There are many snake species native to Georgia, but just six poisonous ones. However, according to experts, three of those six have life-threatening bites.
Pin-pointing the difference between venomous and non-venomous snakes might be challenging, especially the Eastern Coral Snake. You will learn more about that snake later. We will provide the information to help.
It is vital that we know which native snakes to Georgia are poisonous, where to find them, and their hiding spots. This way, we can try to avoid them as much as possible. Continue reading to learn more about the poisonous snakes found in Georgia.
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All About The 6 Venomous Snakes In Georgia
Well, we mentioned the Eastern Coral Snake. The other venomous snakes native to Georgia are the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, the Pigmy Rattlesnake, the Timber Rattlesnake, the Cottonmouth, and the Copperhead.
1. Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus)
This snake grows to an average length of 5ft 6 inches (1.7m) and a weight of 5 pounds (2.2kg). The maximum recorded size was 8ft (2.3m), giving it the title of the most prominent member of the rattlesnake family in North America.
They have heavy, large bodies with big heads and two light lines on their faces.
The scientific name for the Eastern Diamondback is Crotalus Adamanteus. It gets its name from the pattern of tan-bordered black diamonds along its back. The outline of the diamond can also be yellowish or brown.
Aggressive and deadly are the personality traits given to the Diamondback, but these snakes try to avoid human contact and would only strike out in defense. Their attack can reach as much as a third of their body length.
The venom from this snake is a powerful hemotoxin, which destroys blood cells and causes damage to tissues. The bite from the Diamondback causes extreme pain, but with antivenom being so widely available, it is rarely lethal.
The rattle to the end of the snake’s tail has a unique sound and is the last resort before it attacks. The snake adds a row to the rattle with each shedding.
The best places to find these snakes are along the Southeast in the Lower Coastal Plains from North Carolina to Louisiana. But they are predominantly found in South Georgia and some parts of Florida, living in dry pinewoods, sandy areas, Flatwoods, coastal dunes, and hardwood.
These species of poisonous snakes are exterminators by nature, living on household rodents, such as rats and mice, along with birds and squirrels.
The Diamondback Rattlesnake brumates, slowing their metabolism way down during the winter, becoming more active as temperatures get warmer, especially during the mornings and evenings.
2. Pigmy Rattlesnake (Sistrurus miliarius)
We move from the biggest rattlesnake to the smallest. Sistrurus miliarius is the scientific name for the Pigmy Rattlesnake, which on average grows between 14 to 23 inches in length (35-58cm) and weighs around 150 grams.(5.2 oz)
The two subspecies found in Georgia have reddish or orange dorsal stripes with large, well-defined, brown or black spots on their backs. Melanism is also quite prevalent, meaning that some of these snakes can be all black. There is also a bar with similar colors that run from the base of the mouth to the eyes.
The Pigmy can also be tan, gray, or even lavender, but South Carolina is the location of this species.
Due to its size, the rattle is slight, and even though it provides warnings just like most other rattlesnakes, hearing it can be very difficult for humans, making it very dangerous. The rattle is also used more as a lure for prey than a warning.
The venom from the Pigmy Rattlesnake is hemotoxic. Meaning there is damage to the muscle tissue and circulatory system resulting in swelling. The bite is painful, and if not treated, you could lose small digits or similar areas.
The Pigmy spends much of their time hidden, specifically among leaves, waiting to ambush their prey, making it challenging to spot them easily.
Other than the northernmost part of Georgia, the Pigmy Rattlesnake is found, especially in the central, northeast, and northwest in swamps, marshes, and creeks. They love both dry and wet habitats, so they are fond of mixed forests and sandhills as well.
Non-venomous species that are often confused with the Pigmy Rattlesnake are the Eastern and Southern Hognose Snakes.
3. Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus)
The scientific name is Crotalus horridus, also called the Canebrake Rattlesnake by those living near the coast. They typically grow to a length of between 2.5 feet to 5 feet (0.7-1.5m) and weigh roughly 1.1 to 3.3 pounds (.49-1.49kg). Although, 9.9 pounds (4.5kg) is the heaviest weight recorded for the Timber Rattlesnake.
Yellowish or brown and black are the typical colors of the Timber Rattlesnake. There are also reports of gray species, with a brown, orange, yellow, or pink stripe along its back. Regardless of the color, all Timber Rattlesnakes have black crossbands that resemble chevrons on the sides and back, with solid black tails.
Due to the high venom output, size, and long fangs, the Timber Rattlesnake is one of the most lethal snakes in the United States of America. Even though death is relatively rare, the venom is hemorrhagic and neurotoxic, so immediate medical attention is required if bitten.
The Timber Rattlesnake loves high areas next to river floodplains and swamps. They also live in lowland cane thickets, mountainous and farming areas, pine and hardwood forests. Fallen logs are a favorite hiding place for this snake to ambush prey.
They can be found in large numbers across the eastern United States, except Florida.
Brumation, similar to hibernation, occurs during the colder months. But, the Timber Rattlesnake is active in the latter part of spring to late fall. Mainly a day hunter until the summer months when it becomes nocturnal due to changes in the temperature.
4. Southern Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix)
The Copperhead or Highland Moccasin is related to pit vipers. Scientifically called Agkistrodon contortrix, the Copperhead got its name from their copper-red heads. The head does not carry the same hourglass-looking cross bands on the rest of the body.
The Copperheads are heavy-bodied, with big triangular-shaped heads and brown or tan bodies. Adolescent Copperheads typically have a bright yellow-tipped tail, which vanishes once they mature. On average, they grow between 2 feet to 3 feet long (0.6-0.9m) and weigh around 2 to 4 pounds (0.9-1.8kg).
The range of the Copperhead covers central and eastern United States and the majority of Georgia, except for the south-central area. They are as happy in cool, forested regions as in dry, rocky sections. The metro Atlanta area with patches of woods is one of the places to find this species.
Considered aggressive, the Copperhead is the most likely poisonous snake in Georgia to attack without warning and strike multiple times in one attack. It is responsible for the most reported snakebites in the Southeast annually.
The venom of the Copperhead is hemolytic, which means that it destroys red blood cells. Typically mice, other rodents, frogs, lizards, and birds are the preferred meal for Copperheads.
The Copperheads are often confused with non-venomous snakes such as Eastern Hognose Snake, Northern, Brown, and Banded Water Snakes, Corn Snakes, Eastern Rat Snake, and Gray Rat Snake.
5. Cottonmouths (Agkistrodon piscivorus)
Agkistrodon piscivorus is the scientific name for the Water Moccasin as it is locally known. But, they get the name Cottonmouth from the white coloring inside their mouths. It is visible when the snake displays it while in defense mode. Unlike most snakes, cottonmouths don’t back down when threatened.
Fully mature Cottonmouths grow to around 3 to 4 feet (0.9-1.2kg) and weigh about 3 to 4 pounds (13-1.8kg). They have triangular heads, large jowls, thick bodies, and are muscular. Their colors vary from olive to dark brown, with black stripes from their eyes to their neck.
This snake species is semi-aquatic, which means they are comfortable on land and water. It’s the single venomous water snake in North America. Cottonmouth’s domain is the southern Coastal Plain region, especially the heavily-vegetated wetlands, river floodplains, and cypress swamps in Georgia. However, it is not a surprise to see them slither across the road in metro Atlanta.
The Cottonmouth is active during the day and the night. However, they typically hunt during the night as temperatures increase.
Several species of water snakes are mistaken for the venomous Cottonmouth. These include Northern, Banded, Brown, and Green Watersnakes, and the Plain-bellied Water Snakes.
6. Eastern Coral Snake (Micrurus fulvius)
Scientifically called Micrurus fulvius, the Eastern Coral Snake is a member of the Elapidae, which means they are closely related to the Sea Snake, Cobra, and Mamba. The Coral Snake typically measures around 1.5 to 2.5 feet (0.4-0.6m) in length and weighs in at 3 to 5 pounds (1.3-2.2kg).
The body of a Coral Snake is slender, with a blunt snout. The rings that wrap it are wide black and red ones, with narrow yellow ones. The colors make it relatively easy to identify, although it is often confused with the Scarlet Kingsnake, a non-venomous snake species that use its colors to discourage predators.
There is a rhyme known to the snake world that aids in differentiating the two species. “Red and Yellow, Deadly Fellow, Red and Black, Venom Lack or Friend of Jack.”
The Coastal Plains of Georgia is where you can find this species of secretive snakes burrowing under leaves. For the Coral Snake, winter is too cold and summer too hot. Therefore you will encounter them more often during spring and fall.
The Coral Snake is unique as its top fangs are not retractable like the poisonous snakes in Georgia. Instead, they have fixed fangs.
Symptoms from the bite of an Eastern Coral Snake might manifest by as much as 12 hours. There is minor swelling or pain. If left untreated, the neurotoxins start disrupting the communication between the muscles and the brain, leading to muscular paralysis, double vision, and slurred speech. The result could be a respiratory or cardiac failure.
Status Of Venomous Snakes In Georgia
As stated by the Department of Natural Resources in Georgia, fear, regardless of how irrational, is what individuals use to justify the killing of snakes.
Threats To The Survival Of Snakes
For those snakes listed as species of concern, the human impact has resulted in declining numbers due to habitat loss, hunting, and indiscriminate killing.
Habitat loss is the greatest threat to snakes. Lakes, plains, swamps, and other habitats are vanishing due to the expansion of agricultural land, excessive harvesting of timber, and other forest resources.
Venomous snakes in Georgia don’t have the same protection as their non-venomous counterparts. It is a misdemeanor to kill any non-poisonous snake. There is a one-year jail term and fine of up to $1,000. Keeping native non-venomous snakes as pets is also illegal without the correct permits.
In Georgia, it is also a crime to destroy or disturb the homes, holes, or dens of wildlife or use chemicals, explosives, or other devices to drive animals, including venomous snakes, from their habitats.
As it relates to climate change, not every animal will be disadvantaged. Especially for Rattlesnakes, a warmer climate with other factors will be beneficial. This snake species is a thermoregulation expert and, given the option, prefers temperatures between 86 and 89 degrees Fahrenheit.
The warmer environment heats the snake to temperatures more suitable for reproduction and digestion. Prolong warm temperatures provide the rattlesnakes with longer active seasons, leading to additional time to hunt and feed.
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Myths Surrounding Poisonous Snakes
One of the myths surrounding poisonous snakes is that you can tell them apart from non-venomous snakes by looking at their heads. Non-venomous species can mimic the triangular or diamond-shaped heads of venomous snakes by relocating bones in their heads to form this shape, to appear more dangerous.
Another myth is that snakes prefer the heat. Snake encounters typically occur at dusk once it has cooled down somewhat.
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How Common Are Bites From Snakes In Georgia?
The approximate number of individuals bitten per year is 8,000. As the years go by, snake bites are on the increase.
What Is The Most Active Month For Snakes In Georgia?
Spring is the beginning of snake season, which means most will be active between March and April.
What Temperatures Do Snakes Avoid
At temperatures below 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celcius), snakes start to brumate as the ability to thrive diminishes.