By Eddie Ayers, County Extension Agent
There are not too many animals in the world that get such an emotional response than finding a snake in the woods or around the house. People have been attracted and repulsed by snakes ever since the dawn of time. Snakes are a part of the landscape, especially in the ridge tops and hollows of North Georgia. Without them we would have greater problems with an overpopulation of rodents and other pests.
There are over 50 kinds of snakes in Georgia, however there are only nine that are venomous. The most common venomous snakes that could be expected in this area are the copperhead and the timber rattlesnake. They are classified as venomous because they inject the poison into the victim when they bite. If they were classified as poisonous it would be because the poison entered the victim when the animal was eaten. This is why rattlesnake meat can be eaten and the person eating it does not get sick.
Snakebites are a rare occurrence. Fewer people are killed by snakes, than by lightening, but if you have the unfortunate encounter with a venomous snake and get bitten, there are a few things that you can do to reduce the severity of the snakebite. First you should remain calm; excitement does not help the situation for you or the people that are trying to help you. You do want to get to good medical help quickly and if you know you’re going to be in an area that’s known to have snakes, ask your doctor what he or she advises regarding snakebites.
Snakes feed on a wide a variety of small creatures. Some species only feed off warm-blooded animals like rodents and birds, while others feed on toads and frogs. Some of the smaller snakes feed on a variety of creatures like earthworms, slugs, and soft-bodied insects.
The best defense is being able to identify the snakes of the area and their habitat. As more and more people encroach on the native habitat of snakes, their sightings are becoming more common. If your property is surrounded by natural countryside, with wood or rock piles, streams, and wetlands, snakes may be seen more often. Just think of them as part of the ‘county setting package.’ Naturalistic landscaping, rock gardens, piles of debris, and deteriorating outbuildings may harbor snakes as well.
There are no chemical controls for keeping snakes at bay. I often get people telling me of how they keep snakes away with various chemicals, but according to research, there is no chemical that is fool proof for keeping snakes away. The best way to reduce the incidence of snakes is to keep landscaped areas and structures unattractive for snakes. Keep these areas cleaned up and cleaned out. Do not allow the areas around the house to become overgrown with vegetation or weedy. Also think like a snake. Look for sources of food, water, and places to hide. If it is attractive for these things, snakes will be there and snakes can fit into some very small places so pay attention to the details.
For more information, contact me in the Gilmer County UGA Extension office.