Rattlesnake spotted in Suffolk

Published 10:10 pm Friday, August 16, 2013

Doreen Lamont took this picture of a canebrake rattlesnake Friday while walking on Northgate Commerce Parkway.

Doreen Lamont took this picture of a canebrake rattlesnake Friday while walking on Northgate Commerce Parkway.

After discovering a rattlesnake during a lunchtime walk, Doreen Lamont says she’ll get her exercise at the gym henceforth.

The Wanchese Fish Company import/export manager said she came across the critter during her hitherto daily mile-and-a-half walk on Northgate Commerce Parkway, about 12:45 p.m. Friday.

“I looked down, and out of the corner of my eye I saw this thing move,” Lamont said. “I screamed bloody murder.”

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Lamont said she walked back past and took a picture with her iPhone, thinking her co-workers wouldn’t believe her.

“I had to walk back past it,” she said. “I just screamed and ran!”

Back at the office, Lamont said, a co-worker compared the photo to pictures online, declaring a match with a diamondback rattlesnake.

But J.D. Kleopfer, herpetologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, confirmed it’s a “big male” canebrake rattlesnake after looking at Lamont’s photo.

“He was probably out sunning himself on the side of the road,” Kleopfer said. “It looks like he’s probably just had himself a meal. They primarily feed on squirrels around here.”

Over the years, Kleopfer said, sightings in the vicinity of Lamont’s have been frequent. He cited the Baileytown subdivision, off Nansemond Parkway.

“There’s lots of green habitat down through there,” he said. “We have had reports.”

Lamont said she sighted the rattler about half a mile from her workplace. The snake took her by particular surprise as she was actually looking for a black bear and her cub, after seeing tracks in the area.

Lamont said she’d never before seen a snake on her daily trek. The bear and cub tracks had been the only sign of any potentially dangerous creature.

“Last week I saw her prints and the baby’s prints in the same spot where the snake was,” she said.

“Other people go down there — I hope that they see the picture as a warning.”

Lamont has discontinued her walking regimen. “Not anymore,” she said. “I will go to the gym.”

Kleopfer said that unlike a man bitten by a rattlesnake in a Chesapeake backyard Monday — after trying to hit it — Lamont did “exactly what she was supposed to.”

“She left it alone and walked away from it,” he said. “Unfortunately, that gentleman bitten last week, he did everything you are not supposed to do.”

The Chesapeake snakebite victim reportedly received treatment at Chesapeake Regional Medical Center. “He was in pretty bad shape for a while,” Kleopfer said.

“I wouldn’t want to get bitten by one, believe me. It’s potentially lethal.”

It’s illegal to take, transport, process or sell the state-endangered canebrake rattlesnake.

Currently in its mating season, canebrakes grow up to 60 inches long, the department says.

They live in hardwood and hardwood-pine forests, cane fields, and ridges and glades within swampy areas of the Atlantic Coastal Plain.

In Virginia, where the largest contiguous habitats are in Suffolk, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach, 32 of 58 known canebrake sites had been lost by 1993, and 12 more were expected to vanish over the next 10 to 20 years.

Brian Fiske, wildlife removal specialist with ACME Animal Control, which holds a department permit to remove them, said he encountered a canebrake two months ago at a communications installation off Nansemond Parkway near Driver.

“I relocated it away from the building … back into the woods,” he said.

“The only time they bite is if you try to kill them. I go out and remove them, and they don’t even strike at me.”