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Local residents report increase in snake sightings

NATCHEZ — While the COVID-19 pandemic has kept most people indoors over the last six weeks, but some of those who have ventured outside their homes recently have seen their share of snakes slithering on the ground.

One person who has seen several snakes recently is Curtis Moroney, a self-employed IT consultant and event director for the newly reformed Natchez Bicycle Classic.

Moroney said he likes to go on bicycle rides along the Natchez Trace Parkway each evening and recently saw a four-and-a-half-foot-long rattlesnake.

“I just went on my bike ride Friday evening,”Moroney said. “I’m always watching for wildlife — birds, armadillos, snakes, deer, squirrels. We usually stop and try to move the snake out of the road. Everyone thinks that if they see a snake, they’ve got to kill it,” Moroney said. “It was a pretty one. I sprayed some water with my water bottle. He never moved. He just kind of frozen. Then I got comfortable enough where I could take the picture.”

After all of that effort to unsuccessfully move the snake away from the edge of the road, Moroney said he got back on his bicycle to finish his ride.

“I didn’t see any cars for several miles. I guessed he survived just fine,” Moroney said. But that would be just the beginning of what would be of a weekend that featured more snake sightings for Moroney.

“(Sunday) I was cutting a tree from the storm the other day,” Moroney said. “It was another rattlesnake, probably bigger than the one I saw last Friday. Nothing bothered him — machinery, vibration, noise. He did move when I started to move him out of the way. Then I saw a king snake and a corn snake. They are really colorful snakes. All kinds of snakes out lately. Snakes will not bother you. I never kill them. I just leave them alone.”

The same could not be said for Natchez resident Jim Sanders and a member of his family when they encountered a 4-foot-long rattlesnake about two weeks or so ago. This particular snake had 10 rattlers and on the very tip of the tail what Sanders calls a button.

“I was hauling scrap metal,” Sanders said. “We went in the woods on 61 South. My brother was with me. He looked down and saw what he thought was a piece of yellow rope. He realized it was a snake and started screaming, ‘Snake!’ It just slithered away. He was trying to get to a hole in the bottom of a tree. That’s when I was able to grab a stick and hit it and kill it. Needless to say, we didn’t stay in the woods. We left.”

Sanders had a picture taken of his friend’s son, Caden Kossum, holding the dead snake.

In recent weeks, there have been reports of a four-foot-long rattlesnake under the hood of a car in Vidalia as well as a dog being bitten by a snake.

However, herpetologist Terry Vandeventer, who is referred to in Mississippi as “The Snake Man,” said it is not uncommon for people to see snakes at this time of year.

“Welcome to Mississippi. From mid-March to mid-May is kind of snake time,” Vandeventer said. “People are out, fishing and hiking. They’re doing gardening and they see snakes.”

However, Vandeventer said there are no more reports of snakes this year than there were at this time last year, adding there have actually been fewer reports.

“We’re losing snake population. Weather conditions give the impression that there are more,” Vandeventer said. “With the COVID-19, I haven’t been able to do field work with snakes and reptiles because of quarantine orders. In my yard in south Jackson, down in Byram, I have seen numerous snakes. I’ve seen a couple of cottonmouths, a corn snake, a couple of rattlesnakes, and a couple of speckled king snakes. They are common here. We don’t bother them. We don’t kill them. We just leave them alone. There’s nothing to worry about.”

Vandeventer then said that when the temperature starts to get warmer in May and on through the summer, people will see fewer snakes during the daylight hours.

“They become nocturnal, early in the evening and early in the morning,” Vandeventer said. “In the fall, late August and September, people driving the countryside will see rattlesnakes and copper snakes.”

Vandeventer said that between 80% and 85% of people who are bitten by snakes are those who try to kill them and that about 40% to 50% of people bitten by snakes have alcohol in their systems. He added that snakebites are among the most avoidable situations.