In late February, Steve Ballou was setting out cones in Overton Park in Memphis ahead of the city's Runner’s Track Club's "Frosty 5K" race. Easily missed given its dark-brown color, a rat snake — which appears to be rather large based off Ballou’s viral photo — was casually curled around a tree branch with its head and upper body suspended in the air.
Ballou also captured photos of a copperhead snake slithering on the ground below. He later took to Facebook with photos of the reptiles. His post had nearly 3,000 shares as of Wednesday afternoon.
"Another reason I don't run," one person commented.
"That's a big snake!" another wrote.
"Look like we won't be going there anymore," a third joked in response.
The sight would’ve been presumably terrifying to most anyone, but Ballou told Fox News on Wednesday “it was really no big deal.”
“People seemed to think the snake is bigger than it actually is,” he said, adding he estimated the rat snake was roughly 3 feet in length.
"The reactions [to the photos] completely surprised me," Ballou added.
"I expected comments from a few friends and wound up with over 2,900 shares and reactions from as far away as Brazil," he continued.
Due to the attention Ballou’s photos received, however, Overton Park later posted a notice to its Facebook page, explaining the ground was “highly saturated” with water following a week of rain which likely caused some snakes to move “into trees or onto drier parts of trails."
Park officials then checked with Steven Reichling, the curator of ectotherms and small mammals at the Memphis Zoo, who confirmed that both species are “our native rat snakes and copperheads.”
“The rat snakes are non-venomous and help keep the rodent population in check, so even though they are large and intimidating to look at, they are a beneficial member of our ecosystem. Copperheads are also native to our area, and although they do carry venom they are not aggressive unless provoked. Both species will likely return to their off-trail dwellings as the ground dries up,” the park added, though noted that “it's always a good idea to stay on marked trails and leash your pets in the woods to keep from surprising a snake in leaf litter.”
The snakes had reportedly left the area by the time the race began.