Snakes are one species of wildlife that instills a deep-rooted fear in many people. We recognize snakes as threatening, especially if they are venomous as their bites are potentially fatal.
Luckily, most of these reptiles prefer to live in the wild, away from urban areas and humans. While some may still occasionally find their way into your yard or even slip into your home as they look for warmth, shelter, or a place to build their nest, in most cases there is nothing much to worry about.
Keep reading to find out how common spotting a rattlesnake is in a yard in North Carolina, and whether it is a problem for you.
Are Rattlesnakes Common In North Carolina?
North Carolina is home to three different types of venomous rattlesnakes, namely the Timber Rattlesnake, the Pygmy Rattlesnake, and the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake.
The Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus Adamanteus) is the largest and the most powerful rattlesnake in the world. Typically, it weighs up to 5 pounds and grows to about 4 or 5 feet in length, but sometimes even more.
It has a grayish-brown body and it can be recognized by the centered, diamond-shaped and yellow-margined patterns on its body. It has two diagonal lines with a dark stripe on the sides of its head and a large rattle at the tip of its tail.
The Eastern Diamondback is known to be the deadliest snake in the US, despite not being considered aggressive by nature.
Its range is primarily limited to the Coastal Plain region of North Carolina.
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
The Timber rattlesnake (Crotalus Horridus) is a large, robust creature. This is one of the most venomous snakes in North Carolina, and like the Eastern Diamondback, it’s one of the deadliest snakes in the US thanks to its long fangs and high venom yield.
Its body is pinkish to blackish in color, having dark, light-centered blotches and crossbands.
The animal has a black tail with a distinct rattle at the end.
Its habitat is largely confined to forested areas in the Coastal Plain and Piedmont, and at high altitudes in the rocky mountainous regions.
The Carolina Pigmy rattlesnake (Sistrurus Miliarius) is moderately slender with a grayish, reddish, or brownish body that has dark brown blotches and light margins. There is a red-brown stripe bordered by a narrow line on one side of its head. Also, its head has symmetrical plates and wavy brown bands that run from its top to the neck.
Pigmy rattlesnakes have short bodies that usually only grow to about 1-2 feet in length.
Particularly in the southern and eastern North Carolina areas, Pigmy rattlesnakes can also have pinkish or reddish background coloration.
This species has a very small rattle at the tip of its tail and produces a strongly hemorrhagic and tissue toxic venom. However, the venom is produced in low volumes, and therefore the bite is not fatal to adults.
The snake is found in the Coastal Plain region, parts of Piedmont, as well as in the Carolina Sandhills.
Carolina Pigmy Rattlesnake. Source: savethebuzztails.org/species-accounts/Carolina-Pygmy-Rattlesnake
Typically, the increase in snake numbers is a result of occasional mild winters in North Carolina. Even though rattlesnakes are an important part of the ecosystem where they help control the rodent, insect, and slug populations, their infestations can become a real problem for homeowners.
But overall, the state’s native rattlesnake species are in decline and are therefore listed as endangered in North Carolina.
When Do Rattlesnakes Come Out In North Carolina?
In North Carolina, rattlesnakes come out and are most active during the warmer months of the year, typically from May to September. They seek sunlight to warm up on cold days and shade to stay cool on hot days.
They tend to come out at both sunset and sunrise, which makes them crepuscular animals. These are usually their most active times, but you may also spot them around in the full daylight crawling in full sun, as well as hunting at night. For that reason, rattlesnakes can be categorized as both diurnal and nocturnal.
What Causes Rattlesnakes To Come To Your Yard?
Rattlesnakes might be coming to your yard for several reasons. The main reason is to look for a food source. Small mammals like rabbits and rodents such as mice and squirrels are the favorite prey of these snakes.
Your lawn can become more attractive to rattlesnakes if you overwater it, as this attracts frogs, worms, and slugs that are good food sources for this wildlife.
Heavy yard debris and clutter, lawn equipment, unused planters, wood piles, and storage containers make good hiding locations for snakes. Tall grasses, brush, dense shrubbery, landscaping rocks, mulch, or piles of leaves are also suitable habitats.
Rattlesnakes are generally attracted to dark and damp conditions, so you should be careful in areas where water or moisture could collect in the yard, for example, places with poor drainage or leaky outdoor taps, and bird baths.
Typically, rattlesnakes seek out places on high slopes that receive plenty of sun exposure. In winter, they spend their time under logs and piles of wood or rocks, but also under a house, as these areas provide them with shelter from the cold weather.
What Should You Do If You See A Rattlesnake In Your Yard?
The rattlesnake will alert you with its distinctive rattling sound, so you’ll know it is very close.
Don’t try to kill it as this will increase the chance that the reptile will bite you.
Besides, unless in self-defense, it is illegal to kill rattlesnakes in North Carolina as they are a protected species under the NC Endangered Species Act.
Actually, the rattlesnake prefers to avoid humans and leaves them alone unless provoked. It will not chase you. The reptile might coil up into a defensive position if it’s unable to escape by crawling away.
Some rattlesnakes might be confused by what a human is and will try to quickly hide under the nearest cover, such as your car. Other snakes can get confused by a flashlight and will start fleeing into it rather than crawl away, unaware of where the enemy is.
On A Final Note,
If you happen to be in their territory, take precautions and keep your distance from them as they could become aggressive.
Rattlesnakes are the most aggressive and can attack if they feel trapped or threatened, when they are touched, or if you stand too close to them.
It’s important to remain calm and not panic when you encounter a rattlesnake. Do not jump nor throw anything at it, like a stone or a stick. Instead, if possible, you may take a hose and spray it with water from a distance.
However, for your own safety, it is best to call in a wildlife removal professional to trap a rattlesnake. The technician has the required training and experience to safely handle all the venomous snakes that might invade your property.
So get in touch with the local wildlife company in your area at the first sign of a snake problem so that they can restore the safety of your home in no time.
Lastly, remember that bites from rattlesnakes tend to be more severe than from cottonmouths or copperheads, and therefore require urgent medical attention.