Snake bites are up—and that’s normal

Of the three venomous snakes in VA, copperheads can be found statewide. 

Photo courtesy of Edward Wozniak D.V.M., Ph.D. Of the three venomous snakes in VA, copperheads can be found statewide. Photo courtesy of Edward Wozniak D.V.M., Ph.D.

Virginia summers are notorious for a rise in snake sightings, and while you may be aware of this, your pet sure isn’t. One local vet sees between four to eight snake bites a week during the summer.

“I would say that we see a lot of snake bites, but not necessarily compared to those seen from last year,” says Tripp Stewart, the owner of Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. “That being said, we do see quite a few, anywhere from four to eight in a week and sometimes even six to seven animals in a weekend.”

Charlottesville Veterinary Hospital has seen about two incidents in the past few months and Monticello Animal Hospital has around one incident per month, according to their receptionists.

The bites are not concentrated in any specific area, says Stewart, but the veterinarian is more likely to see animals coming from farms than those strolling on sidewalks in downtown Charlottesville.

“Copperheads are most active at sunset and just after dark, especially after a warm summer rain,” says John Kleopfer, herpetologist for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. “Fortunately, copperhead bites are usually not considered lethal; however, the effects of a bite can vary between individuals and dogs.”

There is no evidence that copperhead populations increase during this time of year, says Kleopfer, but he notes that rumors about snakes sure do circulate from the public this time of year.

The eastern cottonmouth and timber rattlesnake are the other two venomous species in the state. “Of the three species of venomous snake in Virginia, copperheads are the only species which occurs statewide,” says Kleopfer. —Melissa Angell


Copperheads easily blend into the environment, so it’s important to watch your step in the woods. Photo courtesy of Tim Ross and Wiki Images

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