DNR offers ‘Snake Safety’ tips

As spring hits full stride, wildlife will become more active.

Even the species that no one is particularly a fan of will slither out of their dwellings in search for a snack — snakes.

This time last year, a family’s trip to Lake Burton turned terrifying after a copperhead snake bit their 6-year-old son.

Thankfully, the boy survived thanks to his parent’s knowledge of that particular species and quick reaction time.

John Jensen, a senior wildlife biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and co-author of “Amphibians and Reptiles of Georgia” said most people have two questions when encountering a snake: What species is it and what do I do with it?

According to Jensen, seldom is the snake a venomous species.

Chances are it’s not, Jensen said. Only six of the 46 species native to Georgia are venomous and only one of those —the copperhead— usually thrives in suburban areas, which is where the majority of Georgians live.

So what to do if you spot a snake?

  • Do not try to handle the snake. Give it the space it needs.
  • Remember that snakes are predators that feed on rodents, insects and even other snakes. There is no need to fear non-venomous snakes. Also, Georgia’s native non-venomous species are protected by state law, and the imperiled eastern indigo snake is federally protected.
  • If a clearly identified venomous snake is in an area where it represents a danger to people or pets, consult georgiawildlife.com/nuisancewildlife for a list of private wildlife removal specialists. Most bites occur when a snake is cornered or captured, and defending itself.

Non-venomous snakes such as scarlet kingsnake, eastern hognose and watersnake species are frequently confused with their venomous counterparts — coral snakes, rattlesnakes and water moccasins, respectively. And while pit vipers, which include all venomous species native to Georgia except for coral snakes, are often identified by their broad, triangular-shaped heads, many non-venomous snakes flatten their heads when threatened and may have color patterns similar to venomous species.

The bottom line is to enjoy springtime in the great outdoors, but use caution around any unidentified snake.