Shift in Snake Season Puts Locals on High Alert

A shift in the snake season has been detected in Virginia, putting locals on high alert.

Snake season in the U.S. east begins with the spring, when the weather starts to warm up. But in Virginia, it seems to be coming earlier each year.

Wildlife removal specialists at Virginia Wildlife Management and Control said they noticed a record number of snake calls during this year's winter season, a phenomenon that they expect to continue as the weather gets warmer, local news outlet WTVR reported.

Cottonmouth with mouth open
A stock photo shows a cottonmouth snake with its mouth open, one of the species native to Virginia. TayRain/Getty

Virginia is home to a multitude of snake species including very venomous ones such as the copperhead and the cottonmouth. Snake season is usually from April to October. But this year, they have been spotted much earlier. Among the areas most affected this winter by snake calls in central Virginia were the Woodlake, Brandermill and Salisbury neighborhoods.

Owner of Virginia Wildlife Management and Control, Richard Perry, told WVTR that the situation gets "worse and worse" each year.

"We know [this year's] going to be a bad one," Perry told the news outlet.

Snakes are cold-blooded, meaning they become more active in warmth, especially when they are looking for a mate.

An increase in global temperatures may be causing the snakes to emerge earlier than usual. Resident from Brandermill, Monica Kincaid, told WVTR that they spotted a copperhead in the "dead of winter" this year.

"We are on high alert all the time, and we teach our kids to recognize when there's a snake and to be able to identify it too," Kincaid told WVTR.

Another factor could be human development in the areas where snakes live.

Perry told WVTR that there has been a lot of building going on in these areas, which may be contributing to drawing the snakes out of their hiding places.

Snakes appearing earlier in the year has been observed elsewhere in the U.S. In the spring of 2022, residents and experts noticed that rattlesnakes were emerging a month earlier than usual in California.

The venomous snakes—which are common in the state and found across all sorts of terrain, from the desert to the coast—usually begin to emerge in the state in the second half of April. But in 2022, they were spotted as early as mid-March.

In Virginia, it is illegal to kill a snake unless it is proving a danger. It is not uncommon to find snakes hiding in homes, especially during the summer months.

Dangerous snake bites remain relatively rare as most species prefer to hide rather than attack.

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