Over the past years, I have received many calls from people who have found snakes and/or snake skins around their home. I once had a lady try to sell me her house because she had found a snake skin in a hall closet.
A major reason many people fear snakes is that some are venomous.
However, of the more than 50 kinds in Georgia, only six species, or less than 20 percent, are poisonous. Venomous species found in Dawson County are only the copperhead and timber rattlesnake.
Fortunately, a snakebite is a rare accident. Fewer people are killed by snakes than by lightning.
The best defense is knowledge; learn to recognize poisonous species. Most libraries or bookstores have books on snake identification.
‘A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians,’ by Roger Conant is a good reference for snake identification.
If you call my office, it’s a good chance I can identify the snake over the phone. Another good resource for identifying snakes is the Internet.
Snakes feed on a wide variety of small creatures and are very particular about what they eat. Large, land dwelling snakes are likely to feed on rodents, birds and their eggs, lizards, other snakes, toads and frogs.
Aquatic snakes feed primarily on fish and amphibians.
Small snakes are likely to eat mice, frogs, toads, earthworms, slugs and soft-bodied insects.
Thus, snakes are a part of the natural system. Many of the things they eat are considered pests; therefore, knowledgeable people spare harmless snakes that live in their yards.
Poisonous snakes are another matter.
In most circumstances, they should be killed or removed. Be careful, a snake can strike half its length or more. Even when dead a snake’s reflex movement could result in a bite if handled carelessly. Bites by poisonous snakes need prompt medical attention.
What attracts snakes to dwellings? If the house is surrounded by natural countryside, with rock piles, streams and swamps nearby, snakes will appear from time to time. Naturalistic landscaping, rock gardens, weedy places, piles of boards and deteriorating buildings may harbor snakes. The best way to make yards and outbuildings unattractive to snakes is to clean up and clean out.
The first step is to insure that there are no openings in dwellings or other structures through which snakes can enter. Since snakes can get through very small holes, a careful inspection is necessary.
While snakes are being kept out of the house, steps should be taken to make the rest of the premises unattractive. Look at the surroundings. Are there rodents or other sources of food? Are there places to hide? If the answers are yes, plan a program to remove food and cover. Control rodents if they are present.
Get rid of debris. Remove brush and leaf piles. Place stacked material 12 or more inches above the ground or floor and away from walls. Space beneath structures and stacks must be kept clean. Keep shrubbery and other plantings away from foundations and walls and free of debris. Mow lawns closely, and keep stream or pond banks cleaned and clipped. These practices will reduce the possibility of finding snakes.
If you have any further questions on snake identification and their control, call the Dawson County Extension Office at (706) 265-2442.
Clark Beusse is the Dawson County extension agent.