2012-06-13 / News

More snakes may be seen this summer

By Anne Marie Kyzer

The snake population isn’t likely growing but more of them have made appearances this year, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Wildlife biologists attribute increased encounters with snakes mostly to a mild winter followed by the warm spring and summer. Warmer weather also tends to bring people outdoors, where they are naturally more apt to encounter snakes.

DNR biologist Thomas Floyd added that drought has also put some snakes on the move.

Many times, when those moves mean close contact with people, there’s not a warm welcome.

Burke County Chief Deputy James Hollingsworth said his agency often gets calls when people see the slithery reptiles, especially when they invade the comfort of their homes. Once deputies removed one from a homeowner’s silverware drawer and another time they found one in a closet.

Burke County DNR ranger Jeff Billips said he hasn’t seen any more snakes than usual outdoors this year but stressed the best way to keep them out of a home is to make sure they won’t find their prey there. Rat snakes tend to come into homes where they can find plenty of mice, so some serious spring cleaning to deter both pests is the best bet, he said.

Though DNR does not respond to complaints of snakes in homes, biologists do offer some tips on encounters in the outdoors:

 Do not attempt to handle the snake. Give it the space it needs.

 Remember that snakes are predators that feed on rodents, insects and even other snakes. Most species in Georgia are harmless, and there is no need to fear nonvenomous snakes.

 Most snake bites occur when a snake is cornered or captured, prompting the animal to defend itself.

 If a clearly identified venomous snake is in an area where it represents a danger to children or pets, consider contacting a private wildlife removal specialist. DNR’s Wildlife Resources Division can provide a list of specialists.

 You can reduce the potential for snakes near your home by removing brush, log piles and other habitat that attracts mice, lizards and other animals on which snakes prey.

 Try to identify snakes from a distance. Georgia has 43 native species, and only six are venomous. It is illegal to possess or kill most nongame species, including all non-venomous snakes.

SNAKE SENSE

Can you name the six poisonous species? To see pictures of the poisonous (and non-poisonous) snakes found in Georgia and South Carolina, visit the University of Georgia Savannah River Ecology Laboratory at http://srelherp.uga.- edu/snakes/index.htm or scan the code below with your smartphone.

A CLOSER LOOK

Non-venomous snakes, such as the scarlet kingsnake and eastern hognose, are sometimes confused with their venomous counterparts which are often identified by their broad, triangular shaped heads. Yet, many non-venomous snakes flatten and broaden their heads when threatened and may have color patterns similar to those of venomous species. Use caution around any unidentified snake.

Source: Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division

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