A timely reminder to be cautious around snakes
A large Eastern Rat Snake has been photographed, stretched out along a tree branch in Congaree National Park, SC. A Facebook post from October 10 featuring the photo has gone viral after park rangers used it as a reminder for people to be careful when they encounter animals in the wild.
The snake may have thought it was well-hidden and camouflaged as it stretched out along a branch - but it clearly underestimated the sharp-eyed person who spotted it in the tree and caught it on camera.
Harmless - to a point
While Eastern Rat Snakes aren't venomous they are still known to bite if provoked, and most would be keen to avoid this happening. A fully grown specimen will reach 6 feet in length - the record is about 8.5 feet, according to the Virginia Herpetological Society. The snakes can weigh nearly 5 pounds, too when fully grown - encountering one in the wild could easily be quite frightening.
How dangerous are snakes in the US?
The CDC estimates that an estimated 7,000–8,000 Americans are bitten by venomous snakes annually, and about 5 of those people die. There would be far more deaths without medical assistance.
Rattlesnakes are the most-common snake in the USA, and of those who are bitten by rattlers, up to 44 percent will be left with a disability or permanent injury such as the loss of a finger
The situation in South Carolina is somewhat less serious. According to the state Department of Natural Resources there are 38 species of snake in the state, 6 of which are venomous. In an average year there are between 199 and 260 snake bites reported but few, if any deaths.
In 2019, there were more snake bites than in a typical year. This was put down to droughts and higher than normal temperatures which forced the snakes to search for water outside of their natural habitat:
As the Congaree National Park Rangers point out, even with non-venomous snakes and any wild creatures, it's wise to admire them and take pictures from a distance, even if they seem to be putting themselves on display as this snake was! If you disturb them or corner them, you're taking a chance on getting bitten or at least setting yourself up for a scare!