CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Mark Price / Charlotte Observer) - Confusing a black snake for a black garden hose nearly got Brian Walsh bitten outside his North Carolina home.
But he considers himself lucky. Walsh says he realized his mistake just in time — a foot away — and the snake wasn’t venomous.
Still, the incident has earned the Huntersville family a level of respect on social media, after they shared photos on a Snake Identification Facebook page with 170,000 members.
Words like “big,” “huge” and “enormous” have been used to describe what was eventually identified as an eastern rat snake, a constrictor that suffocates its prey.
The snake was at least 6 feet long and heavy enough to make an unnerving noise as it moved, the family says.
“That’s what I call a ‘hell naw, to da naw naw naw!’” commenter Amanda Teague wrote on Facebook.
“This is a big mature snake for sure,” Warwick Bassman posted.
Six feet is on the big end of the scale for eastern rat snakes, but not a record. An 8-foot, 4-inch rat snake was documented somewhere, according to The National Wildlife Federation.
The family encountered the reptile on their four acres in Huntersville, 15 miles north of Charlotte. At least two acres of the property are a pond, making it like an amusement park for snakes.
“The sheer size of it! At first, it completely caught me off guard and not going to lie — terrified,” Brian Walsh told McClatchy News in an email. “We’ve come across black rat snakes before, never this large.”
“It looks even larger in motion because it’s almost fully extended,” he continued. “The muscle movement is mesmerizing, how it moves so effortlessly.”
Walsh said he watched the snake “slither off into the brush,” and its weight made the reptile “sound like a human walking on the branches and dried leaves.”
The consensus on the Snake Identification page is the family is lucky to have the animal to contend with rodents and other snakes. Eastern rat snakes bite and have a penchant for showing up in people’s homes, according to Ratsnake.org, but the Walsh family has decided to give it free rein of the property.
“Let it stay! It’s harmless and helps keep mice and other undesirable snakes at bay,” Tiffany Walsh said in an email. “It’s clearly been around a long time, so it must keep its distance most of the time.”