Snake season arrives in the 2-state; what to do if one bites you

Stay safe from snakes this season.
Stay safe from snakes this season.(Contributed)
Published: Mar. 27, 2023 at 11:48 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. - Spring marks the start of snake season in Georgia and South Carolina. This time of year, late March into early April, you have a greater chance of encountering a snake if you’re out for a walk or hike.

The Georgia Department of Nature Resources sees an increase in calls from Georgians inquiring about different types of snakes, especially if they’re a pet owner. And the Georgia Poison Center also fields more calls this time of year from people seeking advice after being bitten by a snake.

A wildlife expert at the Georgia Department of Natural Resources says most of the snake species in Georgia or non-venomous.

Georgia has 46 species of snakes, but only six of them are venomous: copperhead, pigmy rattlesnake, timber rattlesnake, cottonmouth, eastern diamondback rattlesnake and eastern coral snake.

Although we do have rattlesnakes here, copperheads may be the venomous snake you’ll most commonly encounter.

Non-venomous snakes such as scarlet kingsnake, eastern hognose and watersnake species are frequently confused with their venomous counterparts – coral snakes, rattlesnakes and water moccasins, respectively.

Although pit vipers, which include all venomous species native to Georgia except for coral snakes, are often identified by their broad, triangular-shaped heads, many non-venomous snakes flatten their heads when threatened, which can make their heads appear triangular-shaped. Also, some non-venomous species have color patterns similar to venomous snakes.

Give snakes the space they need and you’ll save yourself the risk, experts say.

And make sure your pets stay away from them. Veterinarians say you’ll know right away if your dog is bitten by a snake because they’ll yelp in extreme pain and the bite site will swell. The good news, while some cases will require antivenom, vets say more often than not your pet can be treated with pain medication and lots of fluids.

“If you’re in an area that you know, has snakes, or might have snakes, always keep your dog on a leash. Be vigilant, and keep your eyes open. I know it’s hard because they blend in so well,” said Kara Nitschke of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

If you are bitten, the Georgia Poison Center recommends that you don’t put ice on the affected area, even if it swells because ice can make the venom move faster through your system.

GPC Director Dr. Gaylord Lopez says don’t take pain medications, that way when you get to urgent care, your doctor can better evaluate your body’s reaction to the bite and better determine whether you need antivenom treatment.

But to avoid a trip to the doctor or vet altogether - you and your pet’s best bet - is to make every attempt to avoid snakes in the first place.

To reduce the potential for snakes near your home, remove brush, log piles and other habitat features that attract mice, lizards and other prey.