Local Recreation & Parks officials are encouraging the public to heed a caution for poisonous snakes and reptiles.
The sign, which reads: “Caution: Beware of poisonous snakes & reptiles,” was installed about seven months ago at Richard Ray Park near a ditch beneath a bridge toward the playground at the Commons, Director of Park Facilities Michael Liquori said.
While the sign was installed months ago, Jeff Hall, biologist with NC Wildlife Resources Commission, said the public should be cautious of wildlife, such as poisonous snakes, because recent warmer days will bring these creatures out to sun themselves. He listed five species of poisonous snakes local to the Onslow County area:
• Pygmy rattlesnake
• Eastern diamondback rattlesnake
• Timber rattlesnake
The latter species of snake is exactly what encouraged the Jacksonville Recreation and Parks Department to install a sign.
“We did see a copperhead snake and we just wanted our public to be aware the ditch would be an area snakes could be, so it was more a preventative (measure) for them to be aware that we are a little in (reptiles’) environment if you come into that area,” Liquori said.
Northeast Creek Park and Woodlands Park have similar signs, he said.
“The playground isn’t by snakes by any means, but children like to explore, which is normal, but we want parents to be aware that we’re in their home as much as in ours,” Liquori said.
While those five species of snakes can be found in Onslow County, Hall said the only cases of eastern diamondback sightings have been aboard Camp Lejeune. The eastern diamondback is an extremely rare species, he said, adding that it’s unlikely anyone would ever see one. The other species, however, people can potentially come across in somewhat rural areas or in the woods.
Hall encouraged the public to just be aware of their surroundings.
“If you go into surroundings that have a forest nearby, you’ll want to pay attention to things that are on the ground,” he said, adding that as the days get warmer in the coming months, reptiles could be out more warming up in the sun.
Hall cautioned the public not to assume reptiles that are sunning themselves will have the energy to move away. A reptile that is sitting in the sun, he said, might not have the energy to run away. If they do, however, they are going to get out of the way 99 percent of the time. Snakes, he said, are going to try to go the opposite direction to get away from you.
Liquori also encouraged the public to be aware when walking on trails reptiles could be present. He also encouraged the community to call their department if they see anything.
“If you see anything at any park you’re uncomfortable with, call us,” he said. “We need our public to call us to tell us these things. Sometimes a different set of eyes is helpful.”
Hall encouraged the public to keep aware of all types of wildlife.
“Snakes are just one more type of wildlife people should be aware of,” he said lightly. “I would actually be more worried about a young person stepping in a fire ant nest.”
To report a poisonous snake or reptile sighting, contact Recreation & Parks at 910-938-5312. Hall recommended the public visit HerpsOfNC.org for help in identifying reptiles.