SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Snakes are common across the United States, even in urban and suburban areas, and play an essential role in the ecological community. However, they have also bitten thousands of people across America every year, with some bites resulting in death.
According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, of the 46 species of snakes living in Georgia, the following six species are venomous. According to biologists, the term venomous is applied to organisms that bite to inject their toxins. Here is a list of the 6 venomous snakes in Georgia.
Copperhead – Copperheads are well known for their camouflage colors of brown. The background color is some shade of tan or brown, with darker brown hourglass shapes. They are usually between 24 and 30 inches in length. The copperhead can be found throughout most of Georgia, and those from the mountainous areas in the northern part of the state tend to be darker and more richly colored than the paler and softer colored individuals found in the southern parts of the state. They are most commonly seen in forested areas, particularly mixed hardwoods, but tend to stay away from open areas. Areas with rocks or rock piles are favored, and copperheads may occasionally be found in lowland riverine or swamp areas.
Cottonmouth – These snakes are commonly up to four feet long. There is a bold stripe that goes to the back corner of the mouth. The body is covered in keeled scales and is banned in brownish, olive, or dark gold colors. Snakes in some populations lose their pattern and darken in color overall as they grow. They are confined mostly to the Coastal Plain region in Georgia. Cottonmouths are found mostly in swampy habitats but may also be found along the edges of slow-moving rivers, vegetated lakes, farm ponds and creeks.
Eastern Coral Snake – Coral snakes are long and slender-bodied. Typically, females can reach nearly three feet long and males around two feet. The thin body is covered in smooth, shiny scales that give the appearance of being highly polished. Red, black and yellow rings circle the body. The tail is banned in only black and yellow. In Georgia, Coral snakes are mainly found in the Coastal Plain. Their preferred habitat has well-drained, sandy soil with areas of open ground. Longleaf pine stands, sandhills and pine flatwoods are the favored ecosystems. Coral snakes do not tolerate low-lying areas or wet soils. Animal burrows, particularly those of gopher tortoises, and rotten logs and stump holes may be used as a refuge.
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake – Known to reach 6.5 feet, the top portion of the body of these snakes has a series of dark brown diamonds edged in yellow, running down the back. Their most distinctive feature is the rattle which is a hollow individual ringed segment. In Georgia, eastern diamondbacks are found south of the Fall Line, in the Coastal Plain. Their preferred habitat is open longleaf pine woods, but they are also found in pine-hardwood forests that are burned regularly and have an open canopy. The snakes can also be found in coastal habitats like marshes, sand dunes and open areas with grasses and shrub islands. Eastern diamondbacks are also commonly found in association with gopher tortoises and use their burrows as refuge. Stump holes and other underground chambers might also be used.
Timber Rattlesnake – Their general scale pattern is a series of butterfly-shaped saddles transitioning to rounded or hard-edged bands going across the back. The tail is solid black, earning the species the local name of ‘Velvet Tail’. They have rattles on the end of the tail made of hollow individual ringed segments of keratin, which when shaken clack against each other and create a loud, harsh buzzing sound. They prefer wooded, undisturbed areas—especially mixed pine-hardwood forests. They are also found in the vicinity of old homesites and barns because of the available cover and use of the area by prey animals.
Pigmy Rattlesnakes – Adults are usually between 16 and 21 inches. Newborns are tiny at about 5 inches. The head has 9 large scales on it and the tail is slender and ends in a very small rattle. There is a row of solid dark spots that runs down the length of the back, which may or may not have a reddish or orange stripe underneath. There is a row of spots on the side of the body as well. These snakes are found in the Piedmont and Mountain regions of the state, mainly on the eastern side. The Dusky subspecies is found in the lower Coastal Plain. They may be found in a variety of habitats from longleaf pine woods, sandhills, pine flatwoods, scrub, hammocks and pine-hickory forests.
Ways to Prevent Snake Bites
- Be aware of snakes that may be swimming in the water or hiding under debris or other objects.
- Do not pick up a snake or try to trap it.
- If you see a snake, back away from it slowly and do not touch it.
What TO DO if You or Someone Else is Bitten by a Snake
- Try to see and remember the color and shape of the snake, which can help with treatment of the snake bite.
- Remain still and calm, this can slow down the spread of venom.
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
- Do not drive.
- Dial 911 or call local Emergency Medical Services (EMS).
- Apply first aid if you cannot get the person to the hospital right away.
- Lay or sit the person down with the bite below the level of the heart.
- Tell him/her to stay calm and still.
- Wash the wound with warm soapy water immediately.
- Cover the bite with a clean, dry dressing.
For more information on ways to prevent or respond to snake bites click here.