with Mill Mountain Zoo. “That’s a good meal for the juveniles.”

St. Clair also sheds light on the misconception of cooler weather and reptiles.

“Because we have high body temperature, it does feel cool to us,” St. Clair said. “To them, you know, sixty degrees can bring out a reptile.”

“It’s really sunny during the day, so snakes are out getting that warmth from the sun,” said CEO of Emergency Veterinary in Roanoke Dr. Maureen Noftsinger.

In some cases, in search of warmth or out of curiosity, copperhead juveniles will wander into homes.

“We were watching football and just sitting on the couch,” described Lauren Smyk from Rocky Mount. “I got up to get a drink and this thing starts moving in the corner.”

It was a copperhead snake that came through a small hole in Smyk’s screen door.

“Right where… I have my son’s little play mat on the floor, so it was literally crawling right towards that,” Smyk described with a cringe. “Thank God he wasn’t on it, but he could have been.”

Dr. Noftsinger says in our area, copperheads can be found anywhere, whether in the wilderness or on a greenway. Pet bites are seen more often in the late summer/early fall than any other time of the year. Bites can vary if it’s a juvenile snake.

“They can’t really control their venom, so sometimes they will have a dry bite. Sometimes they’ll have an excessive amount of venom,” Noftsinger said.

Copperheads are a protected species in Virginia unless they pose an immediate danger. St. Clair says that only happens when you make physical contact with the snake.

“They don’t want to use that venom on something that’s not their prey,” St. Clair described. “They don’t want to bite you, so if you leave them alone they leave you alone.”

Fortunately, copperhead bites are not typically lethal, though humans have a greater sensitivity to copperhead venom than animals.

Noftsinger mentioned that another snake people should be on the lookout for in the Roanoke Valley, for the time being, with a more potent venom… rattlesnakes.

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