No, that wasn’t a ‘baby copperhead’ in your yard

Adult snake with nine baby snakes

An actual copperhead with its young. You’re not going to find these in your backyard.

By IAN McDOWELL, South Mendenhall Street

Newborn copperheads are 8-10 inches long and look much like mature copperheads except for their greenish or yellow tails, which they may use to attract lizards, and which lose that coloration after the first year. Other than that tail, their coloration is more grayish than that of their tan or coppery parents. Even at birth (females don’t lay eggs), juveniles have thicker bodies, larger heads and thinner necks than any other local snake that size. Their heads generally have the same distinctive triangular “adder” shape as adults.

A snake less than 8 inches long is almost certainly not a copperhead. Any snake less than 11 inches long without a greenish or yellow tip on its tail is unlikely to be a copperhead (copperheads lose that tail coloration after the first year).

little snake in someone's hands

Google is wrong: This isn’t a baby copperhead.

I have examined over 30 alleged “baby copperheads” in College Hill since 1990. All were common brown snakes, worm snakes or ringneck snakes. It’s very difficult for any snake that must grow to be over 12 inches long before it can mate to survive in this or any suburban neighborhood. The idea of two sexually mature copperheads surviving long enough to find each other and have babies anywhere near downtown Greensboro is, although not inconceivable, highly improbable. There’s a reason you typically have to go out to the country to find kingsnakes, cornsnakes and ratsnakes these days, although those species were common in Fayetteville and Greensboro suburbs when I was a kid. (My late great-uncle, Olan Barnes, used to swear he’d blast rock salt into any “dang carpetbagger city folks” dumb enough to kill a black snake anywhere near his property, but that was when his old house at the corner of Friendly and Holden was still a chicken farm, and he had the country wisdom he’d acquired before the suburbs engulfed him).

a harmless little snake

The common, harmless worm snake, from

Every time that one of my neighbors has killed a “baby copperhead” and I was able to examine the corpse, cutting open its head and examining its mouth structure with a high-powered magnifying glass revealed no trace of poison glands or fangs.

When Googling what juvenile copperheads look like, be sure you’re clicking on an image from a nature organization. Pinterest, Deviant Art, and Instagram are full of “baby copperheads” that aren’t. Most of the images pulled up in a Google image search on “baby copperhead” are adult worm snakes and brown snakes.

Only the photo of a mother with her young (above, at top) depicts baby copperheads. Agkistrodon contortrix, like most vipers, is an ovoviviparous species, meaning the eggs are hatched inside the mother’s body (a few species of snakes, such as boa constrictors and green anacondas, are viviparous and have placentas).

The second photo was the first hit produced by a Google image search on “baby copperhead,” but it’s a common brown snake (and too small to be a newborn copperhead).

The third photo is a worm snake, the most common snake in this area, and about as harmless as any animal can be. Leave it alone to eat slugs in your garden. It can’t hurt you, your kids or your pets (brown snakes can’t, either — unless you live in Australia, where “brown snake” denotes a different and larger species that is, of course, deadly, because Australia).

This post originally appeared on and is published with the permission of the author.

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A big tree on Rankin Place gets a big send-off

Massive tree trunk on its side

Hand-lettered sign: Big Tree ParkingThere was a gigantic red oak tree that towered over Paul and Barbara Phillips’ house at 805 Rankin Place. The house was built in 1910, and the tree probably was there then. By last fall, it was clear that the tree’s health was failing, and it had to come down.

After weeks of work, it had been taken down this week, and the branches had been cleared away. Sam Bridges of Bridges Tree Service invited some folks over Friday to say goodbye.

Chainsaw artist Ericksen Krietemeyer carved a bear into one end of the trunk. Master furniture craftsman Joe Schoolcraft came over from Sunset Hills to saw through a seven-foot length of trunk for wood to turn into tables. A preschool class of five-year-olds from First Baptist Church arrived to see something big happening. Some their parents came, too, and neighbors from Rankin and Mendenhall and Carr, a videographer from Fox8 News and two officials from the city’s Historic Preservation staff.

Over the course of an hour and a half or so, some 30 people paid their respects to one of College Hill’s grandest trees. It was a more fitting end that most trees get, even great ones like this. Our neighborhood’s tree canopy is one of our great assets, one that requires care, respect and awareness to maintain. Events like Friday’s should become a tradition, one that will help keep us from taking our trees for granted.

kids looking into a big hole in the tree

Everyone wanted to see inside …

kids inside the tree trunk

… and get inside.

guy with a chainsaw at work

Chainsaw artist Ericksen Krietemeyer carves a bear into one end of the giant tree trunk.

man leaning into a chainsaw rig

Joe Schoolcraft begins sawing through a seven-foot section of the tree.

close-up of an elaborate chainsaw

Joe’s chainsaw rig after he started to cut through the trunk

little boy looking into a hole in the tree

Everyone got to see where the bees had been and the honey they left behind …

children getting little spoonfuls of honey

… and then get a taste of pure honey straight from the tree.


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UNCG to stage major-emergency drill Thursday February 1; exercise will include simulated gunfire, several street closings

logo: UNCG Active Emergency DrillDon’t be alarmed if you see a lot of police and ambulances on campus on Thursday February 1. The university says it will be conducting one of the largest emergency exercises ever in the UNC system. The drill will focus on the McIver Building, located just off Spring
Garden Street on Administration Drive between the Foust Building and the back of the UNCG Auditorium (formerly Aycock).

Simulated gunfire may be heard between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.

From UNCG:

“On February 1, 2018, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro will be conducting a law enforcement oriented, mass casualty full-scale emergency exercise. The purpose of this exercise is to test the university and community’s emergency response and recovery plans and capabilities. The exercise will take place in and around the UNCG McIver Building, located at 1008 Administration Drive.

“The exercise is expected to begin around 9 AM and last until mid-afternoon. There will be a large police and emergency services presence on campus that day dedicated to the exercise, but an appropriate number of public safety officials will remain available to respond to real emergency calls during that time.”

Agencies taking part in the drill include UNCG police and various campus offices, the Greensboro police and fire departments, Guilford County EMS and sheriff’s department, N.C. A&T State University police, SBI, FBI and the American Red Cross.

Street closings

Several streets are scheduled to be closed from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.:

  • Spring Garden Street in both directions from Tate Street to Forest Street
  • Highland Avenue from Spring Garden Street to Oakland Avenue
  • Walker Avenue from the parking lot behind the McIver Building to Tate Street
  • College Avenue from the Faculty Center to Spring Garden Street
  • Administration Drive from Spring Garden Street to College Avenue

Also, Spring Garden Street’s sidewalk will be closed from Forest Street to Tate Street on the side by Foust Park.

More information: UNCG Campus Weekly, UNCG Police

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Garbage/recycling collection delayed until Monday, probably

The city has announced that Friday’s collection of garbage and recycling will be postponed until Monday because of the snow. No collections were made Wednesday, and none will be made today (Thursday).

City crews plan to work Friday and Saturday to start catching up, but if the roads are still impassable for garbage trucks tomorrow (Friday), they’ll have to delay our collection further. The city is posting updates on Nextdoor.

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Condolences to our neighbor Janet Frommann

The College Hill Neighborhood Association extends its condolences to our neighbor Janet Frommann of McGee Street on the death of her daughter, Kirsten Poag. Kirsten, 27,  died Sunday. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m., Saturday, December 2, at Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, 501 S. Mendenhall Street.

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Thursday Nov. 30: Don’t miss your last opportunity to comment on the College Hill segment of the Downtown Greenway

Downtown Greenway Phase Four design meeting, Nov. 30 2017Map showing Phase 4 of the Downtown Greenway

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Don’t drag that used but undamaged mattress to the curb — donate it to a group that can give it to someone who needs it

mattress in yard, thrown away by some thoughtless person

There’s a steady stream of mattresses that move from College Hill bedrooms to the curb to the landfill. And that’s a shame because there are people in Greensboro and the Triad who need them. Used mattresses that don’t have tears, holes, structural damage or stains can be donated to charities that can get them to people in need.

In Greensboro, used mattresses can be donated to the Barnabus Networkthe Salvation Army or the Vietnam Veterans of America. Please call one of these groups to come and pick up your used mattress rather than throwing it away.

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Neighbor Jim Clark of Carr Street dies at age 72

headshot of Jim ClarkLongtime College Hill resident Jim Clark died Monday. He was  72. He had suffered a severe heart attack last spring. Jim and his wife, Daniele, had lived on Carr Street since 1980 and raised their two children, Stefan and Josie, there. They moved to Westerwood after Jim’s heart attack to be closer to their daughter.

Jim was the director of UNCG’s MFA program in creative writing for many years, a position he still held. He also was editor of the program’s magazine, The Greensboro  Review.

In a quote posted on the MFA program website, novelist Kevin Wilson said, “Until it broke, my answering machine held a message from Jim Clark, telling me I had a story accepted in The Greensboro Review. Though I would not mention this to Jim, as it would embarrass the hell out of him, on days when I got a rejection or I felt like a terrible writer, which was often, I would listen to his message and feel better.

“Jim is the kind of editor that you hope for, one that believes wholeheartedly in the work, supports writers in whatever way he can, and makes you believe that he had no hand in making the piece better through editing, even though he made my story so much better.”

Visitation will be Thursday November 2, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Forbis & Dick Funeral Service, 1118 N. Elm Street. Click here for more information.

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Reminder: Sewer-line smoke testing is now under way

Notice from the city detailing rthe smoke-testing of water linesThe process is scheduled to begin today in College Hill and is expected to take three to four weeks. Here’s the full announcement from the city, including a link to a map of the areas where testing will be conducted:

Beginning Wednesday, October 18, the City of Greensboro and contractor Hydrostructures will be performing sewer line smoke testing in various locations throughout the City for three to four weeks. This is part of the City’s effort to continue to monitor and improve its infrastructure conditions. View a project location map of the testing areas here.

During the survey, a non-toxic smoke will be introduced into a manhole eventually flowing into the sewer lines. Any open break in the sewer line will be identified by the presence of smoke.

The smoke is non-toxic, non-staining, has a slight odor, and will appear white to gray in color. The smoke does not create a fire hazard. To prevent smoke from entering into a structure, customers are advised to pour a gallon of water into every sink, tub, and floor drain that is not used on a daily basis.

Motorists traveling in the project location sites may experience some minor traffic delays. Additional updates will be issued as testing progresses. For additional information, please call the City Contact Center at 336-373-2489 or visit the Water Resources website.

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Update on Phase 1 of College Hill traffic improvement project: Temporary changes are slowing traffic on Mendenhall

The first phase of the College Hill for Everyone project is primarily a demonstration project. It’s being used to gather information and demonstrate the use of innovative techniques and materials to slow traffic on South Mendenhall Street and to improve pedestrian safety and quality of life in College Hill.

The changes that have been put in place are temporary. The information gathered during this test phase will help identify what kinds of changes will be effective at reducing motor vehicle speeds, reducing traffic noise and improving safety for bicyclists and pedestrians.

After the testing phase, we’ll use what we’ve learned to develop long-term improvements.  The timing of those improvements will be coordinated with upcoming water and sewer replacement and street resurfacing projects to limit the disruption and cost.

Vehicle speed and pedestrian safety

Mendenhall doesn’t look like a 25 mph street. It’s straight and wider than the nearby side streets. Most of its intersections lack crosswalks, and one side is clear of parked cars. It doesn’t give motorists obvious reasons to travel at or below the posted speed limit.

The combination of a high level of pedestrian traffic, lack of marked crosswalks, high rate of motor vehicles speeding and other factors create a dangerous situation.

Chart: Pedestrian Risk of Injury or Fatality by Speed

Click the chart to see it larger.

Last year, traffic speed data were collected on the 500 block of Mendenhall, where the lane diverters are being tested. Only about 40% of motor vehicles were travelling at or below the posted speed limit.  The maximum recorded speed was 54 mph.

Data collected after installation of the temporary treatments show that the changes to the design of the street are reducing traffic speeds significantly.  Over 97% of vehicles are travelling at or below 25 mph.  Only 0.1% of vehicles are traveling above 35 mph. The maximum recorded speed was 38 mph.

Continue reading

Posted in City Government, College Hill Neighborhood Association, Mendenhall Street, Municipal Service District, Traffic, Walker Avenue | 1 Comment