Uptick in snake sightings in Hampton Roads

CHESAPEAKE, Va. - A rattlesnake slithers in the yard of a home Monday evening, eventually sitting near a bush close to the front of the home. It's not the first venomous snake sighting for that neighborhood in Western Branch, but it caused a bit of a stir.

"Dad, you won't believe it; there's a huge rattlesnake down the street!" That's what Joe Lavender said his daughter told him when she came home. "I jumped out of my chair and said, 'Is anybody taking control of the situation?'"

Lavender hopped on his bike and went down to the home. He found the snake, and thanks to previous sightings in the area, had an idea of what to do.

"Got a shovel, the snake has moved behind the one bush and I thought, let's just keep him calm and in one place until the guy can get here. That was an hour," said Lavender.

So what is causing the uptick in snake sightings? Rich Perry with Virginia Wildlife Management Control said it started with a few days this winter where Hampton Roads was uncharacteristically warm.

"The early hibernation and the rain and the developments going on - these are all recipes for disaster, and it's a very, very bad year," said Perry.

Perry added the recent rainfall put snakes on the move.

"The next thing you know, they're going to start looking for others places, people's houses, garages, crawl spaces, sheds," he said.

That's why it's important to be on the lookout and aware of surroundings. One citizen said she got bit in her own backyard by a copperhead.

"When the snake bit me, it was the most excruciating pain I have ever felt and even after the fangs were out, the pain did not let up. It was really horrendous," said Patricia Southard.

Southard and her husband have lived in their Chesapeake home for decades. Southard said she's seen snakes before and didn't really think twice, but this copperhead caught her off guard. Now she wants others to be aware after she spent four days in the hospital.

"To be cautious. I am still a bit paranoid and I look with every step. I'm one to get up and pull weeds, and now I look before I put my hand under that bush," Southard said.

Virginia Wildlife Management and Control have a 24/7 identification hotline where folks can send in pictures or videos and they will identify if the snake is venomous or not. They also come out and do removals. They ask for people who see a snake to give them a call at (804) 617-7086 and give the snake a chance at living somewhere else instead of killing it.