Snakes Alive! + Reptile Meet & Greet in Haymarket VA

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The secret life of snakes will be revealed during this spectacular show. Learn the answers to questions about some of nature’s most mysterious creatures. Featured animals may include a python, boa, rat snake and more slithery friends.

Sunshine Status

Some of you may know that Sunshine, our albino Burmese python, was diagnosed with a bacterial lung infection a few months ago and was on sick leave for about 3 months.  She has made a full recovery and is back at work right now at the Celebrate Fairfax festival.

Back in early March, we noticed Sunshine seemed a bit congested, so we took her to see Dr. Emily Hoppmann, a DVM who specializes in exotic animals, including snakes.  So, you could actually call her a “snake doctor.”  She works at SEAVS (Stahl Exotic Animal Veterinary Services) which is nationally renowned exotic animal clinic located in Vienna, VA.

Dr. Hoppmann examined Sunshine and took a nasal culture to be sent for testing.  Sunshine tested positive for two types of bacteria that can cause respiratory disease in snakes.  Two antibiotics were prescribed and every day for about 30 days, we had to give Sunshine a shot.  She didn’t get a lollipop after her shots, but she did get better.

After Sunshine was finsished with her medicine, we wanted to wait until she had rested for awhile before taking her to work.  Sunshine is now doing great – she is eating lots of defrosted frozen rats and is very active.

We also learned two things about her from Dr. Hoppmann.  One, Sunshine IS a GIRL!  We actually didn’t know for sure until now.  Two,  Sunshine is getting to be a senior citizen.  Dr. Hoppmann explained that most albino Burmese pythons live around 20 years or so, and Sunshine is around 16.

We are so grateful to Dr. Hoppmann and all of the great reptile vets at SEAVS.  Thank you all for helping Reptiles Alive keep our reptiles alive!

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The 10 Most Commonly Seen Snakes in DC Metro Area

Eeek! What is that snake in my backyard? We receive several calls a year from frantic and fascinated homeowners alike from the District and surrounding areas of Virginia and Maryland wanting to know what kind of snake is in their backyard

Here is a little guide to help you out.  Remember, all snakes are harmless if you leave them alone.

All snakes are able to flatten their head and shake their tail when scared.

(Disclaimer: Leave all snakes you find alone, they belong in the great outdoors; this includes your backyard. This guide is not intended to be the end all and be all of snake identification guides. All snakes can be born with different patterns and colors than what is typical for the species. As with ALL wild animals: Respect, watch, and admire from afar.)

ALL snakes listed are non-venomous unless otherwise noted.

1. Northern Brown Snake (Storeria dekayi) – a small, brown snake (15 inches) with darker paired spots down its back.

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2. Ring-necked snake (Diadophis punctatus) – A small gray snake (up to 20 inches) with orange to yellow belly and a yellow or orange ring around its neck.

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3. Garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) – A greenish or brown snake covered in checkered spots, and a yellow to white line down its back. Grows up to 48 inches long.

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4. Black Ratsnake (Elaphe obsoleta) – A large and harmless black snake that can grow up to 80 inches long (6.5 feet).  The body is shaped like a loaf of bread. Belly is black and white checkered becoming gray near the tail.  Baby or juvenile black rat snakes are often confused with other snakes as they are gray or brown with black blotches on the body.  They are wonderful at taking care of rats and mice.

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5. Northern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor) – A large shiny black snake that can grow to six feet.  These guys will slither away very quickly.  The young look very much like the baby black ratsnake.

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6. Wormsnake (Carphophis amoneus) – A small shiny brown snake with a pink belly.  They look very much like a large worm, growing to 15 inches.  They think earthworms are delicious.

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7. Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon) – A large gray to brown snake with darker blotches on its back.  They are non-venomous, that is they have no poison.  Watersnakes live in and around water snacking on fish.  Note: there are NO cottonmouths or water moccasins in the DC area.

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8. Red Bellied Snake (Storeria occipitomaculata) – A small grayish brown to black snake with a red belly.  They sometimes have black stripes down the back and light blotches on its neck.

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9. Mole Kingsnake (Lampropeltis calligaster) – It may look like a cornsnake, but its a kingnake!  This gorgeous gray to brown snake with orange spots or blotches grows to 47 inches.

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10. Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix) – VENOMOUS (Poisonous)* This is the only venomous snake found in the DC metro and surrounding counties.  Copperheads, like all snakes, will leave you alone if you leave them alone.  This beautiful snake has eyes like a cat so it can hunt at night.  Copperheads can be pinkish, tan, brown, and even a light rust color.  Nearly every snake in the area has been mis-identified as a copperhead, although uncommon in the area treat all snakes with respect. This snake provides humans with a very valuable rodent control service.

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Remember:  Treat all snakes with respect.  Leave them alone as they belong where you found them just like the birds and butterflies living in your backyard.  Experts sometimes have trouble identifying snakes as all animals can be born all black (melanistic), patternless, or albino.

Find out more and join Virginia Herpetological Society

Visit your local nature center

Sources:
Pinder, MJ and JC Mitchell, “A Guide to the Snakes of Virginia.” 2002 Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Conant, Roger, “A Field Guide to Reptiles & Amphibians of Eastern & Central North America” (Peterson Field Guide Series)