Simply hearing the word snake sends shivers up some folk’s spine. However, snakes are an important component of our ecosystem in Georgia because of their major role as both a predator and prey. Snakes are economically beneficially because they eat rats, mice, and other animals deemed to be pests. Some snakes have been used as bio indicators to assess pollutants in terrestrial or aquatic ecosystems. Unfortunately, many species of snakes are declining as a result of human activities. Thankfully, of the 41-snake species that occur in Georgia, only one is considered legally threatened, the eastern indigo snake.
Snake Facts report that “there are around 2900 species of snakes and from those nearly 700 are considered venomous. Most snake species are considered harmless to humans and most venomous species don’t even produce venom that’s toxic enough to kill a person”.
“Venomous snakes are species of the suborder Serpentes that are capable of producing venom, which is used primarily for immobilizing prey and defense mostly via mechanical injection by fangs. Common venomous snakes include the families Elapidea, Viperidae, Atractaspididae and some of the Colubridae. The toxicity of them is mainly indicated by murine LD50, while multiple factors are considered to judge their potential danger to humans” defined by Wikipedia.
The venomous snakes are divided into 2 major families:
These snakes use snake venom and modified saliva to kill or immobilize their prey and in self-defense. It is delivered through highly specialized teeth, such as grooved or highly mobile hollow fangs.
Reptile Gardens says that “Many of the world’s venomous snakes have venom that is straightforward and “easy” to treat effectively with the proper antivenoms – Mamba bites, for example. Other species may cause a clinical explosion of problems, which means that antivenoms are not very effective – some rattlesnake bites are this way”.
National Geographic reports that “a bite from a venomous snake at first seems anticlimactic. There is little or no pain or swelling at the site of the bite, and other symptoms can be delayed for 12 hours. However, if untreated by antivenin, the neurotoxin begins to disrupt the connections between the brain and the muscles, causing slurred speech, double vision, and muscular paralysis, eventually ending in respiratory or cardiac failure”.
So, if in doubt, seek medical health immediately if you are bitten by a snake.
Here are six venomous snakes in Georgia and some general information about each:
“The copperhead or water moccasin (Agkistrodon contortrix) is a venomous snake species endemic to North America. It is a member of the Crotalinae subfamily, the pit vipers, and 5 subspecies are currently recognized. The snake gets its name because of the copper-like coloration present on its head”, states Snake-Facts. Copperhead bite causes death in considerably less than 1% of bites.
The pigmy rattlesnake (sistrurus miliarius) is a venomous snake that is native to the southeastern continental United States. The pigmy rattlesnake is considered a subspecies of pitviper and produces a weak venom. The “pit” in the name pitviper refers to a specialized organ in the snake’s head that can detect the heat generated from other living animals. As the name would suggest, pigmy rattlesnakes tend to be smaller than most other rattlesnakes.
The Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus horridus) and the Canebrake Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus atricaudatus) are heavy bodied pit vipers. Both have black chevrons or cross bands with several various background colors. The nickname for the canebrake is “Swamp Rattler” mostly because they can be found around the edges of most swamps.
The Cottonmouth Snake (Agkistrodon piscivorus) is also known as the water moccasin, the black moccasin and the black snake. The name cottonmouth comes from the fact that its mouth looks like cotton when it is open. The Cottonmouth Snake has been considered aggressive, however, studies have shown that this is not necessarily true. Cottonmouth Snakes are large, aquatic, venomous snakes. Cottonmouth Snakes are generally dark colored with tones of olive, brown or black. A lighter/darker cross banding pattern may be seen, especially on their sides.
The University of Georgia states that “the eastern diamondback rattlesnake is the largest of the 32 species of rattlesnake currently recognized. They are large, heavy-bodied snakes with large, broad heads with two light lines on the face. Mature snakes can tip the scales at over 10 lbs. The background color is brown, tan, or yellowish and covered with the namesake diamonds, which are brown and surrounded by lighter scales. Males are larger than females”.
“Coral snakes are extremely reclusive and generally bite humans only when handled or stepped on. They must literally chew on their victim to inject their venom fully, so most bites to humans don’t result in death. In fact, no deaths from coral snake bites have been reported in the U.S. since an antivenin was released in 1967. Eastern coral snakes are relatives of the cobra, mamba, and sea snake. They live in the wooded, sandy, and marshy areas of the southeastern United States, and spend most of their lives burrowed underground or in leaf piles”, reports National Geographic.
If you see any signs of snakes, call a professional pest control company sooner than later to handle it for you especially if it is a venomous one!
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