Monday, March 4, 2013

Episode 151 (3-4-13): Snakes

Click to listen to episode (2:55).

Please see below (after the transcript and show notes) for links to news and upcoming events.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of March 4, 2013.

This week, we feature music merged with a mystery sound, both meant to ask: What Virginia animals range from rocky ridges to still-water swamps, and generate an equally wide range of human reactions?  Have a listen for about 40 seconds.


If you guessed snakes, you’re right!  That was the sound of a Timber Rattlesnake, in between parts of “Baldcypress Swamp,” performed by Timothy Seaman on the 2004 CD “Virginia Wildlife.”  Virginia has over 30 species of snakes.  Some prefer dry, upland areas, but many species inhabit aquatic areas ranging from marshes and swamps to streams and rivers.  Virginia has three poisonous* species: Timber Rattlesnake, including a Coastal Plain population called the Canebrake Rattlesnake; Northern Copperhead; and Eastern Cottonmouth.  The latter is often confused with the widespread but non-poisonous Northern Watersnake, with both having the common name Water Moccasin.  Such cases of mistaken snake identities, along with misunderstandings of snake behavior, help cause widespread human fear and dislike of snakes.  But even if snakes give you the creeps, learning a little bit about these reptiles can increase your appreciation for their key role as predator and prey within various land and water environments.  Thanks to Timothy Seaman for this week’s music and to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries for the Timber Rattlesnake sound.

[*Editor's note: Scientists use the more accurate term "venomous" snakes.  This makes the distinction that such snakes actively inject toxins, rather than simply being harmful if eaten by something.]

For other water sounds and music, and for more Virginia water information, visit our Web site at, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  From the Virginia Water Resources Research Center in Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


Eastern Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus) in Georgia, 2008.  Photograph by Pete Pattavina, taken from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Digital Library,, accessed 3/4/13.

Music on the CD “Virginia Wildlife” is copyright 2004 by Timothy Seaman and Pine Wind Music, used with permission.  Mr. Seaman’s Web site is  The “Virginia Wildlife” CD was a collaboration between Mr. Seaman and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland FisheriesThe rattlesnake sound was taken from the “Timber Rattlesnake Survey” video, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (June 2011), used with permission; the 4 minute/46 second video is available online at

Information on Virginia snakes was taken from “Snakes of Virginia,” Virginia Herpetological Society Web site,, 3/4/13; “Species Information: Reptiles” from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, online at; Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia, by B.S. Martof et. al., University of North Carolina Press/Chapel Hill (1980); and Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in Virginia, J.C. Mitchell and K.K. Reay, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries/Richmond (1999).

Recent Virginia Water News
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Water Meetings and Other Events
            For events related to Virginia's water resources, please visit the Quick Guide to Virginia Water–related Conferences, Workshops, and Other Events, online at  The site includes a list of Virginia government policy and regulatory meetings occurring in the coming week.