I got a ruling from Rudy Mancke: It’s a copperhead

We went back and forth on that last post about the snake — here and on social media. We were starting to stagger toward a consensus that these creatures all over my neighborhood are indeed copperheads. But we were far from certain.

And you know, when I’m practically stepping on these things right in the middle of the street, I kind of want to know.

Rudy Mancke

Rudy Mancke

So I stopped fooling around. Last night I wrote to Rudy Mancke himself for a ruling.

I hated to bother him with something so common. On his segments on public radio, people have usually sent him a picture of something rare and interesting. But based on what I’ve been seeing, these snakes are as common as Republicans in my precinct — maybe more so.

But Rudy got right back to me, and I’m very appreciative:

Brad, The photo you sent is of a Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix), the most common venomous snake in SC. The dark, wide-narrow-wide bands across the body and the copper-colored head are diagnostic. They are found throughout SC. I have seen more of these snakes this year than I normally do. They feed on any animal small enough to eat. During hot weather they are active mostly at night…

I thought that was really nice of him, especially since as he himself mentioned, these critters are, you know, common.

Which brings me to another subject…

Look at us. We’re pretty smart people, generally speaking. We have a lot to say about a lot of things, and we flatter ourselves that what we have to say has value.

But when it comes to something as simple as staying alive while walking down a suburban street — much less in the woods, or tall grass — we are shockingly ignorant. With the exception perhaps of Jim Catoe, who owns some land out in the country that has a crowd of snakes on it, we’re kind of a bunch of dummies.

What’s happened to us, people? Our ancestors used to know the creatures around them, and the names of the trees, and what was edible and what wasn’t (to us, “edible” means packaged for sale in a supermarket, but not on the detergent aisle).

But when confronted by an animal that can kill us — a common animal, in fact the most common venomous snake in SC — we are clueless!

In those books I love — as do Bryan Caskey and Mike Fitts — there are certain things Jack Aubrey assumed any man knew back 200 years ago. And when the smartest person he knows — physician and naturalist Stephen Maturin — asks him something any ship’s boy would know, such as, “When is the dark of the moon?”… Jack hesitates to answer, hoping that Stephen is making a joke by asking such a thing. (But he never is. Stephen’s more like us.)

Personally, I have no idea when the dark of the moon will be. Occasionally when walking with my wife at night, I’ll look up and recognize Jupiter in the sky, and Saturn off to the left of it, and I’ll say so in a vain attempt to be impressive. But she knows I only know that from wondering “What’s that bright thing in the sky?” and looking it up on my phone’s astronomy app. And she’s tired of my mentioning it.

The problem is, if you’re walking at night and holding up your phone to the sky to figure out what that bright thing is, you’re likely to step on a small creature that can kill you.


Anyway, thanks very much, Rudy!

11 thoughts on “I got a ruling from Rudy Mancke: It’s a copperhead

  1. Randle

    This just appeared on my Facebook page, along with a picture of the mother and her newborns. Since you are talking copperheads, I am passing it along. I will not be going barefoot again.

    A friendly reminder and warning for those of you with kids and dogs – It is September and the start of football season, but it is also the time of year when copperheads are born.
    The baby snakes are born with venom and ready to defend themselves. The mama snake generally gives birth to about 8 – 10 of these critters, so if you find one there are others around. The babies will keep those greenish/yellow tips on their tails for about a year. These snakes are not generally aggressive but will bite if you are unfortunate enough to touch or step on one. Do not reach under bushes, around rocks, or even flower pots without looking first. They like damp places so beware, even under children’s toys and dog dishes!
    Photo credit goes to the Virginia Professional Wildlife Removal Services, LLC.

  2. Doug T

    Bryan beat me to it. Rudy and Jim and Beryl and Allen Sharpe set the standard.

    Anyone who could make my home county’s sandhills seem interesting are pros without peers.

  3. bud

    There is a useful political message here. I stated that maybe Brads snake was a water snake. When confronted with an expert opinion that this was in fact a copperhead. I acknowledged I was in error. No obfuscating. Only a minor excuse. Our president NEVER defers to the experts. On the military, Covid, forest fires even the projected track of a hurricane. Why do so many still trust this lunatic?

    1. Barry

      Reality is a sizeable portion of the country and conservatives believe whatever crap trump spills.

      The guy is a moron. But he’s confident in his moronic presence.

      His attorney general just compared “national Lockdowns” (which of course we never had) to slavery. His conservative jock sniffing audience applauded.

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