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Officials say don't be alarmed if a snake moves in

October 18, 1998|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

Finding a snake slithering or sleeping in your home needn't be cause for alarm, according to officials with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

In fact, it's common this time of year, said wildlife biologist Glenn Therres.

Snakes search for places to hibernate in the fall and may find their way inside. Often they are unable to find their way out again. They usually sleep under crevices like rocks, trees and stream banks, he said.

"They find a crack in a screen or doors not shut tightly and go exploring," he said. Area snakes hibernate around the start of November and do not wake up, unless disturbed, until March, he said.

During that time they are sustained on stored body fat and their metabolism slows considerably, he said.

Homeowners normally find the animals in their basements or areas on the ground floor, he said.

Snakes can enter through incredibly small openings, he said.

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A reptile of nine inches in length can get into a half-inch crack and a larger 3-foot-long snake can enter a 1/2- to 1-inch hole, Therres said.

"Snakes can really compress their bodies," he said.

Those common to Washington County are the black rat, water snake, garter and ring-necked snakes. They are not poisonous but any snake will bite if tread upon, said Therres.

The only poisonous snakes in the county are the copperhead and timber rattlesnakes. Neither are commonly found by homeowners, he said.

Poisonous snakes can be identified by their fangs, he said.

Generally, poisonous snakes are more docile.

"You have to work to get bitten by a poisonous snake," he said.

Other snakes have teeth that leave a horseshoe-type mark when they bite.

"Snakes will only bite you if they feel threatened. They don't perceive you as food," he said of area reptiles.

The snakes likely to enter a home are not a threat to household pets, except mice, he said.

Snakes feed on mice, rats, insects and chipmunks.

He recommends removing the snakes by sweeping them into an empty bucket or garbage can or using a broom handle and placing the reptile in a container. After capturing them, Therres recommends releasing them in a field or forest, he said. It's best not to use your hands, he said.

If a snake is likely to attack, they will focus on the broom and not you, Therres said.

He said it is not necessary to kill the snake and doing so is illegal without a permit.

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