HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – The long stretch of rainy days may be over, but it created a problem that is a big danger to you, your kids and pets. It's causing snakes to come out, and they are biting.
The Snake Chaser says he has seen double the number of venomous snake bites to humans in the last few months than normal -- one of the worst years in his 22-year career.
Chances are snakes will be out even more in the next few months.
"The reason why we're having more snake calls this year is several reasons. One, mostly because of the rain," explains Russell Cavender who works under the alias of The Snake Chaser. "And partly because of the winter we had. We really had a true, cold winter. The snakes hibernated this year. They came out of hibernation ready to go."
Cavender runs a wildlife removal company. With more rain, Cavender says, comes more critters that snakes feed on: lizards, toads, and now that cicadas are out, snakes are in heaven.
Right now, they're everywhere because they're starting to feed heavily in preparation for the winter time and hibernation. They'll also start breeding in the fall. From now until October, you need to be on your guard, especially in the evenings and early mornings, when it's cooler out.
There are six types of venomous snakes in South Carolina. Cavender says they're not aggressive, but they do attack when they feel threatened.
Alexa Miller was bitten by a snake walking her dog last week. She was in the ICU for six days after the cotton mouth attacked and bit the side of her foot. She stepped off the sidewalk barefoot and it got a hold of her foot. Miller explained she went into shock, and a neighbor called an ambulance. Because she didn't see the snake, it took doctors days to get the venom out of her leg. She is recovering, but is scarred from the experience.
"Probably the most excruciating thing I've ever felt in my entire life," Miller says. "You have throbbing, shooting from your ankle, into your entire leg. I never thought in a million years I would ever get bitten by a snake. It's not something we've ever really been worried about."
Grand Strand Medical Center says the hospital has treated around two dozen bite victims this year. Luckily, none have been fatal.
Keeping the kids safe
Snakes are out in the cooler hours of day – evenings and early mornings. That may mean they are still lurking when your kids walk to the bus as they head back to school. Parents need to educate kids that there is a chance they'll run into a snake, and it could be deadly, if they aren't taught where to stay away from and what to look out for.
Woods, creeks and other areas with water are havens for snakes. So is the area right around most houses – where there is pine straw and mulch.
Be on alert for pets
Four-legged family members also need special treatment. The snake chaser says he has seen more dogs with snake bites this year than he has in his entire 22 year career.
So don't take them off the leash, because you can't control what they go after, and don't let them chase things in the grass or bushes, because a snake could be waiting.
Snake bites are especially dangerous in small dogs.
Cover your feet
Lastly, flip flops are convenient this time of year, and it's natural to wear sandals when you leave the house. But that's a bad idea at certain times.
"If you're going to go out in the evening hours, and you're going to go somewhere other than a sidewalk, then you need to put shoes on," Cavender warns. "Because you're not going to be able to see a Copperhead, especially in leaf litter. They look like leaf litter. They're designed to be invisible. And you step on them all the time. And that's how people get bitten, mostly, is by stepping on them or putting their hand somewhere where there is a Copperhead."
Cavender says sometimes people attempt to toss a snake away from their house that they think isn't dangerous, and it turns out to be a Copperhead or other venomous snake that bites them. Never go after a snake, call a professional.
To teach kids more about the types of venomous snakes in South Carolina and in your neighborhood, visit the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources page for photo descriptions.