From the Garden of Eden to Indiana Jones, humans have a long-standing disdain for snakes. Snake nerd and Virginia Herpetological Society education chair Caroline Seitz says that contempt is misplaced. Most snakes in NoVA are harmless — and only two are venomous. “If you just leave all snakes alone, then no snake will send you to the hospital,” Seitz says.
Seitz says the Eastern copperhead is the main venomous snake in NoVA. It can be found everywhere. But you’re only in danger if you try to pick it up or hurt it. “That copperhead wants nothing to do with you. … Just give it some space.”
Timber rattlesnakes are primarily found in the mountains. Seitz says they live in western Loudoun and Prince William counties. “If you live on Bull Run Mountain, you might run into a timber rattlesnake.”
Seitz says people see the brownsnake, as it is also known, “all the time” and mistake it for a copperhead. It eats slugs and worms, only grows to about a foot, “and it can literally not hurt you or your pet in any way possible,” she says.
Eastern ratsnakes are NoVA’s largest species. They can grow to 6 feet. Seitz says their teeth are “like little, tiny needles, so they really can’t do any damage.” Babies and juveniles have a pattern that causes them to be mistaken for copperheads.
Bottom line: Just remember to give your scaly neighbors some space — and don’t be a snake in the grass.
Feature image courtesy Virginia Herpetological Society/John White
Editor’s note: Photo credits in this story have been updated to reflect the correct photographer.