Pet Alert: As dogs roam the yards, snakes may be lurking

Michael Perchick Image
Thursday, June 24, 2021
Pet Alert: As dogs roam the yards, snakes may be lurking
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The increase in construction and homebuilding could be playing a role in greater snake sightings.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Lori Spangler was enjoying a nice Sunday afternoon as she watched after her stepdaughter's dog Levi when it was interrupted by a startling noise.

"She put her nose in a bed of English Ivy and screamed. Not just a yelp, but screamed," Spangler said.

She quickly brought Levi and her own dog inside to check what happened.

"She had blood all over her nose, so I cleaned it off and I could see a little mark. Not bad, but her nose was already starting to swell," Spangler recalled.

Spangler brought Levi to the veterinarian, who said they believed the 11-year-old border collie was bitten by a copperhead. A day later, Spangler called Bryan Smith, the owner and operator of Advanced Wildlife Removal L.L.C to inspect her property. While the snake had since slithered away, Smith said he's been fielding a lot of similar calls.

"Very busy. Been the most snake calls, snake problems, snake interactions we've seen," Smith said.

He said he believes the boom in construction and homebuilding could be playing a role in increased sightings.

"It seems like the last two summers, spring's and summer's and fall's even have been more problematic. But that goes hand in hand with them losing habitat and all of the construction and development that's around. They don't have much habitat left in this area. So they're moving around. We've got Crabtree Creek, we've got a lot of rocks in the Laurel Hills, North Hills area, and people are moving around and displacing them from places they had been," Smith said.

Smith suggested people clear brush, wood, and rock piles from the yards, suggesting people cut their grass shorter. Fringes of yards, especially if it's near plants, bushes, and trees, as well as crawlspaces, are common places where snakes linger.

"People are gardening, they're moving stuff around, they're working in the yard. The dog plays with them, smells them, and that's when those accidents happen. But for the most part, most run-ins are going to be six, seven, eight o'clock at night. People going out for a walk, coming from their car to their front door, something like that because that's when those snakes are moving for the night," Smith explained.

He notes that while there are several types of snakes in the area, copperheads are the main concern. If your animal is bitten by one, seek veterinary care immediately.

"A little snake thinks they're going to take anyone down, so they'll just give a bunch of venom to anybody. So it depends on how much venom they get. So a big dog can take more venom than a little dog. So if a little dog gets bit by a little snake, you're in serious trouble," said Dr. Page Wages, a veterinarian with First Care Animal Hospital on Oberlin Road in Raleigh.

She added that they've seen an uptick in snake bites more recently.

"If they get bit, they jump because it hurts. If it's a copperhead, there's immediate swelling. It happens pretty fast. If you think your cat has been bit by a snake and it starts to swell pretty quickly, that's a copperhead, and you need treatment pretty fast. If it is a black snake, those don't swell up as much but you'll see two little holes," said Dr. Wages, who noted antivenin could be needed to treat copperhead bites.

Fortunately, Levi is healing up.

"She wants to play and she's herself again. So that's good," Spangler said.