Thursday, February 24, 2011

Starring Samuel L Jackson

‘Ahh Snake in the pool!’
I launched in to the follow-up of ‘Snakes on the Plane’. Samuel L Jackson would dive in at any minute and wrestle a big black Mamba that had attached itself to my suddenly exposed nipple on my suddenly unfeasibly large breasts…
Thankfully no such trauma (although I was beginning to like the sound of that!) but it wasn’t without drama. I looked around – there was only me, the two 16 year old lifeguards and my two kiddies. Many ‘sub-divisions' – or housing estates have community swimming pools here. We often had the pool to ourselves last summer so I hadn’t thought it strange that no one was there. Apparently another family had spotted the snake and swiftly departed. Stupidly, we stayed and looked for it. It was quite hard to spot as it was only 6 inches long. I’ve seen bigger. As they say though– size isn’t everything and this snake was feisty! After being caught in the pool net it wriggled through a hole (as snakes do!). The life guard threw a towel over it and scooped it up. It bit the lifeguard and wriggled away. It was ok. I found out that day that of the 37 snake species found in North Carolina only 6 are venomous and deadly and the biddy snake in the pool wasn’t one of them!
The top 6 nasty snakes here in my new home state are; 
  1. Copperhead (found throughout NC)
  2. Canebrake Rattlesnake (found throughout NC)
  3. Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake (found in southeastern NC)
  4. Pigmy Rattlesnake (found in southeastern NC)
  5. Cottonmouth (found in wetland areas in the eastern half of NC)
  6. Coral Snake (the rarest, found in the south and southeastern areas of NC).
One of the most deadly – the Cottonmouth is found in water in these parts. You can tell it is a Cottonmouth rather than an ordinary water snake because the inside of its mouth is cotton coloured – all white and fluffy! I figure if it has its gob open and you are close enough to see inside you are already a gonna! Apparently it is the world’s only semi –aquatic viper. Not sure what our semi aquatic pool snake was then…. Not a viper!
The most common of the poisonous snakes in North Carolina is a Copperhead. I used to drink copious amounts of ‘copperhead cider’ at university – obnoxious but not venomous so I know the colour I am looking for. We went to a mini lecture at the North Carolina sea life centre on snakes (aspiring middle class parents trying to educate their kids … or terrified strangers trying to survive the wild life!) They gave some pointers in spotting the difference between venomous and non venomous snakes.  It all seems to require perfect memory recall in a potentially fatal situation. You don’t want to get it wrong… Ahh let me remember was it spoon shaped heads or triangle shaped heads that are dangerous… and what was the exception?

I found some really helpful tips so that I can be better prepared this Spring when the snakes come out of hibernation:

  1. Cottonmouths… are often loners, so if you see multiple snakes coexisting peacefully, it is probably not a cottonmouth.
So if you see a shit load of snakes you’re fine!

  1. "Copperheads" have a similar body shape to cottonmouths but are much brighter, ranging from coppery brown to bright orange, silver-pink and peach. The young have yellow tails as well.
Who cares what the difference is – they are both bad MoFos

  1. "Coral snakes" have several look-alikes, including king snakes. They have distinctive coloring, though, with a black, yellow and red bands, a yellow head, and a black band over their nose. One rhyme to help distinguish coral snakes from king snakes is 'Red touch yellow, kill a fellow. Red touch black, friend to Jack.'
Blah Blah Blah – Just remember the colours of the German flag and avoid all of them in any combination.

  1. Most of the time coral snakes will not bite - they are very shy.
Hope that you don’t meet a socially advanced extrovert Coral Snake!

  1. Nonvenomous snakes usually have a round pupil in the eye. Venomous snakes in the U.S. (except for the coral snake) have an elliptical pupil like a cat's eye. It looks like a small vertical slit in the middle of the eye. This can be difficult to determine without getting dangerously close, however.
No Shit Sherlock! Ignore this top tip and don’t eyeball a snake!

  1. Rattlesnakes- Look for the rattle on the tail. If the snake has a rattle on its tail it is a rattlesnake, and therefore venomous. Some harmless snakes imitate the rattle by brushing their tails through leaves, but only rattle snakes have the button-like rattle at the end of the tail that sound like little salt shakers. If you can't see the rattle, they also have a heavy triangular head and elliptical eyes like a cat's.
OK- Bad advice! Hear a rattle? Don’t look for leaves or try to distinguish salt cellar sounds. A rattle usually means the snake is already pissed off and ready to strike. Don’t go eyeballing it as well to double check!

  1. Venomous Snakes in the U.S. tend to have varying colors. Most snakes that are one solid color are completely harmless. However, some cottonmouths are also venomous so this is not a foolproof way to tell them apart.
Hey – top tips these! Ignore this tip too

  1. Nonvenomous snakes have a spoon-shaped rounded head and venomous snakes will have a more triangular head. This is because of the venom glands (this is less noticeable on the coral snake).
OK! Another top tip! Apply to all snakes – except Coral Snakes… again!

  1. Some venomous snakes in the U.S. will have a small depression between the eye and the nostril. This is called a pit (hence "pit viper"), which is used by the snake to sense heat in their prey. Coral snakes are not pit vipers, and lack this feature.
So remind me again – how do I spot a Coral snake? Something to do with German flags…

  1. If the end portion underneath the snake is going straight across, then it is venomous. If it starts to interlock, looking diamond shaped, then it is safe.
Hey Snaky – roll over and let me tickle your tummy…

  1. Some nonvenomous snakes mimic the patterns and behaviors of venomous snakes. Eastern milk snakes can look like copperheads, rat snakes can look like rattlers, and harmless king snakes can look like coral snakes.
So – Use all the other top tips to distinguish…

My conclusion – consider any snake as venomous and run away quickly in a zig zag line (actually I think the zig zag line is for crocogators!) They advise that you don’t garden without gloves and don’t camp without checking inside sleeping bags etc. They also advise not to handle snakes. I advise anyone coming to North Carolina not to, unless absolutely necessary and then – don’t garden, don’t camp, don’t stick your hands into any dark crevices (actually I think that is sound advice anywhere in the world and something I live by after a few unpleasant crevices!!!) and whatever you do – don’t touch a snake!


  1. Talk about confusion.!!!!best advice be very wary where you walk , sit , touch , i think i will just have to stay in doors or go to "Spec Savers "before i visit

  2. here snakey snakey xxx Deb.S

  3. Remind me, what are you doing there?
    I would be back home on the next plane (without snakes)

  4. Good Question!
    When we came out here to have a preview last Easter we saw a snake in the sand dunes - big - at least 2 foot. We actually tried to find it after it slivered off! thankfully we couldn't see it! If I had known then what i know now!!!!

  5. The American Lifeguard Association (ALA) has been offering Lifeguard classes for over 25 years. It is a national educational association that has the full support of both the Swimming Pool and Spa Association and Global Lifeguards.