Slithery Park Friends

Hello, Friends of the James River Park! Recently someone shared a picture with me of a snake they encountered in the Park, and it made me want to share more information about some of our scaly, slithery, friends. They can be scary, and for the most part, I think that fear is rooted in a lack of knowledge.

snake in the ParkIf you have spent any time in the JRPS you have certainly seen a snake. The Park is an excellent habitat for a variety of snake species, and the overwhelming majority of our snake friends are completely harmless to humans. Here is a short list of some of the snakes we commonly see in the Park, and some information about what to do if you encounter one.

  • Black Rat Snake: This is a large, non-venomous snake that is often found in urban areas. Black rat snakes are excellent climbers and can often be found in trees or on buildings.

  • Northern Water Snake: This is a non-venomous snake that is often found near water. Northern water snakes are excellent swimmers and can often be found in rivers, lakes, and ponds.

  • Rough Green Snake: This is a non-venomous snake with a long, slender, bright green body. It lives in leafy trees and shrubs in thickly vegetated areas throughout the Chesapeake Bay region.

  • Ringneck Snake: This is a small slender non-venomous snake that is generally grayish with a yellow or orange band around the back of the neck and a yellow or orange underside.

  • Eastern Worm Snake: This is a small non-venomous, non-biting snake has a brown body and can be found throughout Virginia.

  • Dekays Brown Snake: This is a small nonvenomous snake that is usually brown, but can be yellowish, reddish, or grayish-brown. They usually have two rows of dark spots, sometimes linked, along the back and a dark streak down the side of the head. They are often mistaken for Copperheads because of a similar appearance.

  • Eastern Copperhead: This is a venomous snake that is found in wooded areas. Eastern copperheads are small to medium-sized snakes with a distinctive copper-colored head.

That might seem like a lot, but snakes are an important part of our ecosystem and there is only one snake on that list, the Copperhead, that could pose a threat to Park users. The good news is, we can keep ourselves and our pets safe by following a few simple tips for what to do when we see a snake. Here is what I want you to do if you see a snake in the Park:

  • -Stay calm- These animals want nothing to do with you and you are the one invading their habitat. Don’t panic.
  • -Avoid contact- It doesn’t matter if it is venomous or not, don’t touch the wildlife. Give these animals space. They will likely be trying to get away from you anyway.
  • -Observe respectfully- These are neat animals, and an important part of the Park. Observe them for a few minutes, take pictures of them if you can, and move on with your day.
  • -Keep your dogs on a leash- I can not stress this enough, not just for the safety of Park users and wildlife, but for the safety of your pets as well. A curious dog doesn’t necessarily know to stay away from a Copperhead and could easily be bitten.

Please do not harm the snakes. Even if it is a venomous snake, please leave them alone. More than once we have found dead snakes in the park, likely killed by ignorant Park visitors who let their fear and lack of knowledge get the best of them.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. The wildlife in the Park is part of what makes it such a great place to be. With a little bit of knowledge, we can work together to keep the JRPS strong!

See you in the Park

Josh Stutz
Executive Director

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