MATTHEWS – Several snakes, including a venomous baby copperhead, a couple of turtles and a lizard were all found at a local business Saturday morning. Several of the snakes actually made their way around Backyard Birds.
But Buddy the friendly dog and the store’s customer service representative, and the many customers that came in, didn’t seem phased by all the commotion.
In fact, they were there to see Hank the Burmese Python, Red the Corn Snake, a Red Tail Boa, an Eastern King Snake and many of the other reptiles that Jay Bell of Reptiles 101 brought to Backyard Birds.
Bell, of Matthews, offered a hands-on presentation focusing on distinguishing between harmless and venomous species of reptiles. Bell, a former animal control officer in Mecklenburg County, educates people on the benefits that snakes and reptiles have on the environment.
With the exception of the baby copperhead, which was tightly secured in a holding bin, customers were able to handle many of the reptiles. Bell only brought some of his collection of reptiles, which includes 17 snakes and four lizards.
Bell also provides hands-on presentations to local police, fire and medic agencies, local animal control agencies, security companies and property management companies.
“I have one more copperhead, an adult, that I keep in the garage,” Bell said. “I go into private schools and Montessori schools, I teach animal control, I teach Medic. I teach them how to identify local species. I educate them on what to be concerned about.
“I never suggest people kill snakes, although I know that is a common practice.’’
Bell said snakes can be seen 12 months out of the year in this part of North Carolina if the weather is right. The Charlotte area, Bell said, is perfect habitat for copperhead snakes. Snakes in the Charlotte area do not hibernate but instead go into brumation, where they become almost dormant to conserve energy.
Unlike true hibernation, brumating snakes are not asleep but they are alert and fully aware of their surroundings. They are simply less active, lowering their heart rate down to as little as 5 percent while almost completely shutting down other vital organs. As a result, they lose very little weight despite not eating for several months. They continue to move around, albeit with much reduced frequency, and continue to drink water throughout.
“You can see a snake on a 70-degree day in December here in Charlotte,” Bell said. “They find a place to hide when it gets cold. Up north and in the mountains, they will go into brumation and stay there. If they come out (here), they will try and get to the sun.”
This was Bell’s second trip to Backyard Birds. Owner Laurie Horne said Bell will give three more presentations at the store this year due to popularity.
“The people really love him,” Horne said. “We had so many people that didn’t know the difference between a venomous snake and a non-venomous snake. This is very educational. We need the snakes in our community.”
Bell will return to Backyard Birds on April 14 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for another presentation. The free event is open to the public. Backyard Birds is located at 1819 Matthews Township Pkwy., suite 800.