What's causing a Copperhead snake population boom in SC?

IRMO, SC (WIS) - People living in one Irmo subdivision say they've seen more copperhead snakes than ever and some of their pets have even been bitten by them.

University of South Carolina Naturalist Rudy Mancke says in the last two to three years, the weather has changed a bit here in South Carolina. It's wetter and not as stiflingly hot in the summer, which is the perfect habitat for copperheads.

Mancke said it's normal to see copperheads throughout the spring, summer, and fall, but they tend to give birth at the end of summer and early fall, which is why we're seeing so many of them right now.

They are the most common venomous snake that lives in South Carolina, and they're found anywhere from the woods to residential areas. Copperheads have wide-narrow-wide dumbbell- shaped markings.

Most people are bitten when they try to catch or kill the snakes. And if smaller animals like dogs or cats are outside and try to mess with them, they tend to get bitten as well.

"Most snakes we run across are non-venomous snakes," Mancke said. "But in the past two years I have seen more copperheads all over the state than I probably ever have in my life."

"About two to three years ago we had one that bit Jelly, our Doberman, and we took her to the vet. Her paw swelled up as big as my hand," Don Howe, an Irmo homeowner, said. "This year we had one underneath our deck, and we have two dogs and both of them got bit." Both of those dogs are okay and healthy now."

Another resident in the same neighborhood off of Coldstream Drive, Amy Ellisor, was taking her dog out the other night when she said she noticed something in the grass. She wasn't sure what it was, but when she realized it was a snake she called her husband over. They began Googling pictures of snakes, and sure enough it turned out to be a Copperhead. Worried it might hurt a child or a pet, they took action.

"It definitely wasn't a snake we've seen before," Amy's husband, Michael, said.

"He wasn't really doing anything he was just there. He was still, his head was up, and we would throw something at it to see if it would maybe slither into the woods," Amy added. "It wouldn't go anywhere so we felt bad. But we didn't want him going in the neighbor's yard because they have a dog and we have smaller kids so we were like all right, we're going to have to do it."

Mancke said snakes like lightweight materials like pine straw and lighter wood, so it's best to clear those types of materials away from your home.

Experts say its best just to leave them alone, unless it's absolutely necessary, like it was in the Ellisor's situation.

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