Tennessee is home to more than 30 different types of snakes – most of them non-venomous – and chances are these elusive reptiles are never going to be a threat to you or your family unless you provoke them.
In Northeast Tennessee, the most common types of non-venomous snakes are the Black Rat Snake, the Northern Watersnake and the Gartersnake. Less common ones include the Corn Snake and King Snake and when it comes to venomous snakes, our region has two – the Copperhead and the Timber Rattlesnake.
John Phillips, caretaker at Bays Mountain Park, said while all snakes can bite you, chances are they won’t unless provoked.
“If you’re just walking past them, a snake might be curled up in a defensive position. But unless you step on a snake or kick at it, you’re never going to get bit,” Phillips said. “Your best bet is to just leave them alone.”
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency offers similar advice on its website (www.twra.org), saying to check before putting your hands in cracks and crevices and practice caution when hiking in rocky areas. If you do see a snake, the safest thing for both you and snake is to leave the snake alone.
Black Rat Snakes and Gartersnakes can be found most anywhere in Kingsport, including urban, suburban and rural areas. Anywhere there’s a small stream or a creek with minnows, watersnakes are likely to be found.
Expect to see snakes in our region most active beginning mid-April when they’re coming out of hibernation and looking for their first meal. Then, around mid-September when our region experiences its first frost, snake will stop eating and prepare for their long winter sleep.
You will likely see snakes around midday when the sun is at its peak, often in the road when the asphalt is warm or anywhere that’s dark and warm.
Snakes are not a threat to you, your pets or your home, Phillips said. With a diet consisting of mice, rats, frogs, salamanders, slugs and worms, the snakes commonly found in our region are great for pest control.
“A rodent will do more damage to your property than any snake would,” Phillips said, adding that snakes are a game species in Tennessee, meaning it is illegal to kill one unless they pose an immediate danger to you.
“Snakes are shy and won’t bite unless you provoke them. They’ll usually move along on their own, following a scent trail if they’re in your yard,” Phillips said. “Remember, don’t kill them as they’re important for the environment.”
Kingsport’s Communications Department is conducting a multi-part series this year on “Living with Nature,” which will highlight some of the animals found in our region (bears, deer, skunks, raccoons and snakes) and ways to protect you and your family if you encounter them – either in the wild or in your neighborhood.
The “Living with Nature” press releases can be found at www.kingsporttn.gov and on the Kingsport Alerts Facebook page.