If it seems like you’ve been seeing more reports of snakes around Arlington on local listservs, you’re not alone. Arlington County officials said there’s been a noticeable uptick in reported copperhead snake sightings.
Alonso Abugattas, the county’s natural resources manager, said there has been an increase in copperhead snake sightings but that the exact numbers are hard to track down because he, Arlington’s nature centers, and animal control all get and respond to calls about snakes.
“This past year I have gotten more,” Abugattas said, “but I expect there’s been more because more people are outside.”
Abugattas said with coronavirus keeping people at home rather than in their offices, the increase in calls may have something to do with people exploring their local parks during the day, when copperhead snakes are more active.
“Parks have had a 200% increased use because people are at home and bored,” Abugattas said. “I think more than anything else, people are more aware of them.”
The local emergency room is also seeing evidence of rising encounters between snakes and humans.
“We’ve had a few patients with copperhead bites recently,” Mike Silverman, head of the emergency department at Virginia Hospital Center, wrote last Friday. “As someone who trained and worked for a long time in Baltimore City, it’s seems so weird to see snake bites in what’s otherwise an urban area but they are definitely in Arlington.”
He encouraged anyone suffering from a snakebite to get a photo of the snake.
“Pictures of dead snakes are great,” Silverman wrote. “Please don’t feel the need to bring the snake into the ER, even if it’s dead, though it does add a little excitement to the shift.”
The copperhead is one of only three venomous snakes found in Virginia and the only one found in Arlington County. Ken Rosenthal, park naturalist at Gulf Branch Nature Center (3608 N. Military Road), said in a presentation last Thursday that they are most likely to be found in Gulf Branch and along the rocky, forested hillsides along the Potomac River.
Despite being venomous, Abugattas said there have only been one or two cases nationwide of copperheads killing humans, and even those had other factors. Neither of them, Abugattas said, were in Virginia.
“It is, for the most part, a very timid snake,” Abugattas said. “Even when they do bite, about one-third of the bites are dry bites — a warning.”
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