North Carolinian's guide to dealing with snakes

A copperhead snake looks up at the Nature Museum in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2010. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Warmer weather means more snakes out and about and in North Carolina, there are a number of venomous types.

According Dr. Benjamin German, an emergency medicine physician with WakeMed, their emergency rooms treat about 100 snakebites a year. 60 percent of those have venom in the bite while the rest are dry bites (no venom injected) or are from harmless snakes.

The four most common venomous snakes in North Carolina are Copperheads, Rattlesnakes, Cottonmouths (or water moccasins), and coral snakes.

Copperheads are the most common in Wake County and can be found throughout the state. Their bites are painful and cause swelling but are usually not as severe.

Rattlesnake bites are more serious than copperhead bites and the snakes can usually be found in the mountains and eastern North Carolina.

Cottonmouths tend to stay close to the surface of the water and are common east and south of the Triangle.

Coral snakes are red, black, and yellow and are usually found on the coast near Wilmington. German says they are very dangerous but there has never been a reported coral snake bite.

How serious are snake bites?

He says in rare cases a person can lose part of a limb or worse due to a bite, but a good outcome is all about timing and taking the right steps.

Bites can be more serious for children because kids are smaller but the same amount of venom can be injected. Also kids often pick up snakes out of curiosity.

What should you do if bitten?

German says to always call 911 immediately if you think you've been bitten by a venomous snake. While waiting for authorities, clean the bite area with basic soap and water. Don't do any of the old suction, cutting, or tourniquet tricks you may have learned in the past, German says.

Keep the bite victim calm and still and reassure them that it's treatable.

German recommends getting checked out by a doctor even if the snake is non-venomous.

When and where do snakebites happen?

Snakebites tend to happen close to home in yards, parks, and trails. They can be found in wooded areas and around bushes, leaf litter, and mulch piles. German says many snakebites happen at dusk because snakes are nocturnal.

He says snakes usually won't go out of their way to bite you and they don't chase you. If they do bite, it's because it's a last resort for them.

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