South Carolina

‘Be careful’: Why more snakes are around since Hurricane Dorian

The man, the myth, the legend: ‘The Snake Chaser’

Russell Cavender, better known as ‘The Snake Chaser’, has been an animal lover his whole life. 26 years later, he’s still doing what he loves, and getting paid for it.
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Russell Cavender, better known as ‘The Snake Chaser’, has been an animal lover his whole life. 26 years later, he’s still doing what he loves, and getting paid for it.

The Snake Chaser Russell Cavender, a local wildlife removal specialist, has seen an increase in snakes calls in the week following Hurricane Dorian.

For many in Horry County and Myrtle Beach, Cavender and his staff are the go-to people when residents find snakes and other animals in unwanted areas. And he said Hurricane Dorian is giving him plenty of work.

Hurricane season typically is at its worst in September into October. Cavender said it coincides with a lot of animals being born and preparing for the winter season.

In the days immediately following the storm, displaced squirrels are actually the main call Cavender gets. He said this is because storms often blow the baby squirrels out of their nests.

He said between him and two other people he knows, over 130 squirrels are being rehabilitated and relocated.

“Squirrels have babies twice a year in spring and fall. Of course when we have hurricanes it blows them right out,” Cavender said.

The wind can also destroy the nest causing adult squirrels to seek refuge in damaged buildings. He said the same thing occurs with raccoon and other critters.

While it takes a few days, Cavender said eventually the snake calls started coming in after the storm. He estimates his crew has gotten more than a dozen snake calls a day since the hurricane hit. The number of calls is about on par with Hurricane Florence ahead of the storm’s flooding, but he said he has received fewer calls than during Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

The calls have been stressful, Cavender said, but The Snake Chaser crew is managing well enough.

Snakes can detect drops in the atmosphere’s pressure when a storm comes through and the high levels around, Cavender said. The storm leaves plenty of food for the snakes to find before they enter a period of decreased activity during winter.

“The snakes know there is going to be a lot of opportunities for free food,” he said. “They really get cranked up going out looking for food because they need that fat preserve for the winter time.”

Also, many of the baby snakes are hatching and need to be fed. Cavender said an average water snake can lay more than 50 eggs at a time.

Cavender suggests people wear closed toed shoes, protective gear and keep an eye out as they do lawn work in the weeks following a hurricane. Sometimes snakes can be hiding in leaves or under storm debris and people may not even see them.

He also recommends keeping your yard as clean as possible year-round to discourage snakes from making a home on your property.

“The less debris you have, the less yard trash just laying around the better off you are,” Cavender said. “Just be careful. Snake bites are expensive, they’re very expensive.”

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