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Hall woman sent to ICU by snakebite
A copperhead — similar to the one that bit Christina Owens of Hall County — looks up at the Nature Museum in Charlotte, N.C. - photo by Chuck Burton | Associated Press

Venomous snakes
Only two venomous snakes are typically found in Northeast Georgia, the copperhead and the timber rattlesnake. Water moccasins, also known as cottonmouths, are typically found farther south, though some nonvenomous snakes are often misidentified as water moccasins.

Usually less than 3½ feet long
Light to dark brown or gray background with darker brown hourglass or saddleback shapes across back with solid copper-colored head.
Sometimes rattles tail against leaves, particularly younger individuals

Timber rattlesnake
Usually less than 5½ feet
Brown/yellow/gray background with black bars and a brown/rust-colored stripe on back. Pattern transitions into a more solid black toward tail. Solid tan head
Rarely rattles in the wild

What to do
A bite from a nonvenomous snake can be treated by washing the wound. A bite from a venomous snake, on the other hand, can be very serious.

Eat or drink anything, including alcoholic beverages or medicine.
Run or engage in strenuous physical activity.
Cut into or incise bite marks with a blade.
Apply a constrictive tourniquet.
Use a stun gun or other electrical shock.
Freeze or apply extreme cold to the area of the bite.

Try to stay calm
Keep the bitten body part below heart level and remove rings, watches and tight clothing.
Try to identify the offending snake if you can do so without putting yourself at risk or wasting valuable time.
Get to the nearest hospital or emergency medical facility immediately.
Source: Department of Natural Resources

Usually a snake wants to get away from a person just as much as a person wants to get away from it.

Christina Owens didn’t have a chance to get away from the copperhead that bit her a couple of weeks ago. She felt the bite before she saw the snake.

“I was getting in my friend’s truck, and when I went to go step in the truck I felt something bite me,” said Owens, who lives off Cleveland Highway. “And it hurt really bad, oh my God, it was like the worst pain I ever felt in my life.”
Her friend moved the truck and there was the snake.

Owens, whose foot was burning and swollen, rushed to the hospital where she said doctors gave her antibiotics and pain medication until they could find out what kind of snake bit her.

Meanwhile, one of Owens’ cousins was holding the small snake with a broom while another cut it with a knife to kill it. The cousins brought the 6-to-8-inch serpent to the hospital, and then doctors began mixing the correct anti-venom to give Owens.

She spent two days in ICU as doctors monitored her blood pressure and heart rate, which were lowered due to the anti-venom, Owens said. She spent six days out of work because of the pain.

Owens, who has since made a complete recovery, said she used to like snakes. Not anymore.

“I don’t even like walking in the grass,” she said. “Actually yesterday when we came home there were a couple of black baby snakes by the house and they really freaked me out.”

Copperheads are one of just two varieties of venomous snakes that are typically found in Northeast Georgia, the other being a timber rattlesnake.

Rick Lavender, spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources, said the best way to deal with a snake is usually to give it space. He added that people can contact the DNR for a list of private wildlife removal specialists, but they do not recommend handling snakes. It also is illegal to kill nonvenomous snakes.

“Snakes, venomous and nonvenomous, they are part of the natural world out there,” he said.

“They serve a role and if you don’t need to deal with them, then certainly give them their space and just respect them.”

Lavender advised that residents can reduce the likelihood of encountering snakes by removing rock piles and woodpiles in their yards because those areas can attract snakes looking for prey.

Owens also had a piece of advice: “If you see one, just don’t go by it because they really hurt.”


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