Untamed Lowcountry

Yikes: Massive 5-foot rattlesnake surprises man biking on Hunting Island

‎Duane Langlie‎  was biking on Hunting Island on June 6, 2018, when he came across a 5-foot-long eastern diamondback rattlesnake.
‎Duane Langlie‎ was biking on Hunting Island on June 6, 2018, when he came across a 5-foot-long eastern diamondback rattlesnake. Courtesy of ‎Duane Langlie‎

Most people wouldn’t be happy to see a massive rattlesnake snake slithering in front of them on a bike path.

But Duane Langlie said he was actually excited when the 5-foot eastern diamondback rattlesnake appeared just a few feet in front of him on Hunting Island’s Lagoon Trail on Wednesday.

While he said he enjoys taking photos of snakes, he was sure to keep his distance as he stopped to snap a few pictures.

“I was very respectful of the snake and he kindly tolerated me,” Langlie said. “Once I started taking pics, he went back in the pine straw, where he wouldn't feel as vulnerable.”

In most instances, the snake is more afraid of the human than the other way around, Will Dillman, herpetologist for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, previously told the Island Packet.

Langlie pointed out how well the snake camouflaged himself when he slithered off the path and had this bit of advice:

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‎Duane Langlie‎ was biking on Hunting Island June 6, 2018 when he came across the large snake. ‎Duane Langlie‎

"Be aware when you're out there!" he said.

How rare are eastern diamondbacks in the Lowcountry?

According to the SC Department of Natural resources, there are 38 types of snakes in the state, only six of which are venomous. Of those six, there are only two that are considered abundant to common - the cottonmouth and copperhead. Here are ways

There are total of 38 snake species that call the Lowcountry home, and the chance of encountering a venomous one is very unlikely, experts say.

Eastern diamondbacks are the largest venomous snake, according to SCDNR, and are most active in the summer and early fall. Coming across one the way Langlie did Wednesday is an exceedingly rare experience.

“It’s a very unusual experience for someone to actually see a diamondback,” Dillman previously told the Island Packet. “It’s really lucky.”

According to the Savannah River Ecology Laborortory, diamondback rattlesnakes can actually swim island-to-island.

“(Eastern diamondbacks) generally avoid wet areas but sometimes live along the edges of swamps,” the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory said. “They are accomplished swimmers and even travel through saltwater to and from barrier islands.”

Dillman told the Island Packet last year that the species is declining.

“It’s a very, very rare snake in South Carolina,” Dillman said. “They’re known to be found all the way up the coast through North Carolina, but now it’s virtually extinct north of the Santee River.”

Last year, an eastern diamondback rattlesnake showed up in the surf on Hilton Head Island and became the subject of a viral video and many national headlines.

Jonathan and Lindsay Wiles have been vacationing on Hilton Head Island for years, but never seen anything like this. Jonathan said the snake "was confused as he was" as it washed up in a wave on the beach in Port Royal Plantation on Aug. 1.

What to know about snake bites

Helpful tips to avoid a surprise encounter with a rattlesnake and what to do if you're bit, from Scott Smith, who teaches about reptiles and amphibians. Know when they're active and how they judge danger.

The majority of snake bites in the Lowcountry are from copperhead snakes, the most common, but least venomous, of the six venomous snakes.

In 2017, Coastal Carolina Hospital and Hilton Head Hospital together treated 33 patients for snake bites, according to the the hospitals' spokesperson Katy Waronsky. The year before, that number was 35.

In general, however, snakes pose a very small threat to humans. The best thing to do if you encounter one is keep your distance, Dillman told the Island Packet.

“Trying to move them, poking them to see what they’ll do or when (people) try to kill them is when things go wrong,” he said.

If you are feeling threatened by a venomous snake on your property, SCDNR says you can contact a wildlife removal specialist.

-Ashley Jean Reese contributed to this report.

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