LET’S TALK ABOUT THE COLD-BLOODED, POSSIBLY VENOMOUS REPTILE IN YOUR LIFE. No, it’s not your mother-in-law—it’s a snake. While even mentioning either of these can make people shudder, thankfully there are at least some basic safety precautions one can take to help eliminate uncomfortable encounters.
Over 20% of the population suffers from some degree of snake fear. And that fear may not be made better when you find out there are 46 types of snakes found in Georgia, and 30 of them call Chatham County home. They can be found in woodlands, parks, and backyards. Let me assure you though, most of them are not venomous. Let me repeat that; not venomous. So in the event you come face to face with a snake, the chances of it being dangerous are much higher for the snake than for you.
Snakes are a vital part of ecosystems. If you’re a gardener you’ll run across crowned, red bellied, and others that aren’t much bigger than an earthworm, and don’t bite. Corn and rat snakes also like back yards, eating mice and rats (and occasionally birds or their eggs). Scientists use snakes to determine the health of an ecosystem, since snakes are tied to their food sources, and their health can be helpful indicating when pollutants may have entered an area.
That being said, you don’t have to make it comfortable for them to hang around your house and yard! There are several steps you can take to repel snakes.
1. Eliminate Hiding Spots. Snakes hide in holes, crevices, and dark, cool spots. Inspect your home regularly for damaged gutters, ventilation ducts, and damaged screens, and repair them immediately. Snakes love woodpiles, so if you have firewood invest in some lockable, sealed wood boxes. Compost heaps and mulch piles are also big attractants; consider purchasing composting bins instead.
- Remove food sources. Snakes, as I have said, eat mice, rats, frogs, lizards, birds, etc. If you have a rodent problem, consider getting rid of that first—once their food source is gone, snakes will move on to more hospitable areas.
- Use repellent. There are commercial products available for purchase. Additionally, there are home remedies available such as ammonia, sulfur, garlic/onions, and naphthalene—the main ingredient in moth balls, and also the main ingredient in most commercial products. These can irritate the snake without harming them by placing mothballs in areas where snakes might be a problem. They are, however, toxic and potentially fatal to children or pets when ingested, so use them with caution. White vinegar can be poured around the perimeter of pools to deter snakes.
- Adjust landscaping. Garden regularly to eliminate snake-inviting attractants like debris and holes. Plant snake repellent plants, including wormwood, marigolds, and lemongrass. They do make snake-proof fencing, but you must make sure that it is flush with the ground, angled outward, at least 3 feet high and 4 feet deep.
Remember, it is illegal in Georgia to kill or own the state’s non-venomous snakes—a misdemeanor that packs up to a $1,000 fine and a year in jail. So if your kid comes home with a garter snake and asks if they can keep it, you need to tell them no.
And speaking of, there are six venomous snakes in the state, and all of them can be found in Chatham County. Residents are more likely to run into a copperhead, as they are a more suburban and opportunistic forager. If someone you know is bitten, call 911 and take the person to the closest emergency room IMMEDIATELY. Except for coral snake bites, all bites from Georgia’s venomous snakes are treated with the same antivenin, so don’t waste time trying to catch or identify the snake.
As a general rule, snakes are a part of life here. Forewarned is forearmed. Don’t provide opportunities for it to enter your home uninvited, keep your home and yard cleaned regularly, eliminate food sources that make it want to stay, and when confronted just give it a wide berth.
You know, that does work as advice for your mother-in-law too…
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