Venomous snakes are out in the Lowcountry after wet spring

Copious rain is forcing rattlesnakes to higher ground. Photo courtesy of the Edisto Island Serpentarium

A 5-foot rattle snake was coiled up by the tree in Annie Filion's yard — she couldn't believe what she saw. It was only a few feet from her home.

Tips

Don't put hands, feet or legs where you can't see them.

Wear closed shoes and long pants in the woods.

Walk around logs instead of stepping over.

Use a flashlight at night.

Keep dogs on a leash.

Clean debris and wood from yard (see first tip).

Source: Savannah River Ecology Laboratory

Before she knew it, three of her Labrador retrievers were on the snake. And all four creatures were striking. The injured dogs are now at Veterinary Specialty Care.

In the aftermath, the Walterboro woman is hearing from friends and acquaintances: They're crawling. Snakes have come out like rarely before.

“We live on a farm, but we've never seen snakes like this,” Filion said. “Everybody's saying it's just so wet right now they're coming out and seeking high ground.”

They're right.

First it was alligators crossing the interstates, now it's venomous snakes in the yard, along riverside jogging paths, out in the gutter while you're walking the dog.

It's not just snakes and gators. It's clouds of mosquitoes and appearances by a lot of other animal pests, from mice to raccoons.

The behaviors have one thing in common — rain.

Rainfall for the year so far is slightly more than 33 inches, according to the National Weather Service, Charleston, and only an inch below the to-date total in 1998, the year that repeated rain caused chronic flooding in the Lowcountry.

“What people have to realize is we've been awful wet this year,” said Ron Russell, of Gator Getter Consultants. That changes habitats, so the animals move. “They're pretty simple. A lot of times people don't factor weather into animal behavior, but animals have pretty simple reasons for what they do.”

Filion's sister lives next door to her Keegan-Filion Farm, and the day before Filion's encounter, her sister found a rattler 10 feet from her own door.

In the swampy, relatively warm Lowcountry, snakes are at home and usually out year-round. They can be chanced upon anywhere. In a November 2011 incident that horrified people, an 8-year-old Goose Creek boy was bitten twice by a rattlesnake when he stepped over a fallen tree in Wannamaker County Park in North Charleston. The venom temporarily paralyzed his face and neck, but he made a gradual recovery.

The snake that bit Filion's dogs was killed. Her dogs appear to be hanging in there after the Saturday strikes. Macy, an 11-year-old black lab, took at least two bites and is the worst off, lethargic, with her face swollen like a melon. Coco, a 10-year-old lab mix is a little better off. Moose, a 2-year-old chocolate lab, is the biggest and likely took the last, weakest bite. He is recovering well.

But Filion has been so upset she couldn't sleep.

“There's water standing everywhere,” she said. “People really need to be aware of what's lurking out there right now.”



Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744, @bopete on Twitter or Bo Petersen Reporting on Facebook.

EDITOR'S NOTE:
Earlier versions of this story had an incorrect name for the veterinary clinic at which the dogs were treated.

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