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** Archived Article - please check for current information. **

July 8, 2011

Keep an eye out for South Carolina’s snakes moving around in summertime

It’s summertime and the snakes are crawling. On a hike, fishing trip, picnic, or working in your yard, this is a prime time of year when South Carolina residents may come upon one of these common reptiles.

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources provides a website (S.C. Upstate Snakes) to assist with general information and identification of common snake species in Upstate South Carolina. The purpose of this site is to emphasize that snakes are part of our native wildlife, and to help expand information and appreciation about these unique and interesting animals. A major feature of the site is an invitation for the public to submit digital photos of snakes (and the county where found) for assistance in identification.

Snakes are active in the Upstate throughout the warm months, typically from March through October. Some of their periodic activities during the year include winter “hibernation,” mating, and shedding their skins. Summer (mid-July to mid-September) is the time when baby snakes are born. For the most part newborn snakes (4 to 8 inches long depending on the species) look like miniature versions of their parents in coloration and pattern. Also, like the young of many wildlife species, they tend to wander in search of their own place to live. In doing this the stray youngsters are frequently encountered by people.

One of our common snake species where the newborn young do NOT look like adults is the black rat snake. While many people recognize the adults of this large (4-feet-long and longer) shiny black snake, they are not aware that newborn young, around 8 inches long, have a distinctly blotched pattern that they retain for one to two years. Many photos received by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources’ website during late summer are of young black rat snakes, and unfortunately, many times the photos show that the harmless non-venomous snake has been killed because it was mistaken for a venomous species.

Pictures of a typical adult and young black rat snake are shown on the DNR web site. You may wish to look at these photos, and the others on the website, if you encounter one or more summer snakes.

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