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Laurel Man Arrested for Firing Shotgun at Snake

Laurel police have arrested a man for firing a shotgun at a snake on his property. State law prohibits residents from killing the snakes.

Laurel police have arrested a man for firing a shotgun at a snake on his property. File|Patch
Laurel police have arrested a man for firing a shotgun at a snake on his property. File|Patch

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.

Fran Asbeck June 24, 2014 at 07:48 AM
I'm not usually a scofflaw, I try to protect wildlife, but any copperhead I catch on my place is going to die. Cops, catch me if you can.
Mandi Hariton June 24, 2014 at 09:19 AM
I love snakes and never kill them for the circle of life reason. I had no idea along with plenty of others that it was against the law in MD to kill them. I think we need to stress that now that we are going into summer.
Peggy Anne June 24, 2014 at 10:00 AM
I pick up snakes with my safety stick, place them into a deep box, and relocate them to a similar terrain, but away from my territory. Mohave rattlers. It's no big deal. Just be on the lookout for them, and if they are moving away from you, wish them a good journey. Humans frighten me far more than snakes.
Bob Higginbotham June 24, 2014 at 06:27 PM
So the message is if the snake looks poisonous kill it quietly or just back off and don't corner it. Except for cotton mouths snakes in this state are not aggressive, even copperheads and rattlers.
Michele July 07, 2014 at 03:37 PM
Relocation....there is NO NEED to kill any snake!

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