LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – It’s the season for snakes – baby snakes to be exact. Species like copperheads are having some new additions just in time for Labor Day, prompting Arkansans to raise the alarm on social media.
But wildlife experts say by being careful, there’s no need to be afraid.
Although the most abundant venomous snake in Arkansas, daily copperhead sightings are not as common as one might think, with the species prone to hiding in foliage or on and between rocky terrain. In addition, snakes of all kinds usually come out in the heat of summer, a season already passed in the Natural State.
Louisiana visitor Daniel Marchiafava was thrilled to learn all about the reptiles in his latest visit to Pinnacle Mountain State Park. The visitor center includes displays of local animals, including a young nonvenomous speckled king snake.
Daniel’s on his way to being an Eagle Scout, so slithery serpents aren’t one of his phobias.
“As a scout,” he explained, “I kind of grew up around snakes.”
But for much of the population, that isn’t the case. With copperhead babies popping up in parks, and an explosion of the snake’s favorite food, cicadas, Arkansans are wary of seeing the marked snakes in person.
“Interactions are inevitable,” explained Matthew Friant, a park interpreter at Pinnacle State Park.
He says among avid outdoorsmen and hikers, most will likely see a copperhead or other snake in the wild at some point in their adventures, as the snakes are some of the most common in Arkansas.
Friant has dedicated himself to educating others about the cold-blooded creatures, lecturing interested visitors and teaching guests how to distinguish between venomous and non-venomous snakes. He says although common, the creatures like to stay hidden and the best way to avoid a bite is to simply stay on course.
“Stay on [the] path and just make sure that you’re watching where you place your foot,” Friant says. He adds that if you do happen upon a snake, leave it be. Don’t approach it or try to move it and instead, wait for it to pass or give it a wide berth.
Most people get bit trying to pick the snakes up, or by accidently stepping on the camouflaged creatures. But bites do happen, and venomous or not, you’ll need to get help. Friant says it’s key to keep your heart rate down and remain calm and seek medical attention immediately.
He adds even though around a quarter of bites are “dry”, or without the injection of venom, it’s still important to get checked out.
Marchiafava agrees with the nature expert, adding, “This is their home, and we can’t keep on intruding on that.”
The copperhead snake has a series of lookalikes, both non-venomous like water snakes and venomous, like juvenile cottonmouths.
To better identify snakes that you happen upon, check out Herps of Arkansas HERE
And for more on sharing the trail with our slithery neighbors, read a State Park article HERE