Residents report more copperhead encounters in north Columbus

mowen@ledger-enquirer.comMay 30, 2014 

There has been an uptick in copperhead sightings in this area, according to one neighborhood watch serving northern Muscogee and southern Harris counties.

Windemede, the email-based alert system, has reported numerous copperhead sightings lately and one instance of a family dog being bitten by one.

“Just received word from a neighbor in Randall Creek Farms, Midland Road, that his dog is currently receiving treatment at the Animal emergency clinic for a copperhead bite to its face,” one report read. “The neighbor killed two copperheads at his home each about 14 inches long. Please exercise extreme caution with your children and pets based on the unusually high reports of copperheads in past few weeks.”

This time of year is usually ripe for snake encounters, according to Jason Clark, president of Southeastern Reptile Rescue, in Griffin. Clark is well known in this area for his reptile exhibitions at the Oxbow Environmental Center.

Clark said snakes like the same weather conditions people like, so they’re likely to by out in the yard when people are.

“As the weather is getting warmer, this time of year snakes become nocturnal, which means they’ll be seen more in the late evening during the night and early in the morning,” Clark said. “Most people are most active in the yard in the early evening.”

If you see a snake in your yard, it’s critical that you identify whether it’s venomous or not, before you take action. First, non-venomous snakes in Georgia are protected species. Killing one can cost you a $1,000 fine and 12 months in jail, Clark said. Second, if it’s non-venomous, you want it in your yard, he said.

“Especially if it’s a family that has kids or pets and they’re worried about them getting bitten by snakes, as crazy as it sounds, that family wants to make sure they have non-venomous snakes there,” Clark said. “Don’t kill your harmless snakes.”

Some harmless snakes, such as the king snake, kill and eat venomous snakes. Others that don’t prey on venomous snakes compete with them for food and shelter, so the more of them you have, the fewer venomous ones you have, he said.

If you’re not sure what kind of snake you’re seeing, you can take a cell phone picture of it and text it to Clark’s company and they will identify it for you free of charge, he said. The number is 404-557-2470.

If you are bitten by a venomous snake, you should get to a hospital immediately, he said. If you can get a cell phone picture of the snake first, that’s great, he said, but practically all of the venomous snakes in Georgia are pit vipers and are treated with the same antivenom, so it’s not critical.

And if the snake that bites you is venomous, you will know it almost right away even without identifying the species, Clark said.

“If you get bitten by a venomous snake, you’re not going to have to wonder about it,” Clark said. “No one is going to have to talk you into going to the hospital, because within the first few minutes, you’re going to experience extreme and intense pain at the site of the bite.”

Clark also advises that bite victims not to cut the bite marks and try to extract the venom or apply to a tourniquet. “And never, ever, ever put ice on a snake bite, because it can actually cause more damage,” he said.

Of the 41 known types of snakes in Georgia, only six are venomous. They are the copperhead, cottonmouth (or water moccasin), Eastern diamondback rattlesnake, pygmy rattlesnake, timber (or canebrake) rattlesnake and the coral snake, Clark said.

Clark’s company’s website, SnakesAreUs.com, offers tips and advice of reducing the things that might attract snakes to houses and yards. His company also offers “classes” for dogs to teach them to avoid snakes.

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