Almost all of us have seen a snake in the out of doors. Most people have an immediate urge to kill the snake without determining if it is harmful or not.
In fact, there are 50 kinds of snakes in Georgia but only 6 are poisonous. In Atlanta, only three snakes are poisonous – the rattlesnake, the cottonmouth and the copperhead. Your chances of being bitten by a snake are less than your chance of being hit by lightning. Almost all if not all of the snakes you see around your home will be non-poisonous. They will be garter snakes, king snakes, corn snakes or hog-nosed snakes – not rattlesnakes or copperheads.
Of note, all non-venomous snakes are protected in Georgia and it’s illegal to harm or kill them.
Snakes eat a wide variety of small animals and insects. Mice, frogs, crickets and worms are common foods.
There are no chemical repellents effective against all snakes. There are no powders, liquids or flashing lights that will keep them away. Snakes are not repelled by sprinkling lime on the ground or by putting moth crystals under your house.
If you see a snake, there is probably an attractive habitat nearby. This might be a stack of firewood, a stone pile or a pile of lumber. It is important to ask what the snake is eating. If you control your mouse and insect population, snakes will move away. To keep snakes away, you must remove the attraction. Stack firewood on a rack 12″ off the ground. Store only a week’s worth near the house. Mowing your grass regularly will keep them away by giving them no place to hide as they move.
If you live in a wooded area or near a creek, snakes are probably unavoidable. You are enjoying the same habitat that they enjoy too. If you can remember that the chances of seeing a real live water moccasin are pretty slim, you will be able to share the outdoors with a creature that does a great deal of good for the ecology of the area. And you will resist the urge to kill every snake that you see.
The Savannah River Ecology Laboratory has an excellent website devoted to identifying snakes, frogs and other amphibians.
This publication from Missouri has lots of information about snakes and their control: Snakes: Information for Missouri Homeowners.
The Georgia Wildlife Federation sells an excellent snake identification booklet “Snakes of Georgia and South Carolina” for a small fee. You can call them at 770-787-7887.
DeKay’s snake (brown garden snake)
gray rat snake
snake eating frog