Forget The Walking Dead. Try The Crawling Dead. Last week, the North Carolina State Parks and Recreation Department warned citizens about a "zombie snake" in the state that knows how to play dead.
In the post, the department shared images of the eastern hognose snake lying on its back, mouth open, pretending to be dead. "Let's play a game!" the post declared. "Who is this 'famous' NC snake? A cobra? A zombie snake? It's a harmless one."
The parks department offers a link to a page from the group Amphibians and Reptiles of North Carolina, which explains the snake's zombie behavior in more detail.
"When threatened, hognose snakes hiss loudly and spread their necks like cobras do, resulting in the nicknames 'puff adder' or 'spreading adder,'" the page explains. "They rarely bite during these displays, but they may strike repeatedly. If the antagonist continues, the hognose snake will feign death by opening its mouth, rolling over on its back, and writhing around. If turned over onto its belly, it will immediately roll again onto its back."
It gets even more horror-movie-like when you learn that "enlarged teeth in the rear of the (snake's) mouth are used to 'pop' toads for easier swallowing." That's toad-ally disturbing. But to humans, the snake isn't much of a threat. Katie Hall of the parks department told Fast Company that while the snake does have venom, it very rarely bites people, and the bites are treatable.
"It's not like your flesh is going to rot or you're going to lose a limb or something," Hall said.
North Carolina State Parks has declared 2019 to be the "year of the snake," and is urging residents to "scale back your fear" by learning about the creatures.