Venomous copperhead snake spotted near Washington's National Mall

A copperhead snake sighting near the National Mall in Washington, D.C. this week prompted a warning from officials to be on the lookout for the reptiles as mating season approaches.

The large snake was wrapped around a chain-link fence in East Potomac Park. National Park Service officials said it's not uncommon to spot northern copperheads in the area.

"Copperheads are known to expand their home range this time of year in search of mates," the National Mall and Memorial Parks explained in a Facebook post on Tuesday.

Park officials recommend those who encounter a copperhead to remain calm and slowly back away, as the snakes are venomous. They're also one of the most likely species to bite when they feel threatened, according to LiveScience, though their venom is rarely fatal for humans.

"Copperheads are pit vipers, like rattlesnakes and water moccasins. Pit vipers have 'heat-sensory pits between eye and nostril on each side of head,' which are able to detect minute differences in temperatures so that the snakes can accurately strike the source of heat, which is often potential prey," LiveScience explained in a post online.

According to the National Park Service, copperheads are the only venomous snakes known to frequent the city and are often seen slithering around the nation's Capitol. However, there have been more sightings than usual in recent months.

Scott Smith, wildlife ecologist with Maryland's Department of Natural Resources, told The Washington Post that "[rainfall] is driving a lot of critters out of their normal habitat."

Officials reminded locals to leave the creatures alone. 

"Like all wildlife in national parks, the copperhead is a protected species," park officials added. "And with up to 80% of their diet consisting of rodents, copperheads provide a very valuable service in controlling those populations in the park!"