RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) — They are slithering their way onto your property and one snake expert believes this is the worst snake season Virginia has seen.
It’s not the news most want to hear.
“It’s a perfect day for them to be out,” Richard Perry said. “We had a lot of rain and we had some pretty warm spells in February."
Richard Perry is the owner of Virginia Wildlife Management and Control, and his family travels around the state removing the slithery creatures.
“One of the biggest problems we run into are snakes in garages, sheds, crawl spaces, attics,” Perry said.
There are several different species found around Virginia.
“Black rat snakes and black racers. As far as venomous snakes go, we have copperheads,” Perry said.
It’s primarily the copperhead central Virginia residents need to watch for. They have a triangular head and cat-like eyes.
In the Shenandoah Valley, there is one other common venomous snake: Timber rattlesnakes.
Cottonmouths, or water moccasins, are confined to the eastern portion of Virginia, so you don't need to worry about them in our area.
The phrase which many people have likely heard some variation of – "red touches black, friend of Jack; red touches yellow, kills a fellow" – mainly applies to coral snakes, which are not typically found in the Valley.
But remember — snakes only kill about 2 people in a decade in Virginia, which means the threat they pose is incredibly small. You are more likely to be killed by a lightning strike.
Perry said there are certain locations where snakes are known to hang out, and you should be on the lookout in case you cross paths with one. Many of the places snakes like to hide are man-made, increasing the chances of an encounter.
“A snake would automatically be attracted to railroad ties. They love them," Perry said. “What they typically do is they go underneath here.”
They also love junk, debris, and high grass.
“The worst mistake you can make is to decide to leave brush piles and leaves around,” Perry said.
If you find a snake, there’s a hotline you can call to identify it, then get rid of it.
“You take a picture, you send it to us no matter the time, day or night, and then we give you the option if you want us to come out and get it or not,” Perry said.
What about home remedies people try to discourage snakes from taking up residence? Perry said not to waste your time.
“Snake away sulfur, mothballs. I’m going to catch heck for this because people swear by mothballs: It does not work,” Perry said.
The Snake Identification Hotline number is (804) 617-7086.
Most snakes you'll comes across in Virginia are not venomous, but even if they are, in most cases, it is illegal to kill a snake in Virginia.
The penalties, although rarely enforced, include fines and possible jail time.
That's because snakes are classified, under Virginia law, as a non-game species, which means they can only be killed if classified as a nuisance species or "when found committing or about to commit depredation upon agricultural or property damage, or when concentrated in numbers and manners to constitute a health hazard or other nuisance."
Snakes play a valuable role in nature and help control insects and rodents that damage crops and carry diseases harmful to humans. Millions of dollars in crop damage is avoided every year as a result of the free pest control service that many snakes provide, which is a key reason why they're protected under law.
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Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that cottonmouth snakes could be found in the Shenandoah Valley. That is incorrect and has been clarified in the article above.