Snake Warning - Spring The BIG ONE !!!
Now that Spring is here expect lots of snake activity. Georgia's snake population is on the move. As we emerge from our homes and spend more time in the outdoors so will Georgia's snakes. It's time for them to go to work. Babies will be born (impregnated from last fall) and others will be looking for mates, locating food sources and safe havens.
Those snakes in the upper 1/3rd of the state (above Cobb Co.), activity will be more noticeable due to the warming temperature swing. Crop planting and tilling will uncover many rodent dens, moles, frogs, etc. Those snake species in the lower 2/3rds part of the state, where agriculture is more active, will be attracted to these areas. Many snakes will be hungry from winter and will begin hunting (often nocturnal) and daytime sun basking. Spring rains will help wash out any reluctant snakes. Expect more human to snake encounters.
Just because it looks dead doesn't mean it is. Snakes have NO eyelids and when sleeping or basking they may not move (even when being picked up or poked by a stick). Snakes may also sleep or bask with their mouths open the same way other reptiles do like alligators and crocs. Some snakes have learned that playing dead also fools would be predators. They can roll over, belly up, loll their tongues out of their mouths and even release a fowl smelling musk to simulate a decomposing carcass.
Below are the six venomous snakes of Georgia. If you see one of these DO NOT TRY TO KILL IT!!! If you are close enough to hit it with a shovel you are well within striking distance. YOU ARE NOT FASTER THAN THE SNAKE!!!
76% of ALL U.S. snake envenomations occur at peoples homes usually when attempting to KILL, capture or harass the snake.
Unless you have been trained to safely remove potentially fatal wildlife and have the right equipment then do NOT do it. If the snake has seen you it will want to leave and may be waiting until it thinks it safely can. If it has not seen you then it will still be there AFTER you call a professional to come and remove it.
Most common of ALL Georgia's venomous snakes. Consequently responsible for more bites in the wild than any other Georgia venomous snake. By nature a lazy reptile often waiting to ambush prey. So well camouflaged that many times goes unnoticed by people and pets. Copperheads do NOT attack people. They will often allow potential threats to get within inches allowing the camouflage to do its job. When they are convinced they have been seen they often make a dash in a random direction, sometimes possibly toward you. Notice the adult in the first picture has a solid dark colored tip to its tail - the second picture is a juvenile and has a bright sulfur yellow or green tip on its tail. This caudal lure is used to wiggle around simulating a worm. As frogs and lizards try and get close to catch the "worm" they become food for the snake. Adults generally prefer larger prey items such as rodents and no longer need the caudal lure. Ranging throughout most of the state they can survive in many geographical environments. Reaching 2 ~ 3+ feet in length. Most will appear tan to light brown with dark brown hour glass saddles across its back. There are many NON-venomous look alikes that mimic the copperhead.
VENOMOUS Canebrake/Timber Rattlesnake
A large heavy bodied RS. Reaching adult lengths of 3 ~ 5+ feet. Second largest Venomous Snake in Georgia. While their range includes most of the state you will find populations more clustered together within their range, depending on food supply, predators, habitat destruction and geographical conditions. Large enough to eat rabbits and squirrels. Northern clusters in mountainous regions will den together underground during colder months and Southern clusters tend to spend winter months alone in hollowed logs or stumps. Will become active during Spring months. For Northern clusters the loss of one den site during the winter can cause a devastating decrease in the local populations. The more northern variety (Timber RS) often considered to be threatened, has yet to be recognized as such due to its closeness in appearance to the more thriving Canebrake RS (southern variety). Known for being one of the more quiet Rattlesnakes. Not all RS will warn you before striking or coming within close proximity.
VENOMOUS Pygmy Rattlesnake
The smallest Venomous Snake of Georgia - adults usually under 2 feet. There are two sub-species of Pygmy in Georgia. The Dusky Pygmy RS is often seen more south (but can be found elsewhere) in the State with the main southern population being in Florida, and has a dark grey pattern (pictured above). They eat insects and small lizards. The Carolina Pygmy RS is only found in the Northern mountainous part of North Georgia bordering South Carolina. The Carolina Pygmy has two color variations. A lighter grey spotted variety and a red/pink variety. While the colors may change the pattern remains similar. Even though smaller in size they can still deliver a painful and severe envenomation possibly causing amputation and muscle/tissue loss.
The Cottonmouth is sometimes also called the Water Moccassin (a term used to describe both venomous and non-venomous water snakes). Usually dark brown in color can appear patterned or more solid. Georgia populations are healthy largely due to the fact this snake likes to inhabit areas that are not suitable for human development (swamps/marshes/flood plains). They can be found inland but prefer to be near a water source to access their main diet of fish and amphibians. They are a thick and heavy bodied pit viper and capable of delivering a lethal envenomation. Being semi-aquatic and water temperatures heating and cooling differently than air/ground temperatures they can often be seen active both earlier and later in the year. This snake has a reputation of being "aggressive" that is largely over-rated. Many times when caught on land they will try to retreat to the safety of the water and if you are in the way, well........ In the water they will approach resting boats possibly looking for a place to relax or just curious. Picture 1 adult phase and picture 2 juvenile phase
VENOMOUS Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
One of the most hunted and persecuted of all Rattlesnakes. The largest Venomous Snake of Georgia and the largest of ALL rattlesnakes. Populations are threatened and declining rapidly. Over collected by skin dealers and meat traders. The few remaining "Rattlesnake Round-Ups" in Georgia encourage contestants to collect as many wild specimens as they can find, often year round - going into other counties and states to collect them because so few are left here locally. This heavy bodied pit viper can grow to lengths of 5 ~ 6+ feet. Known for the diamond shaped pattern down its back. Found only in the lower half of the state closer to Florida. They prefer coastal lowlands and are excellent swimmers. Eating larger mammals such as rabbits and game birds. Often active during the day. Females only produce babies every 2-3 years and take several years to reach maturity. This combined with the demand for their skins and "thrill" of the capture makes any recovery an unlikely event.
VENOMOUS Eastern Coral Snake
The only venomous elapid in Georgia. This colorful snake is long and slender with a round head and pupils. Many times mistaken for non-venomous scarlet king snakes. They are usually very docile and slow to defend themselves with careful handling. They can deliver a potentially fatal envenomation and should never be harassed or handled despite their calm and placid nature. Unlike pit vipers their venom consists of more neurotoxic agents and may have longer onset times - however once symptoms are present they are more difficult to slow or stop. This snake is the only Venomous Snake in Georgia that requires a separate anti-venin. Availability and accessibility are often harder to come by and may take longer to get to hospitals and patients. Note the order of the colors and banding. Reaching adult lengths of 2 ~ 3+ feet.
Every snake pictured in this edition is Venomous and can be found naturally in the state of Georgia. Please note that not ALL are typically found in the same counties and you need to learn which are located in your backyard. Range maps have been included but snakes do not follow maps. Ranges can shift and may vary slightly from year to year and over decades of environmental and geographical changes. Also note that even within the specified range, snake species may be void in some areas and cluster in others. The average territory could be a few acres or a couple of square miles.
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Copyright 2012 by Venomous Snakes of Georgia, all rights reserved, special thanks to SREL, JD Wilson, David Scott, Brett Garden Istock and others for photos and range maps.