People have been attracted and repulsed by snakes ever since the dawn of time. Not too many animals in the world get such an emotional response than they do when found in the woods or around the house.
Snakes are part of the landscape. Without them, even venomous snakes, we would have greater problems with an overpopulation of rodents and other pests.
Snakes feed on a wide variety of small creatures. Some species only feed off warm-blooded animals such as rodents and birds. Others feed on toads, frogs and fish. Some of the smaller snakes feed on various of creatures such as earthworms, slugs and soft-bodied insects.
Forty kinds of snakes live in Georgia. Only six are venomous. The most common venomous snakes in this area are copperheads and canebrake/timber rattlesnakes.
Snake bites are a rare occurrence. Fewer people are killed by snakes than by lightening. The best defense is identifying the area snakes.
If you have an unfortunate encounter with a venomous snake and are bitten, you can do a few things to reduce the severity of the snake bite.
First, remain calm. Excitement does not help the situation for you or people who are trying to help.
Second, get to medical help quickly.
Third, plan ahead. If you know you are going to be in an area known to have snakes, ask your doctor what he advises regarding snake bites.
If you are with someone who is bitten, follow these simple steps:
- Keep the victim calm and lay him or her down first, according to a publication from NCSU Extension.
- Anticipate any swelling by removing all jewelry.
- Clean the wound with soap and water and apply light pressure above and below the site of the bite. This light pressure is to reduce lymphatic flow, not blood flow; so don’t think of it as a tourniquet.
Above all else, do not do the following:
- Never cut the wound or apply ice to it.
- Never suck out the venom as this is hardly effective.
As more people encroach on the native habitat of snakes, snake sightings are becoming more common. If your property is surrounded by natural countryside or woods, with rock piles, streams and wetlands, snakes may be seen more often. Naturalistic landscaping, rock gardens, piles of debris and deteriorating outbuildings may harbor snakes as well.
No chemical controls can keep snakes at bay. The best way to reduce the incidence of snakes is to keep landscaped areas and structures unattractive for them. Keep the areas clean. Do not allow the areas around the house to become overgrown with vegetation or weedy.
Also think like a snake. Look for sources of food and other places to hide. Snakes can fit into very small places, so pay attention to the details. If you reduce any food sources, habitat and places to hide, you are more than likely not to have too many problems with snakes around the house.
To learn more about Georgia’s snake habitats and habits, visit the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory Herpetology program website, srelherp.uga.edu/snakes/index.htm.
Michael Wheeler is county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. You can contact him at 770-535-8293, ugaextension.org/county-offices/hall.html. His column appears biweekly and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.