Snake Safety

September 7, 2012

Hi! Today’s topic is a safety topic. Because our mild winter here in the North Georgia Mountains has made our snakes a little more aggressive this year, we’re going to talk about how to identify those poisonous snakes you should avoid, and what to do if you are bitten.


Now, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and just leave any snake you see alone. Many snakes you find are harmless garden or water snakes. Sometimes, however, you can stumble across some venomous ones. This guide will hopefully help in steering clear of the more dangerous snakes.



Now, the snake you’ll hear the most about in the North Georgia Mountains is the Copperhead. It is also, however, one of the most mis-identified snakes. Most copperheads have a light brown or tan color overlaid by darker bands. These bands can look like hourglasses or Hershey Kisses. They will not, however, have a copper-colored head. These snakes can reach up to 2 or 3 feet in length and have rather thick bodies.

Copperheads don’t mind other snakes and often nest together. So if you see one copperhead, watch out for more nearby. Still, copperheads aren’t naturally aggressive. While they can sometimes move towards you or strike out when frightened, they more often prefer fleeing. Most people are bitten simply because people don’t see them and get too close.

If bitten, you MUST go to the nearest medical facility as soon as possible. Don’t stop to try to catch or kill the snake; even a moderate copperhead bite could cause damage sufficient to lose a limb. So if you think you’ve been bitten, seek medical attention. A doctor can then treat you accordingly, based on the symptoms you describe. Even if you aren’t bitten, don’t try to handle the snake in any way; simply call a professional to remove it. They have the proper experience and tools to safely remove the snake. If you check with your local wildlife professionals, your county may have a free snake removal. Remember: be safe!



Here in Georgia we have our fair share of rattlesnakes and you can find a particular variety here in the North Georgia Mountains: the Timber Rattlesnake. It can have several variations on the background, although the ones you’ll find in the northern part of Georgia will most likely have a gray or yellowish brown tone. It also sports black chevrons (or cross bands), and of course, it has that distinctive rattle. The average length for the Timber snake is between 3 and 4 feet.


First Aid for Snake Bites

If you are an hour or more away from the hospital, there are ways you can limit the damage from a venomous snakebite (though these methods are not completely effective, so you MUST see a medical professional for care).

Firstly, do not cut or suck the venom from the bite area. This is just dangerous for both parties. Attempting to cut the bite site could result in further damage, while sucking out the venom could cause problems for the other person involved. It is better to simply put that myth out of your mind if you ever suffer a snakebite.

Don’t apply a tourniquet or pressure bandage, or even apply ice or heat to the bite area. For obvious reasons, applying pressure or ice can restrict blood flow and will most likely cause additional damage to the surrounding tissue. So, even if swelling occurs, do not apply pressure, heat, or ice to the wound.

Do not use alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. This type of antiseptic can effect coagulation and possibly do more harm than good. On that note, do not drink any alcohol, as it can work to thin the blood.

At last, don’t try to kill or catch the snake; you lose precious time that way and waiting to seek medical attention can do permanent damage.

What you can do is move away from the snake. Call 911 or get to the ER as soon as possible. Try to limit movement from the limb (or digit) affected and remove any watches, rings, bracelets, belts, show laces, etc., as they can restrict blood flow once the body begins to swell. Also note the time and location of the bite; this will be useful later when professionals attempt to administer to you. Also, keep the bitten limb in a neutral position to the heart—in other words, don’t elevate it. At last, try to stay as calm as possible. Fatalities from snakebites are less than 1% in the U.S. Just get to a medical facility as soon as you are able to make sure you are taken care of.

Well, I hope this makes your hikes and camping trips a little easier. Just watch where you step!



Enota Mountain Retreat

1000 Hwy 180,  Hiawassee GA 30546

(706) 896- 9966      email:

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