While out on a jog on a popular running trail Monday morning, Christine Proffitt spotted something moving in the shrubs beside her.
When she stopped to take a closer look, the Charlotte, North Carolina, woman let out a shriek.
Rolling around in the bushes was a large ball of snakes — all different kinds, sizes and colors.
“I just saw what I thought was one big snake and I looked down and it’s probably 10 to 20 different snakes,” Christine Proffitt told CBS affiliate WBTV after witnessing what turned out to be a snake mating ball along the Little Sugar Creek Greenway.
Proffitt’s photo of the large pile of snakes went viral on Twitter. She’s since made her account private.
“Watch out on the greenway today guys????” Proffitt tweeted. “My nice walk turned into a sprint race really fast.”
After snapping a few quick pictures, Proffitt sprinted away.
“I would have taken more but I wanted to get out of there as fast as I could,” she joked. “As terrified as I was, my first instinct was ‘pics or it didn’t happen.’”
But snake mating balls aren’t actually that rare of an occurrence, especially in the spring.
“Snakes are coming out of hibernation and they’re beginning to mate,” David Crowe of Critter Control in Charlotte told WBTV. “So they’re sunning in very obvious places.”
When males catch the pheromone scent of a female, they will swarm over her, forming a “mating ball,” a Live Science report explains. The males then engage in non-violent combat — placing their chins on the top of the other males’ heads and pushing down — in order to win the mate.
After mating, the female may store sperm for over a year, and somehow choose which male’s sperm she wants to use to fertilize her eggs, according to Live Science.
While the snakes may surprise runners, they don’t pose much of a threat.
There are 37 species of snakes that are native to North Carolina, only 6 — the copperhead, cottonmouth, pigmy rattler, canebrake, diamondback and coral snake — are venomous.
These snakes appear to be a mix of brown water snakes and northern water snakes, known for living in and along water and feeding on sick and injured fish.
“When the snake sees movement or is disturbed, it will drop quickly into the water,” according to North Carolina State University research.