June 23, 2017

Snakes in the Grass

Report from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. The two snakes they bagged from the marshy area around our stream were a copperhead and a mountain rattlesnake. Both poisonous but neither the water mocassin I spotted and photographed earlier. They continue to maintain their position that water mocassins aren’t found in the mountains of Virginia. Too bad they didn’t go upstream as far as our neighbor’s pond because that’s where he and I believe the snake(s) live.

Fred First tells me the president of the Virginia Herp Society, self-appointed reptile experts who are really a bunch of eggheads at Virginia Tech, is “dubious” about me finding a water moccasin in Floyd County, which is Fred’s polite way of saying the guy thinks I made the whole thing up. This guy, whoever he is, is welcome to drop by and call me a liar to my face so he can eat his teeth as well as his words. Then he can put on his Birkenstock sandals and take a walk in the marshy areas of our land.

Terry Krautworth is a seasoned hiker who writes for Backpacker Magazine and says he has encountered water moccasins in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina near the Virginia border (for the unitiated, that’s just south of here — not far as the crow flies or the snake crawls).

“The range of the snake includes much of the eastern half of the United States in almost any kind of wooded habitat, usually near water,” Krautworth says. “Keep an eye out around rocky hillsides in particular.”

Although the North Carolina Herp Society, another group of eggheads (this time from Duke) claims the water moccasin sticks to the Eastern half of the state, MSN Encarta says otherwise:

“Snakes, including poisonous species such as rattlesnakes and water moccasins, are common throughout the state,” Encarta says.

This debate raged in Floyd County when I lived here in the 1960s and I guess I’m not surprised it continues 40 years later. When it comes to what kind of snakes one finds in Floyd County, I’ll take the word of people who have lived here all their lives and have killed more than one of the pit vipers known as water moccasins.

They know the difference between a water moccasin and a water snake. So do I.

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