Poison center cites jump in snake bites in North Carolina

FILE - In this July 31, 2015 file photo, two rattlesnakes hide in a crack in a rock at an undisclosed location.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The number of North Carolina residents bitten by snakes in April increased nearly four-fold over the same period in 2016, and officials say mild winter weather may be to blame.

The Carolinas Poison Control Center says in a news release that it received 71 calls about snake bites last month, compared to 19 calls in April 2016.

According to the release, the center receives about 10 times the number of calls about copperhead bites than all other snake species combined. Copperheads, cottonmouths, rattlesnakes and the coral snake are the venomous species native to North Carolina. The center said copperheads are the most plentiful.

“Their camouflage is really quite remarkable, said Dr. Michael Beuhler, medical director of the Carolinas Poison Control Center. “You can get very close to a copperhead and not know it’s there. People were really minding their own business.”

Beuhler said 90 percent of the venomous snake bites reported to the center are from copperheads.

At the current rate, officials at the center say they expect to answer more than 500 calls about snake bites this year. Beuhler said the center normally handles approximately 500 calls a year.

The center suggests that people shouldn’t put their hands where they can’t see where they’re going. Beuhler also said people should carry a flashlight at night, and don’t try to kill or capture a snake. He also suggested checking boots and shoes left in a garage or outside before putting them on. And if you see a snake, Beuhler suggests backing away slowly because snakes can bite when they feel threatened.