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Snakes a common problem in North Ga.

Experts say it's best to leave them alone

POSTED: June 28, 2011 12:14 a.m.
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Copperhead

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They say snakes are more afraid of you than you are of them — an easy claim to make when you’re not the one standing face to face with a venomous copperhead.

But reptile-fearing Hall County residents can sleep easy knowing there’s always someone to call for help.

“We’ll come out and take care of it,” Hall County Fire Chief David Kimbrell said describing the two or three calls they respond to a week.

“We find them all over — curled up in a garage, in the kitchen, under the bed or sofas. They typically go under something.”

Len Land from North Georgia Wildlife Pest Control said his company also handles three or four snake complaints each week.

“It’s a very common problem in North Georgia,” he said.

“Especially this time of year, the weather is warming up and snakes are on the move. They’re a cold blooded animal so they’re primarily just looking for a place to get warm.”

Unfortunately, that place is often inside or around unsuspecting residents’ homes.

“We’re moving into their environment as the population grows in North Georgia,” Land said. “The land is not being cleared or cut like it once was. This is causing part of the problem.”

But you’re not completely defenseless.

According to Land and Linda May, an environmental outreach coordinator for the state Department of Natural Resources, there are things you can do to make your property less appealing to the unwelcome guests.

The DNR recommended keeping your grass cut short and your yard free of piles of firewood or junk.

These areas make a good home for mice, which in turn attract snakes.

Georgia is home to 41 different snake species, six of which are venomous. But according to May, only three of these dangerous species are commonly found in North Georgia.

The copperhead is the most common, but also one of the easiest to identify.

According to May, it’s the only snake with its distinctive hourglass pattern. They typically have a triangle shaped head and can grow to be 53 inches long.

The timber and pigmy rattlesnakes are less common, but May said they can occasionally be found in North Georgia. They can grow to be 70 and 31 inches long respectively, and both have a characteristic rattler.

“The copperhead is fairly common,” she said. “I wouldn’t say you’ll run into one every time you walk outside. But if you’re outside a lot, especially if you have brushy areas around your house, you could come across one.”

Though your first reaction may be to get rid of a snake, May said homeowners are sometimes better off just letting them be if they’re outside.

“(Staying away) is safer then trying to whack at it,” she said. “You have a greater chance of being bit on your forearm if you try to kill it. The best thing to do is leave it alone. It’s not going to stay there forever. They have to move around to hunt and eat.”

May also pointed out it’s against state laws to kill a non-venomous snake.

“They see you as a big predator,” she said. “Whether they’re venomous or not, you are a big predator that’s going to hurt them. So the only time they’re really going to go after you is if you corner them and that’s their last chance of survival.”

Contrary to popular belief, they do not chase people. It may be that a person corners one and the only way out is past you, but snakes typically don’t want anything to do with people.”

But occasionally, bites do happen.

May said the best thing to do in this scenario is immediately get to a hospital.

She said people used to be instructed to take various precautions like sucking on the bite, but these can sometimes do more harm then good.

“There have been more people hurt themselves doing those things then help themselves,” she said. “The best thing, whether you know if it’s venomous or not, is to get yourself the nearest hospital. ... The best first aid kit includes a set of car keys.”



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