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Snake Habitat next to Playground, Beware the smell of cucumbers, repeat, beware the smell of cucumbers

by Prince Of Petworth June 6, 2017 at 12:30 pm 34 Comments

schrader writes: “NBD, just a casual snake warning at Chevy Chase Local Park aka “Shepherd Park”

From the National Zoo:

“The copperhead is a carnivore, as an adult eating mostly mice but also small birds, lizards, small snakes, amphibians and insects‐especially cicadas. Copperheads have fangs that inject its prey with venom that causes red blood cells to break down. Thus subdued, the prey is easy for the snake to swallow whole.

The copperhead is the cause of many snakebites yearly but they are rarely fatal. Bites occur by accidentally stepping on or touching the snake, which tends to be well camouflaged with its surroundings. When touched, the copperhead quickly strikes or remains quiet and tries to crawl away. Sometimes when touched, they emit a musk that smells like cucumbers.”

Does anyone know if hawks eat snakes?

  • OldinAM

    Has a copperhead been seen in this park? The only copperheads that I’ve spotted have been along the C&O canal, a much more likely habitat.

    And yes, hawks eat snakes. I saw a red-shouldered hawk sitting on a tree branch eating one.

    • AMDCer

      I’m guessing they have been spotted there, hence the sign. Either way, I’m not going to stick around to find out!

    • OldinAM

      I zoomed in as far as I could to read the sign–and it does say that they have been spotted in the park

  • Bright Woody

    Well, great, I won’t be going out in my backyard ever again.

  • jpvt

    “Rarely fatal”. I’m not a parent, but if I were…

    • PFlyer

      +1000 I AM a parent — see below — and so I will remain silent about the first part of the last sentence of the sign that has been posted in Chevy Chase Park . . . .

      Oh, and p.s., as I learned the hard way, copperheads also like to hang out in wood piles. So if you have a wood burning fireplace and have a cord of wood stored out back, my advice to you is be VERRRYYY careful!!

  • PFlyer

    I can believe that copperheads have been spotted in Chevy Chase Park. I live two blocks off of Rock Creek/Beach Drive and copperhead sightings unfortunately are a common occurrence along the walking/jogging/path that runs along Rock Creek — including near/in a local playground that abuts the Creek – and in the neighborhood. While copperhead bites might be “rarely fatal,” you’ve got to watch out for little kids and pets that might come across one because they are more vulnerable because of their lower body weights.

    If you live in a copperhead zone, you’ve got to be especially careful during the month of September — that’s copperhead baby birthing season. See: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/watch-out-its-copperhead-birthing-season/2014/09/03/a4583966-33ae-11e4-a723-fa3895a25d02_story.html?utm_term=.6fa2f3cba5d8

    And more generally see: https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/sports/1994/09/06/when-a-copperhead-snake-strikes/af4e9ba9-798b-4b4d-a293-3a06be93389c/?utm_term=.fac941119008.

  • womp

    I grew up around a lot of copperheads, so just a friendly reminder to not walk into brushy areas, piles of leaves, or anything similar with open-toed shoes on (this is easy to forget because we’re all Olaf-ing about summer). Additionally, copperhead bites can feel like a bad wasp sting and the swelling can hide the bite marks, so don’t be knucklehead like my father and wait 5+ hours to go to the ER. (he’s fine, but it took months.)
    also, remember that lizards have legs and snakes don’t, so don’t pick up a baby copperhead thinking it’s a cute little lizard that you can put to sleep by rubbing on its belly. oh, just me that does that? okay, carry on.

    • womp

      and if you’re hiking or doing anything in the woods or in woodpiles, a good rule is to never put your hands in places you can’t see. copperheads’ camouflage is extremely effective, as well.

  • maxwell smart

    As my yard nearby has recently become shrew sanctuary, I will gladly invite a copperhead or two to slither by for dinner.

  • flieswithhoney

    I may be hyperventilating readings this. Bad enough to see any snakes when I’m in RCP, but now that I know copperheads are there, every branch is a danger noodle now.

    • Right? There goes my running on trails! I’m sticking to the paved sections now.

      • PFlyer

        Well, you’ve just got to be attentive, careful, and take precautions. For example, my two kids live off of the C&O Canal by Cabin John, and they have two small dogs. When I learned that they had started to take the dogs for walks along the Canal, I went out with them several times, explained the potential dangers posed by copperheads, and taught them the importance of keeping the dogs on a very short leash, that is, keeping the dogs on the dirt path and NOT allowing them to wander off the dirt path to nose around in the underbrush, piles of leaves, etc. And I insist that the kids themselves always wear sturdy, heavy hiking boots whenever they venture onto the Canal trails with the dogs.

  • kallie

    i want to shake the hand of the person who was trying to figure out the distinct, but hard to place scent of the snake and then one day had the epiphany – CUCUMBERS.

  • Gumball

    Thank you, editor’s note, for reminding me of this Simpsons Quote:

    SKINNER: Well, i was wrong. The lizards are a godsend!
    LISA: But isn’t that a bit shortsighted? What happens when we’re overrun by lizards?
    SKINNER: No problem. We simply unleash wave after wave of Chinese needle snakes.
    LISA: But aren’t the snakes even worse?
    SKINNER: Yes, but we’re prepared for that. We’ve lined up a fabulous type of gorilla that thrives on snake meat.
    LISA: But then we’re stuck with gorillas!
    SKINNER: No, that’s the beautiful part. When wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death.

    So much better than thinking about horrifying snake nests! LOL!

  • Fango McRattles

    This is just some very thorough guerrilla marketing for the Park Snakes concert tomorrow night.

  • TJ (not with the snake lobby)

    Warning: This post is anti-snake hype designed to trigger fear on the public’s unfounded distrust of the venemous snake. It is rare to spot a copperhead or other venemous snake – despite claims here otherwise. If you do, it may be more afraid of you than you are of it and everything will be OK. If you are truly unlucky enough to get bitten, the snake probably won’t waste its precious venom on you. It needs venom more to kill and eat small animals, which you are not. Finally, snake bites deaths are statistically insignificant, as in 5 or so deaths a year in a country of 320 million people. It is safe to go outside. It really is.

    • And what is the flyer posted by Montgomery County government designed to do? Also for the record this post is not designed to trigger fear on the public’s unfounded distrust of the venemous snake.

    • womp

      lol if a snake feels threatened, i really don’t think it cares how big or edible we (humans) are. and just because someone may not die as a result of a copperhead bite, it is indeed very, very serious and requires immediate medical attention.
      i appreciate snakes and the good they do for our ecosystem and i think they’re fascinating. i’ll also go out of my way to not kill venomous ones (and will never kill non-venomous ones), but considering there are many transplants here from places and people with small children and pets, awareness is kiiiind of a good thing.
      it’s not anti-snake; it’s “hey, be aware when you’re around here!”

      • PFlyer

        +1000. I’m not anti-copperhead, I just happen to live in an area where they live along side of us, including once in my stack of cord wood in my back yard. And one’s chances of “seeing” a copperhead in this area depends on where one lives and on one’s hobbies and lifestyle. I happen to spend a good amount of time hiking, camping, mountain biking, etc. And yes, while the chances of dying from a bite are extremely low (in large part because of this country’s relatively advanced medical system), as are the odds of being bitten — if memory serves, only about 7,000 reported poisonous snake bites a year in the U.S., and while poisonous snakes can “dry bite” — as a father of young children and a dog lover, I’d rather be aware and vigilant. And it’s not the ones that you see that you have to worry about, it’s the ones that you, a kid, or a dog DOES NOT see, that can ruin your day after you step on them or inadvertently stick your hand too close to them!

        • womp

          yes, i am with you all the way!
          a side note i figured you could appreciate: one summer as a kid, a copperhead must have had her babies right around our house because we found a young copperhead in our carport. We took care of him and a few days later found a ~4 ft. momma copperhead on our back porch. we found another two or three more young ones around our carport / back porch a few days after that. Our bird dog and outside cats did a good job of cornering them until we realized what was going on, but with that and the drought and water moccasins seeking water, needless to say, it was an eventful summer.

          • CE

            Ugh, water moccasins are my nightmare fuel. Also terrified of copperheads, which is what a southern childhood will do to you. Stay safe out there, people!

          • Anon NS

            “If you have one copperhead, you have a lot of copperheads” – my dad. That’s one of the enduring truths of my childhood. I would have moved if I were you!

  • crispy

    Those same signs are posted along several segments of the Gerry Connelly Cross County Trail. I logged a bunch of hours on it last summer training for MCM, and it’s startling when you see the posters. I became very fleet footed.

  • Mark

    I’m 50 and have lived here my entire life, I basically grew up playing outside, and I’ve never seen a copperhead, outside of a single old preserved specimen in a glass jar.
    They are truly rare around here.
    What are common is the common black rat snake, whose babies look somewhat like copperheads, and also the norther water snake which is often confused with copperheads.
    Much ado about nothing, IMO

  • PJ at MtP

    How about dense ivy with leaves in it? I live across the street from Rock Creek Park and parts of my yard are filled with ivy. Just wondered because I go in and try to thin the ivy and I HATE snakes.

    • Idontgetit

      Ivy with leaves of three?

      • womp


        • idontgetit

          Leaves of three…bad TP!

  • PFlyer

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