OCRACOKE, N.C. -- Walking along the shore line of Ocracoke Island looking for shells and picking up trash is something Sam Corlis and her husband have been doing on vacation for years.

While walking along the northeast end of the island this summer Corlis noticed a large lump in the sand that she thought was seaweed.

“Then the lump started to move so I was curious to see what it was,” Corlis said.

When she was about 20 or 30 yards away she took out her camera and zoomed in.

“I realized it was a snake,” Corlis said. “I do live in the woods of West Virginia so I’m very aware of snakes, but I wasn’t familiar with North Carolina snakes.”

She took a few steps closer.

“And it started coming toward me and I was like ‘oh no’,” Corlis said.

She backed away and the snake lost interest in her.

“The snake just chose to go into the ocean and kept going out to sea,” Corlis said. “I just couldn’t believe it.”
Corlis watched the snake for a while as it made its way through the waved keeping its head above water. “I thought, snakes don’t do this. Snakes don’t go to the beach.”

Corlis posted the video to the Ocracoke Island Facebook page and the post quickly was shared hundreds of times. The post captured the attention of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

They identified the snake as a timber rattlesnake, which are found on the barrier island. The snake can be spotted on the sound side, but it is unusual to see a snake swim in the ocean. Timber rattlesnakes are most common in the mountains and Coastal Plain.

“It is a bit weird, but not unheard of since they are found on the barrier islands,” said Jodie Owen of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. “They are in their natural habitat. Leave it alone and it will go back to where it came from.”

That’s exactly what Corlis did. As the snake moved further out into the ocean, she turned around and left hoping the snake would eventually go back where it came from.