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Quick Guide To Venomous & Non-Venomous Snakes

by Dennis Matherly on 07/17/18

It's summertime and all of our snake friends are now awake for the season and on the go. While this quick guide of characteristics can help you differentiate between venomous and non-venomous snakes, please keep in mind to never intentionally approach a snake in an attempt to identify it. Always leave snake removal issues to the pros! Plus, even if a snake is not venomous, being bitten by any snake is an unpleasant experience. 

Snake Head Shape 
The shape of a snake's head can help you identify whether it is venomous or not. Venomous snakes tend to have a broad and triangular head. This shape occurs because the snake's venom is produced toward the back of the head near the neck. This makes it look as if the snake has a large, bulb-like head and a skinny neck. 

Snake Eye Pupil Shape
There are exceptions but generally, snakes with round pupils are non-venomous. Snakes with slit pupils, similar to a cat, are generally venomous. However, finding yourself close enough to a snake to determine what type of pupil it has is not a good situation. Back away slowly and retreat to a safe distance. 

Snake Rattling
Rattlesnakes get their name from the rattle on the end of their tail. ALL rattlesnakes are venomous and should be avoided. Some species of snakes have developed behaviors to mimic the rattling sound by swishing their tail through leaves or debris. Best course of action is if you hear rattling to move slowly in the opposite direction. Also keep in mind that baby rattlesnakes don't rattle as the rattle is created as the snake sheds its skin as it grows, but they are deadly should they bite. 

If you encounter a snake, remembering this quick guide list of differences between venomous and non-venomous snakes will help you determine how serious of a threat the snake is. In South Carolina, we have a number of venomous snakes including rattlesnakes, Cottonmouth (Water Moccasin), Copperhead and Coral Snakes. When it comes to snakes, don't take chances. Call the wildlife experts at Pee Dee Wildlife for safe removal and relocation. 

Critter Crossing: Watch for Animals on the Road

by Dennis Matherly on 06/03/18

The heat is on and our local wildlife is on the move. Many animals viewed as pests are often discovered as roadkill this time of year. As our homes and developments take away more and more of their natural habitat, we encounter wildlife more often, especially on our roadways. Even animals many view as pests have important roles in our local ecosystems. For example, a single opossum can eat thousands and thousands of ticks throughout the summer and they're immune to Lyme - serving a very important role in protecting us from tick-borne illnesses. 

Additionally, some types of critters are suffering from declining populations due to being hit and killed by cars on our roadways. Turtles are a strong example of this issue. Turtle populations have been dropping steadily, in part due to roadway deaths. Local wildlife to watch for while driving include raccoons, geese, ducks, turtles, opossum, vultures, bobcats, deer, foxes, coyotes, rabbits, squirrels, frogs, snakes and bears. 

Tips to Avoid Hitting Animals While Driving

Avoiding animals on the road isn't just good for them, it's good for you as well. Even small animals can cause damage to your vehicle and costly repairs or even cause a loss of control resulting in an accident. And all animals have a role in our ecosystem and should be respected. 

1. Be aware! - Distracted driving is a danger no matter where you are driving. If you're driving in wooded or wildlife-heavy areas, being aware can save an animal's life and yours too. Look for motion in roadside grasses or shrubs and watch for movement when driving in wooded areas for signs of wildlife near the roadway.

2. Stay calm and slow down/stop - If you do encounter an animal in the roadway, remain calm and slow down or stop, if needed. Don't honk your horn or flash your headlights at a wild animal as many will freeze when frightened and compound the problem. However, if you are stopped for an animal crossing the roadway, it is a good idea to turn your hazard lights or flashers on to alert other drivers to be cautious. 

3. Also look for animals in the distance - Turtles, for example, can look like rocks from a distance. Keep an eye out for anything that looks different or unusual on your route, both up close and from a distance to notice animals on the road as soon as you can. 

4. When you see one, expect more - Many animals travel in small groups or pairs. Deer for example, often travel in small groups so when you see one, expect there are others nearby, slow down, and be alert. Also, when you see an animal run across the roadway, keep in mind that animal might be running away from another animal (even a pet dog or cat). Many people avoid hitting the first animal but wind up hitting the second animal in these situations. 

Our local wildlife is diverse and each animal plays a role in our ecosystem. Unfortunately, as we build homes and roads and take over more of their habitat, we encounter them more frequently on our roadways. Being aware and knowing what to look for can go a long way in keeping you and our local wild animals safe. 

Bee A Honeybee Helper

by Dennis Matherly on 04/15/18

You may have heard about the alarming decline of honey bee populations throughout the United States, but also around the world. Honey bees serve a very important function in our environment and in our food chain. They not only produce honey but they also help pollinate crops as they forage for nectar and pollen. In South Carolina, about one-third of our crops are pollinated by honey bees, which equates to about $25 million worth of food each year. 

However, not everyone is comfortable with hundreds of honey bees hanging around if they pick your property to build a hive on. With honey bee populations declining and their importance to our ecosystem, you certainly don't want to harm them but what can you do? Let's take a look! 

The Buzz About Honey Bee Hives
If you have noticed a honey bee hive on your property and someone in your family has a bee/wasp allergy or you just aren't comfortable with so many bees hanging around, there are things you can do. First, keep in mind that honey bees are important to our ecosystem in a number of ways and they are unlikely to sting unless threatened (unlike yellow jackets, hornets and wasps). The best thing to do is to notify a wildlife removal and relocation service like Pee Dee Wildlife. Many of these services work with local beekeepers who can come out and safely relocate the hive to a bee farm. They have the expertise to relocate the honey bees without harming them. They'll also remove the hive structure itself to prevent a new group of bees from moving in. 

Support Healthy Honey Bees
Even if you don't have a hive on your property (and don't want one), there are still things you can do to help support a healthy and thriving honey bee population. Here are just a few ways you can help our local honey bees.

  • Avoid using chemicals on your lawn and outdoor pesticides as much as possible - these chemicals are deadly for bees. In September 2016, Dorchester County in South Carolina sprayed for mosquitoes in an effort to control the spread of Zika virus at the wrong time of day (about 8 A.M. after bees were already out and foraging), leading to a mass kill-off of over 2.5 million honey bees. 

  • Honey bees need a lot of water. Consider adding a small water fountain to your landscaping or fill a bird bath with fresh water each morning for honey bees to drink from during the daylight hours. Just be sure to dump the water out prior to dusk each day as mosquitoes use standing water to breed. 

  • If possible, leave a small area of your property for "wild growth" of local plants, such as grasses, wildflowers and even weeds. The more diverse sources of nectar and pollen honey bees have, the healthier the whole hive will be and the better the quality of the honey. 

  • Select plants for your yard that make for great bee food. Not every plant that blooms provides good food for bees, especially highly-hybridized plants. However, there are plenty of flowers, trees and even vegetables and herbs you can choose that feed honey bees. Trees such as Red Bud, Southern Magnolia, Cherry and Sourwood are great sources of bee food. Flowers and other plants that are good sources of bee food include clover, cone flower, poppies, geraniums, lotus, aster and bee palm to name a few. In your vegetable and herb garden, choose options such as squash, pumpkin, berries, sunflowers, corn, cow peas, sage and mint. 

With the weather warming up, honey bees are awake and foraging for food or even setting out in small swarms to establish new hives. If you notice a honey bee hive under construction on your property and need them removed, please call a responsible wildlife relocation service to safely move these vital critters to a location where they can thrive with a professional beekeeper. Pee Dee Wildlife is committed to preserving our local honey bee population and we are just a phone call away. 

Raccoons Do Not Make Good Roommates

by Dennis Matherly on 03/13/18

Raccoon Removal FlorenceRaccoons may look cute but if they get inside your home to hunker down and get cozy for the winter, it can be a serious problem. Not only do raccoons cause pretty significant property damage during their break-in and nesting efforts, but they also can carry and transmit illnesses that can make the people and pets in your family very sick. 

Why Are Raccoons in the Attic Dangerous? 

Whether they take up residence in the attic, basement, crawl space or walls, they aren't healthy or safe furry roommates. Aside from the property damage they cause (and they are strong critters), they can carry and transmit some scary viruses and bacteria to you and your pets. 

  • Rabies - Raccoons are one of the more susceptible species of wildlife when it comes to rabies. Rabies in people and our furry family, if left untreated, can be a fatal viral illness. 

  • Salmonella - If you think of raw chicken when you hear "salmonella" you're not alone. However, raccoons are carriers for salmonella bacteria, which can lay dormant for long periods and cause illness long after the raccoon roommates are gone. 

  • Raccoon Roundworm - This parasite is found in raccoon feces and when that feces dries out, it can become air-borne and infect you by breathing it in. If left untreated, this infection is fatal. 

  • Leptospirosis - Leptospirosis bacteria is found in raccoon urine. If your skin comes into contact with it, it can easily be transferred to the mouth or other infection routes. This type of bacteria causes serious infection, including meningitis. 

  • Giardiasis - Giardiasis bacteria is well-known for causing severe and potentially life-threatening diarrhea and dehydration. Infected raccoons shed this bacteria in their feces, which can contaminate surfaces or water (and you or your pets).
How Do Raccoons Get In? 

Raccoons are clever and much stronger than you might realize. Here are just a few common ways raccoons make their way into your home. 

  • Chimney - Your chimney is very similar to a hollowed-out tree trunk in a raccoon's eyes. Hollowed-out trees and stumps are a favorite nesting place for mama raccoons and their babies. 

  • Roof Vents - Roof vents allow for airflow to your attic. Raccoons feel the warm air from the vents and simply rip off vent covers and invite themselves in. 

  • Along Gutters - The roofing along gutters sustains more wear and tear than other areas of your roof. The water flow and the freezing and thawing cause these parts of the roof to rot more easily. Raccoons take advantage of this rot as it weakens the wood, allowing them to rip it open and climb on in. 

  • Pipe Vents - Any kind of piping or venting that exits your home through the roof typically has a bit of extra space in the hole around it. This extra space is typically covered with rubber or waterproof matting. Unfortunately, the matting might block water, but it doesn't stop raccoons. 
Raccoons are cute critters - from a distance. It's extremely important to remember that raccoons are still wild animals and wild animals should be handled by professionals to avoid injury or illness for people and pets. If you have a raccoon roommate or a brood of them, call Pee Dee Wildlife for proper handling, relocation and inspection for possible infectious agents. 

The Spring Snake Wake Up

by Dennis Matherly on 03/05/18

Snakes in SpringAs the weather begins to warm up and springtime begins in South Carolina, our local snake population will be waking up from hibernation. While snake sightings are most common from April through October, the hot-cold-hot-cold weather pattern we've been experiencing can have some snakes up and about earlier in the season than usual. Now is the time to take precautions (like the ones on our list) to reduce the chance of an unpleasant encounter of the slithering kind. 

  • Move woodpiles and rockpiles away from your home. Keeping piles of wood or stone on the far edge of your property away from your home and other structures keeps this tempting resting place for snakes from being too close for comfort. Also, mice and other critters snakes like to eat tend to find woodpiles cozy, too. 

  • Wear closed shoes when going outside after dark. When the temperature drops at night, snakes often relocate to paved areas such as driveways. The residual heat of the concrete from the daytime helps them stay warm during chilly nights. Wearing closed shoes won't completely prevent being bitten in the foot but a full shoe offers far more protection than flip-flops. 

  • Inspect weather-stripping on doors, seals on the bottom of garage doors and other barriers (seals around pipe fixtures and so on) for holes or damage that could provide a way in for a snake in search of warmth. If you notice any gaps, damage, holes or cracking, now is the time to replace the weather-stripping, seals and wildlife protection screens around the entry points to your home. 

  • Maintain your yard and garden areas. Keep grass cut short, remove weeds, keep mulch layers as thin as possible and trim back overgrown bushes and shrubs. The less hiding places in your yard for snakes to take refuge in, the less attractive your yard will be. 

  • Keep an ear and an eye out. While some of our reptile residents have rattles or can hiss or make other noise, not all of them do. Review common snake species in our area (there are 21 species common to the majority of our state), particularly making note of the venomous snakes so you can provide this information to emergency services if you are bitten. Venomous species in our area include Eastern Coral Snake, Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, Canebrake Rattlesnake, Pigmy Rattlesnake, Cottonmouth (also called a Water Moccasin) and Copperhead. However, keep in mind that the young or juvenile of some snake species can look very different from the adults. 
It's very important to remember to never handle snakes or other wildlife. If you have a close encounter, slowly back away from the snake as quietly as possible and leave the area, if you can. If you have any questions about snakes or need to have a snake removed, call Pee Dee Wildlife.