As Tennesseans know, if you live here: expect snakes. No one told this Smyrna mother that, however, and her experience is turning into an internet sensation.
As the internet works to identify the large serpent, Smyrna resident Courtnie Dunn is trying to “control [her] breathing” still. While out for a typical walk at Gregory Mill Park, Dunn and her two young sons came across a remarkable sight.
There, twisted in the trees, was a snake “longer than [her] five and four year old.” The sighting, which took place mid-day Monday, still has Dunn shaken up. At first, she immediately contacted her mother, a city worker in Smyrna. They then decided to post the photo on Facebook to get some help on identifying the enormous snake.
“Has anyone else risked their life to take a pic because you just knew your husband wouldn’t believe you? Oh that’s just me, oh okay,” she wrote on the social media platform in a post that has since gone viral.
Yet as the internet tends to do, commenters quickly began criticizing Dunn on her lack of “snake knowledge,” even going as far as to tell her she needs to “take photography lessons” to capture better photos of wildlife. What a time to be alive.
Take a look at Dunn’s remarkable photo below. Then, lets identify this snake so the internet can sleep tonight. Don’t worry, said internet, this author is a trained wildlife technician, so it’ll all work out.
Has anyone else risked their life to take a pic because you just knew your husband wouldn’t believe you? Oh that’s just…Posted by Courtnie Dunn on Monday, April 26, 2021
Tennessee Mother’s Encounter is with a Non-Venomous, Common Species
As local WKRN news points out, “the Smyrna Outdoor Adventure Center team believes this is a female water snake.”
This, too, is exactly what my eyes see. Several species of water snakes are very common in Tennessee, and they are often mistaken for far deadlier snakes due to their markings. Which is, of course, how nature often works. So much so, in fact, that many Tennessee water snakes directly mimic the patterning of water moccasins, which are cottonmouths. And you don’t want to ever mess with any (venomous) cottonmouth.
The water snake was “spotted adjacent to the water near Gregory Mill Dam,” which makes sense. The species gets its name from their habitat, which is – you guessed it – in and around water. While water snakes can reach a length close to 5 feet (under 2 meters), they are relatively harmless to humans. They are instead great with pest control. Anyone living near water in the Southeast is sure to have spotted at least one species of water snake in their lifetime.
Non-Venomous Water Snake vs Highly-Venomous Moccasin (Cottonmouth)
Given their markings and shared habitats with far more dangerous snakes, all wildlife officials will always specify never to approach or handle wild snakes (or any animal). But if you do come across a particularly fearless water snake and wish/need to identify it, pay close attention to their head shape and necks.
A cottonmouth (or water moccasin) will have a very blocky head with pronounced “cheeks” that are much wider than their thin neck, like that of a copperhead. By comparison, non-venomous water snakes have gently-shaped heads which are about the same width as their neck, making both nearly indistinguishable from their bodies.
With this in mind and just in case, the Smyrna Parks and Recreation staff “went to the location to make sure guests were safe and to make sure the snake was not in an area out of its natural habitat that posed a danger to the public,” WKRN cites.