While wildlife experts say there have been some sightings of poisonous copperhead snakes in the Laurel area recently, residents who kill snakes in their yards are breaking state law.
And firing a gun to kill a snake will get you arrested.
Laurel Police were called to the 15000 block of Laurel Oaks Lane at 12:25 p.m. Sunday after getting reports of shots fired. According to a statement on the city’s website, officers found James Matthews Jr., 62, in the woods behind his house with a shotgun. He reportedly told police he used the shotgun to kill a snake.
Matthews was charged with violating a city ordinance that prohibits residents from firing a gun or other weapon that discharges a projectile that can hurt someone unless you are defending yourself or your property.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources says it’s illegal to kill snakes in the state.
DNR Ecologist Scott Smith says of the 27 species of snakes found in Maryland, only two are venomous: the timber rattlesnake and the copperhead. Smith a timber rattlesnake sighting would be unusual in Laurel, but there have been some recent copperhead sightings nearby.
His advice if you see a snake is to leave it alone.
“Snakes are a valuable part of the eco-system,” Smith said. “They help with rodent control and with frogs and toads that can get plentiful. They have as much of a part to play in nature as raccoons and squirrels.”
City officials urged residents to check the DNR website for photos of copperheads, timber rattlesnakes and other types of snakes to see if the snake seen near their home is dangerous. Residents who want to get rid of a snake or other wildlife in their yard can find phone numbers on the DNR website for experts who will safely trap and remove pests.