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Snakes Alive! educates community
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Many local people are more knowledgeable about snakes and how to treat snake bites, thanks to the Snakes Alive! program presented by the Community Emergency Response Team on March 5.

Around 30 people attended the event, which was decided upon thanks to a popular vote on what people wanted to learn more about. In the area we live, there are quite a few varieties of snakes, both venomous and non-venomous, explained Lanier Swafford, chief of Dawson County Emergency Services. In emergencies and severe weather situations, a lot of times, animals, including snakes, can go on the defense.

Several snakes make their home in the Dawson County area, including two venomous varieties the copperhead and the timber rattlesnake. Shaun Benfield, firefighter/EMT with DCEMS, attended the event to learn more about snakes and how to identify them.

I never knew the difference between a copperhead and other snakes, he explained. To identify a copperhead, you can see, it looks like it has a Hersheys Kiss on the side of it. If you can make out that Hersheys Kiss, its a copperhead and you need to leave it alone.

The other venomous variety native to our area is the timber rattlesnake, which can be identified by its distinct rattle at the end of its tail.

The lesson was presented by Jason Clark of Southeastern Reptile Rescue, which is based out of Griffin, Ga. He said that the most important thing a person can do is simply be aware of their surroundings.

Most of the snake sightings that are going to be happening in spring are going to be in the middle of the day, he explained. When the weather is really nice, and we want to be outside, then the snakes want to be outside. When it is summer and hot in the middle of the day, and we dont want to be outside, neither do the snakes. Thats when youll see most in the early morning and evening hours.

Benfield said that hes not particularly fond of snakes, but he found the presentation educational.

Most of the snake bites in this area are from copperheads, he said, because there are so many of them. I also learned, if you get bit by a snake, its not because theyre trying to bite you. Its because they feel threatened.

Clark verified the information, saying that bites from rattlesnakes are more rare due to the fact that they prefer to be in remote areas. Copperheads can be found anywhere, even busy commercial or residential areas, he said.

If a bite does happen, Clark says the best thing to do is to get to the hospital as soon as possible. And call 911 while youre on your way, he added, so they know a snake-bite victim is coming in, and they can prepare the anti-venom.

Swafford explained that snakes are important to the local ecology, but a person should still be educated on whether or not a snake belongs in a particular environment.

The main thing people need to take away is that you need to go back and educate yourself on being able to identify which is which (venomous or non-venomous), and you also need to be able to educate yourself as to what their needs are, what their values are, and whether they are good or bad in their particular surroundings, he said.

For more information, Clark suggested visiting his website, snakesareus.com. If you find a snake in your yard and are unsure what type of snake it is, he said that you may take a picture of the snake with your camera phone (from a safe distance) and text it to 404-557-2470 (limit texts and calls after 9 p.m. to emergencies only).