North Carolina #1 for snake bites

Published: Aug. 10, 2010 at 2:39 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 10, 2010 at 2:39 AM EDT
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By Tom Roussey - bio l email

MT. HOLLY, NC (WBTV) - Folks living in North Carolina have a better chance of getting bitten by a snake than people living anywhere else, according to new research.

North Carolina's estimated rate of snake bites is nearly five times the national average.

You can here the "Snakeman of Gaston County," Grover Barfield, who was featured on Monday's 11 p.m. news, talk about snakes in person.

His upcoming dates:

Sunday August 22nd:  Schiele Museum, Gastonia, 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.

Sunday, September 18th:  River Festival, Lake James State Park

Sunday, September 25th:  South Mountain State park

The number one reason for the relatively high rate of bites is a snake found in every single North Carolina county -- the copperhead.

Copperheads are poisonous -- although snake experts say the better term is venomous -- and last year there were 228 reported bites in the state.  The copperhead is found in Charlotte and all over the Charlotte area.

Grover Barfield, known as the Snakeman of Gaston County, offered us tips on avoiding getting bitten by a copperhead.

"I tell people, once it's 65, 70 degrees don't go outside barefooted.  Don't wear flip flops, and watch where you put your hands and feet," said Barfield, who runs the Carolinas Reptile Rescue and Education Center.

Barfield says copperheads are most likely to be out and about from this time of the year until around October or November.

Barfield says he's been bitten twice by copperheads, and it wasn't fun.  One time his hand swelled to the size of a softball.  He says most hospitals carry antivenom for the bite, but it is very expensive.

Barfield showed WBTV two other venomous snakes found in our general area (to see them click on the video).

One is the timber rattlesnake, which is very rare but has been known to be in Mecklenburg and other counties in our area.

Another is the cottonmouth, which Barfield says is found in Lancaster, South Carolina, and Rockingham, North Carolina, as well as points east and south of both towns.

The cottonmouth is venomous, but Barfield says water snakes that are found in places like Lake Norman and Lake Wylie are not true cottonmouths and are not venomous.