On the spectrum of internet-spread hysteria, it wasn’t on the level of Momo, but it never should’ve gotten this far, either.
Last week, the Facebook account for the North Carolina State Parks and Recreation played a fun game with its followers. Posting a picture of the humble hognose snake, it asked the question: “Who is this ‘famous’ NC snake? A cobra? A zombie snake?”
Something about the term “zombie snake” struck a nerve, because the next thing you know, media outlets from ABC News to (surprise!) the Daily Mail were writing a dire “warning” from North Carolina officials, who were urging the public to steer clear of these monstrous, four-foot-long “zombie snakes.”
Except there are no zombie snakes, and the Facebook post wasn’t a warning at all. In fact, the point of it was to demystify snakes, according to Katie Hall, a spokeswoman for the state’s parks department. “The whole idea was to get people taking about snakes and learning about snakes so there isn’t some irrational fear of all snakes,” she told me.
So what’s the deal with the Eastern hognose snake? While you wouldn’t want to make out with one, they’re pretty common throughout the Southeast and not something that should be anywhere near the top of your list of concerns.
“It’s a mostly harmless snake, like a garter snake,” Hall says. “It is venomous, but it very rarely bites people.”
She added that the snake has a dramatic display when it feels threatened, puffing its head up with air similar to the way a cobra would, but the “venom is nothing compared to more poisonous snakes.”
Hall says Parks and Recreation posted about Eastern hognose because 2019 is the year of the snake. As for what to do if you do get bitten by one, you’d want to seek help like you would with any other snakebite, but “it’s not like your flesh is going to rot or you’re going to lose a limb or something.”
To recap: It’s okay to be a little afraid of snakes, but be very afraid of an internet meme with teeth.