Many of us have encountered snakes on Fort Belvoir, whether slithering across a trail, sunning on a rock, or even finding that crack in the foundation of your house. Although all but one snake on Fort Belvoir are harmless, they often raise concerns. However, taking time to learn about them and their habits will allow you to appreciate them a little more, even if it’s at a distance.

Fort Belvoir is home to 34 species of reptiles, 18 of them being snakes. Of the 18 snakes likely to occur, only one species is venomous, the northern copperhead. Contrary to popular belief, just because you see a snake near the water, doesn’t mean it’s a “water moccasin” or cottonmouth, in all likelihood it’s a brown water snake. Cottonmouths are not found this far north in Virginia. The most common snakes found throughout the more developed areas of Fort Belvoir are the black rat snake, garter snake, and ring-necked snake, while many brown water snakes can be found basking in the sun near our fishing piers and shorelines.

Snakes are found in almost every corner of Fort Belvoir, some are more common than others depending upon the type of habitat. When out in our forests, it’s common to come across a black rat snake basking on the trail in the sun. For those of us who reside in our various housing areas, it’s possible to encounter snakes while gardening or performing yard work. Encounters with snakes vary and depend on time of day, season, and especially temperature. Because snakes are “cold-blooded”, they are unable to regulate their body temperatures, therefore the outside temperature and sunlight help to determine how active they are. Snakes for the most part, will be beneficial if found near housing areas. Snakes help to control rodent populations (i.e. mice, rats) and other small mammal pests, as well as bugs and other small pests.

Keep your distance

As with all wildlife, keep your distance and they will keep theirs. Do not attempt to capture or kill the snake as this may cause unwanted harm or injury. If you find the need to have a snake removed from your office building, you may call the Conservation Branch at 703-805-3969. For those living in housing, please call the housing maintenance office at 703-619-3880. Contracted personnel will visit the location, capture and remove the snake if possible. In some instances, repellents may be applied or recommendations will be made to seal off holes and cracks where snakes can enter dwellings. If you are bitten by a snake, keep the area below the heart, remain still and calm, cover the bite with a clean, dry bandage and receive medical attention immediately. If you are unsure what species of snake it is, you may contact the Fort Belvoir Conservation Branch at 703-805-3969. To learn more information about snakes, visit dwr.virginia.gov/blog/season-of-the-snake/.