In brief: Snake doppelgangers, North Korea release and more

Northern copperhead is the venomous snake you're most likely to encounter here. Note the Hershey’s Kiss-like pattern. Photo John White, Virginia Herpetological Society Northern copperhead is the venomous snake you’re most likely to encounter here. Note the Hershey’s Kiss-like pattern. Photo John White, Virginia Herpetological Society

Don’t tread on these

Venomous snakes and their harmless twins

Along with mosquitoes and ticks, other bites to avoid this summer are from snakes. The good news is, only two of Virginia’s three venomous species—the timber rattlesnake and northern copperhead—are found in the Charlottesville area, while the eastern cottonmouth hangs in the southeastern part of the state.

Timber Rattlesnake1-JohnWhite
Timber rattlesnake: Look for the rattle. Photo John White, Virginia Herpetological Society
Eastern Cottonmouth2-JohnWhite
Eastern cottonmouth: Not found around here Photo John White, Virginia Herpetological Society

And according to the Centers for Disease Control, only about five people a year die from snakebites in the United States.

It’s illegal to kill a snake in Virginia unless it poses an imminent threat. Unfortunately for some harmless snakes, their resemblance to the copperhead makes them targets for jittery humans. Fry’s Spring was in an uproar recently when a non-venomous species mistaken for a copperhead was killed. Michael Salotti, president of the Virginia Herpetological Society, advises, “A good rule to use for copperheads is their pattern resembles Hershey’s Kisses on their sides.”

If bitten by a venomous snake, remove jewelry in case of swelling and seek medical attention, he says. There’s no need to try to capture the snake because the same antivenin works for all the state’s native species.

And if you encounter a snake, Salotti says, “The best advice is to leave the snake alone.” Snakes are not aggressive and are quite beneficial to the ecosystem, he adds. And the eastern kingsnake will eat copperheads, although the majority of the 18 species documented in Albemarle County are ophiophagous—that’s Greek for “snake eating.”

Harmless look-a-likes

EasternRatsnake(Juvenile)_JohnWhiteEastern ratsnake

NorthernBlackRacer-Juvenile_JohnWhiteNorthern black racer (juvenile)

NorthernWatersnake_JohnWhiteNorthern watersnake

Photos John White—Virginia Herpetological Society


Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announces North Korea’s June 13 release of UVA student Otto Warmbier, who was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in March 2016 for allegedly stealing a propaganda-related banner while visiting the country, according to the Associated Press. The Washington Post reports he’s been in a coma since his trial.

Unsolicited advice

The Rutherford Institute’s John Whitehead advises Charlottesville Police, as it deals with confrontations over the Robert E. Lee statue and the upcoming KKK rally, to avoid “heavy-handed, militarized, shock-and-awe tactics,” and suggests instead that cops shake protesters’ hands and thank them for exercising their First Amendment rights.

“KKK is not my scene.”—UVA alum Richard Spencer, who led the May 13 tiki-torch procession, in a text to the Washington Post

Jim Murray’s latest gig

James Murray joins the UVA Board of Visitors with previous experience on the College of William & Mary BOV. Photo courtesy James Murray
Charlottesville native son and venture capitalist James B. Murray Jr., former Columbia Capital partner of Senator Mark Warner, was elected vice rector by UVA’s Board of Visitors and will take the rector-in-waiting position July 1, when Frank M. “Rusty” Connor III begins a two-year term as rector. Murray served as William & Mary’s rector in the ’90s.

James B. Murray Jr. Submitted

Ragged Mountain litigation covered

Charlottesville’s insurance carrier, the Virginia Municipal League, which declined to cover litigation stemming from City Council’s vote to remove the Lee statue, will cover the city’s legal bills from a lawsuit filed by Albemarle County over mountain biking at Ragged Mountain Natural Area. According to the Daily Progress, the city filed a counterclaim June 7 seeking an order that the county repeal its law prohibiting biking at the reservoir.

Rolling Stone settles

The magazine will pay Phi Kappa Psi $1.65 million to settle the UVA fraternity chapter’s lawsuit that it was defamed in the now-debunked 2014 story, “A Rape on Campus.” Rolling Stone also settled with former dean Nicole Eramo after a jury awarded her $3 million last fall.

Gay bashing

State Senator Bryce Reeves, who represents eastern Albemarle and is running for lieutenant governor, criticized opponent Jill Holtzman Vogel for voting to confirm “the first openly gay judge in Virginia,” Tracy Thorne-Begland. That, says the Richmond Times-Dispatch in an op-ed, disqualifies him from higher office.

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