SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — We always see signs saying to stay off the dunes but why? Well, you could stumble upon a snake’s nest as the dunes are one of their favorite places to live.
“In the dunes is where the rattlesnakes live it’s really warm there snakes are reptiles so they depend on the heat of the sun and the heat of the sand to keep them nice and warm,” said Sarah Alley, a biologist at the Tybee Island Marine Science Center.
Animals that snakes feed on live in the dunes, such as mice and other small mammals but Alley notes that snake sightings have become more common.
“They’ve been surfacing more and there’s no 100% definition or reason why, but they’ve always been here,” said Alley.
“One, the dunes are federally protected, they protect our island and there are venomous rattlesnakes in there,” said Alley.
43% of respondents in a study by the National Library of Medicine said they would kill a venomous snake if encountered.
“When people see them they’re like ‘Oh my gosh! I’m gonna kill it!'” said Alley.
Without animals like snakes, there will be a high rodent population and we will see more mice and rats. Snakes also control the population of bugs, helping us minimize pests in our homes.
“We see a snake around, it typically means that there’s rats somewhere or some food source,” said Alley.
If you are on the beach and see one of these animals, the best plan of action is to stay away. Contact local authorities, Tybee police or the Tybee Marine Science Center, and the animal will be relocated.
“The idea is to relocate them to a safer spot where they’re away from humans so it’s safer for us and it’s safer for them,” said Alley.
The snake most common to the Georgia coast is the Yellow Rat Snake, which is very effective in rodent control.
Also in the dunes, you may see the Garter Snake, Corn Snake and Black Racer Snake.
“A few weeks ago there was a snake that kind of meandered its way up into the shops up here, and people were like what was it trying to do, go on in the shop? But you know, it could just be confused,” said Alley.
30% of Americans say they have a fear of snakes according to YouGov. This fear felt by many leads to misconceptions about the reptile.
“The biggest one that I always hear, and I’m born and raised in Georgia, is that they chase you… I’ve never had a snake chase me,” said Alley.
“Obviously that rattlesnake is not gonna chase you. Them rattling their tail is just them being scared like we are when we scream.”
Next time you go to the beach and you are walking past the dunes, thank the snakes for keeping your beach trip rodent-free.
“Meeting a snake and meeting them one on one and realizing that it’s not that bad, it’s not that scary, it kind of takes away that fear,” said Alley.