Florence brings cottonmouth snakes and historic artifacts ashore

Mark Puleo # weather

As if the flooding, power outages, storm surges and damaged buildings from Florence weren’t enough, venomous snakes and islands of fire ants have also emerged in the aftermath of the historic storm.

While walking along a flooded disc golf course after the storm, Bradley Thomas Dixon, a firefighter from North Topsail Beach, posted a video on Facebook depicting a pair of cottonmouth snakes, also known as water moccasins, hanging out in the sun.

“Naturally, I was a bit scared. I stepped down about six or eight feet away from them onto a dry spot of land,”
Dixon told AccuWeather.
“But I noticed that they weren’t really all that scared or bothered, so I just hopped back down really slow and they stayed with their eyes on me… I had never been around them before, but I had to get footage because I figured my friends wouldn’t believe it.”

Dixon initially thought the snakes could have been an alligator, calling the experience "the most intense moments I have experienced in a while."

Maintaining a farm has helped Dixon understand the dangers of venomous snakes and how to recognize them. A foster dog he was caring for was recently bit by a venomous snake and had to spend two days in the hospital. Despite never having seen a cottonmouth before, he recognized the snake and its danger based on the unique shape of its head.

“I knew that we only had six venomous snakes in North Carolina, and the size of the head immediately told me it was a cottonmouth,”
he said.
“So there’s no mistaking that. I had actually never seen a cottonmouth before that, but when you see them, it’s undeniable. It’s a very scary looking snake.”

(Photo/Bradley Thomas Dixon)

Cottonmouths were not the only unusual critter to emerge in the Florence floodwaters, however.

There were numerous videos of showing fire ants forming makeshift rafts and islands to float on top of the waters. According to Scientific American, clumps of 100,000 fire ants can group together to survive water levels by climbing atop each other and linking together to form a floating tower. On those towers, the ants are able to carry all the eggs, larvae and queens needed to survive and restart the population when the waters recede.

Reports of floating fire ant colonies also circulated after Hurricane Harvey last summer. Because of their painful bite, residents have been warned to be on the lookout in areas where pets or children play. Along with the snakes and occurrences like downed power lines, floating fire ants are another reason to stay out of floodwaters.

Among other noteworthy animal impacts from Florence, numerous deer were seen wading through flooded residential areas during the storm. While walking the beach after the storm, Dixon also said he saw plenty of dead birds and fish on the shore.

“I just wanted to get out and explore the beach to stretch my legs,”
Dixon said.
“There were just so many animals that didn’t make it through the storm. Some birds, some fish, some crabs, just things that you don’t see on the beach every day.”