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Snakes alive! It’s a busy summer for serpents

Sun inviting to snakes, but most are harmless

POSTED: July 19, 2014 12:03 a.m.

Ranger Clint Eller holds a eastern chain king snake for a group of Junior Rangers on Thursday at Don Carter State Park. Eller brought a selection of nonvenomous snakes for the youngsters to see and learn about.

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Hall County resident Jennifer Sargent has found three snakes in her yard over the past six weeks.

“This is one of the other snakes found about two weeks ago,” she wrote in an email, with an accompanying photo of a snake near a swimming pool. Sargent lives off Thompson Bridge Road, just north of downtown Gainesville.

When informed the snake was identified as a copperhead, she expressed dismay.

“We live in the city with a lot of houses around,” she wrote. “And I have children.”

While there may be some fear and misunderstanding surrounding the slithery creatures, experts say there’s little to worry about.

“There are no snakes in Georgia that want to bite you or want to chase you down,” said Clint Eller, interpretive ranger at Don Carter State Park. “They want to get away from us.”

He added some people mistake a snake’s “defensive” posture as meaning the reptile is about to attack.

“They’re going to look for the best escape, and they’re going to run,” he said. “There are no snakes in this part of Georgia that will stay and hold their ground with us. They’re going to want to get away.”

The snake population isn’t increasing, but humans may be encountering more snakes than normal as development continues.

“We’re encroaching on them,” Eller said. “Every time we build a shopping center, every time we build a state park — we’re moving in on them.”

He also pointed out that people who kill any snake, regardless of what kind, are doing themselves a disservice.

“Another study that’s going on, that we’re waiting to see the results from, people are killing so many black snakes, we’re starting to see more venomous (snakes),” he said.

Some people will kill any snake, while some of the nonvenomous kinds will eat the venomous ones, keeping those populations at bay. And, in reality, snakes are nothing to fear.

Information from the University of Florida’s Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation states there are only five or six fatalities annually from venomous snakebites — making someone nine times more likely to die from being struck by lightning.

Northeast Georgia Medical Center is seeing “about the same” amount of snakebites this year as compared to previous years, according to Director of Emergency Services Van Haygood.

“We have had 13 venomous ... snakebites present to our emergency department,” he said, for 2014. There has also been one nonvenomous bite.

Eller said copperhead bites are typically not deadly for a healthy adult; rattlesnake bites can be fatal if not treated promptly. There are no other venomous snakes in this area.

That being said, neither copperheads nor rattlesnakes are exactly eager to bite. They see humans as threats, Eller said, and will likely leave an area if they know humans are there.

His advice is to “make a lot of noise” when outside to alert snakes of your presence. And if you do happen to come across a snake, give it a wide berth.

“People get bitten messing with them,” Eller said.

Snake deterrents you can purchase are often ineffective, according to Eller; your best bet is to clear any brush or junk piles away from your house.

“If you find them in your house, they’re coming in your house for a reason,” he said. “If you find snakes in your house, you’ve got a rodent problem and you need to have somebody come out and treat it. Snakes don’t come in the house looking for people; they come in the house looking for food.”

Eller welcomes everyone to contact him with snake pictures to identify; he can be found on Facebook at He also can be reached via cellphone at 706-768-2283.

In fact, Eller identified the snake in Sargent’s pool as a copperhead. He also identified another snake she found as a harmless brown snake.

“We had someone come out and remove them for us,” Sargent said about her reptilian visitors.


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