It is summer and snakes are on the move.  Snakes are ectothermic (cold blooded) and are unable to regulate their body temperature.  Essentially, their body temperature will match the surrounding environment.  In the spring and summer, snakes will be very active foraging, mating, and giving birth and will return to the hibernacula in the fall.  During the winter, snakes spend time in warm areas underground conserving energy.

My daughter, Alexandra, learning about a black racer (Coluber constrictor). Photo taken by Dr. Chris DePerno.

During the spring and summer warming periods, snakes will venture out of the hibernacula and increase their activity and movement.  This is the perfect opportunity to educate yourself and children about snakes and the various snake species.  All snakes are an important component of the ecological community, they primarily consume insects and rodents, and most pose little to no threat to you, your kids, or your pets.  In North Carolina there are ~37 different species of snakes with only 6 being venomous.  Normally, if snakes are avoided and not bothered, they will move on and avoid humans and pets.

Children are innately curious about the natural world and the animals that share our yards and outdoor space. Through education and patience, I have taught my own kids how to identify and understand the unique morphology of different snake species. They have learned to respect snakes and their role in the ecosystem and they are familiar with the foraging styles, habitat use, and prey selection of different snake species.

As people and snakes increase their time outdoors and interactions rise, a lack of understanding and education leads many people to fear and kill snakes.  Children will mimic and copy what adults do, if you exhibit a lack of knowledge and respect then your children will likely grow-up with the same fear and misunderstanding.  As a wildlife professional I have received hundreds of emails and photos of dead snakes.  With nearly every email and picture, the snake was misidentified and was usually non-venomous.  Additionally, most of the emails referenced being afraid for their kids or pets.

I encourage you to spend some time educating yourself and your children about the snakes that you may encounter.  There is no need to kill snakes because of a lack of education or fear.  Nearly every state has a comprehensive list of the snake species and the information is easily obtained online.  I am willing to find the information for you if necessary.

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