Snakes in Windsor Castle Park

Published 6:49 pm Tuesday, June 4, 2019

By Frederic Lee

Staff writer

Smithfield Parks and Recreation Director Amy Novak warns of an increase in snake activity at Windsor Castle Park, citing the rising temperatures. 

“Just be cautious,” she said at the Smithfield Town Council Parks and Recreation Committee meeting on May 21, adding that a good way of avoiding snake bites was to remain on established trails, and that usually, bites occur when visitors are digging through dead leaves. Novak said that no one’s been bitten this year, as of May 24. 

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Recently, many visitors have been venturing off the trail to look for painted rocks — a new pastime of sorts. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

In turn, Smithfield Mayor Carter Williams advised against killing any snakes, not even copperheads, and said in an interview on May 24 that someone had killed one at the park and posted about it on Facebook, resulting in an angry visit to their home by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. 

Williams said that he’s seen copperheads, green snakes and black snakes at the park, but hasn’t seen any yet this year.  

One Smithfield resident, however, posted online last month about spotting a 3-foot copperhead at the park.  

Copperheads are the most commonly seen and most common snake to bite, but the bite is rarely fatal to humans, according to LiveScience.

Venomous snakes in North America have slit-like eyes and triangular heads. Copperheads have copper-colored heads and reddish brown bodies with dark bands.

Williams said that in time, the snake activity would settle down, and that there hadn’t been an actual increase in snake numbers. 

Like bears and groundhogs, snakes hibernate during winter months, reanimating once it heats up, according to the U.S. Forest Service. 

“They’re just waking up. They’re hungry,” said Williams, adding, “if you’d been sleeping for four months, what’s the first thing you’d do?” 

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries urges outdoorspeople to “leave snakes alone,” since snakes play a valuable role in the ecosystem as both predator and prey, and are classified as a nongame species, protected under nongame regulations. 

That being said, exceptions to the law exist. “If a blacksnake is found in your chicken coop, you have the legal right to kill it; or if a copperhead is found in your garage, you have the legal right to kill it. But to wantonly go out and shoot snakes when they are not posing an imminent threat to human safety or livestock is an unlawful activity,” according to the department.  {/mprestriction}