Heather Collins was concerned about the snakes her mother had seen in her backyard while picking flowers. But when she called a local exterminator to come in, he laughed and told her not to worry, since they probably weren't poisonous.
But a few days later, the Idlewylde resident got a call from the exterminator, who said he pulled three venomous copperheads from her yard.
"I don't like snakes at all, and I especially don't like poisonous ones in my yard, she said. "With a 4-pound dog and an 8-month-old baby, it's just not ideal."
The exterminator pulled out the three snakes in an hour, and another neighbor reported seeing several snakes last month. The snakes ranged in size from three inches to three feet.
It's been a month since Collins paid $450 for a treatment of snake repellent around her house, but that's about to wear off, she said. And now a neighbor behind her has been spotting snakes, too.
"They're not coming back in my yard for the time being, but they're going into someone else's yard," she said.
None of her neighbors have reported any snake sightings quite like that, and David Kosak, president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations, said he hadn't heard of any reports of snakes elsewhere in the Towson area.
But Collins and her neighbors are asking county and state officials to do what they can to look into it.
Glenn Therres, the associate director of the Wildlife and Heritage Service in the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, thinks claims of venomous snakes may be, well, a bit out of scale.
"People send us pictures. Most of the time, it's some other species of snake and not copperheads," Therres said. "I'm not saying it's not, but I'm not saying it is."
According to a National Zoo fact sheet, copperheads can be found along the Eastern Seaboard and west to Nebraska, mostly in wetlands and rocky hillsides.
In Maryland, they turn up time to time around the Gunpowder River, for example, but finding copperheads in the suburbs is "not very common. It's not impossible, but it's not common," Therres said. "If it's fairly wooded, it's possible."
The copperhead is one of two venomous snakes found in Maryland, and Therres said it's one of the more docile types.
"If you've got one cornered and you see a snake, then you just back off and the snake backs off, too," he said. "Yes, they are venomous, but people have a much greater chance of getting serious injuries from a yellow jacket, a neighbor's dog, that sort of thing."
If you do get bitten, Therres said to look for signs of venom—the snake won't always inject it. It will feel like hot liquid, the site of the bite may become discolored and victim may feel nauseous. Therres said the victim should go to the emergency room immediately.
But if there are snakes slithering in the suburbs, there's not too much DNR can do about it. Instead, Therres advises that residents choose from the agency's list of licensed nuisance wildlife services or call their hotline at 1-877-463-6497.
Baltimore County Animal Control does not handle wildlife complaints, instead referring those to DNR.
That's not good enough for Tom Lattanzi, president of Idlewylde Community Association.
"This is life-threatening with copperheads and they really should step in and try to do something about this," he said. "We think the onus and the responsibility should be on either the county or the state health departments helping to get rid of the problem."
Until then, Collins said she's walking outside with steel-toed boots and keeping in touch with her exterminator.
"The county's going to be willing to pick up a stray dog," she said. "They should at least be willing to come out and look (and) provide some kind of assistance to the community because not everyone has access to those resources."