Snake Movement Will Be Increasing All Over Georgia This Weekend


Snake Movement Will Be Increasing All Over Georgia This Weekend
Photo By Bunnie Claxton NON-venomous Smooth Earth Snake, Adult, Virginia valeriae (our photo contest winner from 2011)


3/8/2013 ~ by Patrick Ireland

Starting today (Friday) through the weekend temperatures will be significantly higher than last weekend. Almost a 20 degree swing for most of the state. This is sure to be felt by our snake population and could signal the beginning of increased snake activity. Humidity will be higher with the ground and leaf litter still moist from recent rains.

Hungry from less feeding activity in the winter, Georgia's snake may take advantage of this weekend to look for a good meal. Many of our snakes may just want to warm up, soak in some UV and bask during peak daylight hours. This weekend snake movement will be increasing all over Georgia.

Night time temperatures are still a bit cool, the further north and at higher elevations. The best times for a potential encounter (right now) would be late morning through late afternoon (11am ~ 4pm) after the sun has warmed things up. For most of us this weekend may be the first real occasion this year we have had to start working in the yard.

If you plan on working outside this weekend and you encounter a snake remember this. 76% percent of all envenomations in the US happen in and around people's homes, usually as they are trying to capture, harass or kill the snake.

If you encounter a snake always best to leave it alone. Sometimes snake encounters occur when people simply fail to see the snake. They might be lifting yard debris, pulling weeds, planting, digging, etc. A snakes first line of defense is always to do nothing, let the camouflage do its job. In most situations this works you (the threat) simply walks on by unaware a snake was ever there.

Doing yard work however is a different situation. You (the threat) do not simply walk on by, you linger in the area, going back and forth and back again. The snake can become more nervous and may feel more threatened the longer you are in the area. Unlike many animals snake do not have external ears, loud noises like a leaf blower, lawn mower, weed trimmer will do little to frighten them away.

They may lie still long enough for you to step on them, brush over them with a rake or even accidentally pick them up. In an instant they have to decide whether to fight for their lives or flee. Always wear gloves and shoes when working in the yard. Use a tool to reach into areas you can not see.

Many of the areas around your home that might attract a snake probably have not been disturbed since last Fall. This gives the chance for snake food and the snakes themselves to become comfortable with these areas.

Spring comes along and we start to clean, rake, trim, dig, mulch, etc. in places that are frequent hunting grounds or hides for the snakes. Hot tub, pool, boat and outdoor grill covers are common places snakes are often encountered. Lawn equipment when moved from being stored in sheds or barns regularly uncovers a resident snake.

As Spring unfolds in the next 6 -8 weeks things you may want to consider:

- Humans give more thought to how something is going to look on their property rather than how it may effect the ecosystem. If you do not want to attract snakes onto your property or near your home do not plant flowers, bushes or plants that attract snake food (rodents).

- Snakes always follow their food. If you decide to plant a vegetable garden right out side the back door. The vegetables, roots and seeds will attract all kinds of snake food. You will most likely have a snake living under your back porch feeding off the critters in your garden. Nut bearing trees will attract rodents and birds plant these away from your home and away from areas of the yard you frequent most.

- Thick low lying bushes or plants make great ornamental ground cover but also act as a refuge for snakes. Many snakes are AMBUSH predators meaning they will find an active scent trail of a prey item (mice) and curl up and wait for the next one to pass by. If you line the edge of sides of walk ways and paths with plants the rodents will use them as cover to access different parts of the yard. The snakes will also use them as cover to catch the mice.

- Next time you go walking by maybe even barefooted the snake has to make a quick and sudden decision. Best to line walk ways and paths with stone, rock, landscape timbers, garden fencing or keep open. This gives you a visibility advantage. This is also true with bushes, plants up near the sides of our houses, decks, patios and porches.

- Let me suggest keeping bushes, plants, etc. at least 1 - 1.5 feet away from the sides of your home. You should have enough room to walk freely behind any landscaping and between your home. This space should be kept free of debris and clutter and allow you visibility and access to use and maintain water spigot, and down spouts from your roofs gutter system.

- Do not place bird feeders or bird houses near your house or windows. Birds are snake food. The seeds scattered around by visiting birds also attract rodents (squirrels, chipmunks, mice) also snake food. Be mindful where you store things like bird seed, grass seed, pet food, trash, etc. rodents will be attract to seed stored in garages, basements, sheds, etc. Best to buy what you need and use it or store in an open area, well lit, in a strong sealed metal container off the floor and off ground level.

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Some of the first snake species to become active and the ones you are most likely to encounter this time of year are emerging now. These snakes are generally smaller is length and girth. Smaller snakes whether an adult from a smaller species or a juvenile of a larger species do not have the same protein storage as larger/heavier mature individuals. They become hungry and often will emerge first. The smaller snake species are also some of the most encountered as they choose to live closer to our homes, sometimes literally on the front porch.

Flower pots, plant boxes, woodpiles make great homes. These smaller snake species are often fossorial (spending most of their time underground). They live in pine straw, mulch, pine bark, wood chips, thick grass, leaf litter, loose soil and dirt. They choose to live in these places because that is where they find their food. They often eat grub worms, earth worms, larva, beetles, insects, small lizards and other snakes. They are a gardeners best friend often eating many of the leaf, seed and root destroying insects. These smaller fossorial snakes are usually tolerant of each other and where you might find one you can find more.

As you get out in the yard and start your spring clean up you might uncover one. With Spring showers many will get flooded out and be searching for another moist but not flooded area to reside. While most are so small they may not be capable of biting a human, many are killed mistaken for baby venomous snakes.
Here are some common smaller snake species:

NON-venomous Ringnecked Snake, Diadophis punctatus Pixs 1,2,3 Adult. Bellies may be yellow, orange or red.

2nd PIX Photo by JD Wilson, NON-venomous Brown Snake, Storeria dekayi, ADULT. Two row of spots may be high contrast or faint. Often mistaken for baby / juvenile copperheads.

Here is a picture of a juvenile copperhead for comparison:

VENOMOUS Copperhead Agkistrodon contortrix, juvenile. Notice the caudal lure (a bright yellow/green tip) on the tip of the tail, found only on juveniles

The best deterrent for VENOMOUS snakes is a NON-venomous snake. NON-venomous snakes will eat many of the venomous snakes and consume the food supply attracting venomous snakes. ALL of Georgia's NON-venomous snakes are protected by our states wildlife laws.

Copyright 2013 by Venomous Snakes of Georgia and its owners, all rights reserved, special thanks to SREL, JD Wilson, UGA, and otherwise noted, for photos and range maps.

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