These are the dog days of summer, traditionally the hottest time of the year. In the South, the dog days start around July 3 and run through mid-August. Many folks, though, generally refer to the dog days as the time between early July and September.
One of the many myths linked to dog days is that snakes are more aggressive this time of year.
That’s not true, but you could say that August and September are prime times for Georgia’s snakes, especially baby snakes. Over the next two months, the young of most of the state’s 41 snake species will be born. About half the species will give live birth.
The young of the others will hatch from eggs. Some of Georgia’s common egg-laying snakes include rat snakes, eastern racers, rough green snakes, ringneck snakes, worm snakes, corn snakes, eastern hog-nosed snakes, coral snakes, kingsnakes and coachwhips. Most of them lay their eggs in spring in warm, moist sites under logs, rocks, boards, in rotten stumps, sawdust piles or in loose soil.
Species giving live birth include garter snakes, timber rattlesnakes, eastern diamondbacks, copperheads, plain-bellied water snakes, midland (or northern) water snakes, brown snakes and ribbon snakes.
To learn more about Georgia’s snakes, especially those in metro Atlanta, I attended a recent program by naturalist Jerry Hightower of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. Some of his tidbits:
● Of Georgia’s six venomous snake species, the copperhead is by far the most common in the metro area. Timber rattlers, pygmy rattlers and cottonmouths (water moccasins) may have been pushed out by development. The coral snake and the eastern diamondback mostly inhabit South Georgia.
● The most common snake seen in the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area is the midland water snake. Though it’s non-venomous, it can be very aggressive. “I’ve been bitten more than 40 times by one,” Hightower said.
● Some harmless snakes may imitate their venomous counterparts. The hog-nosed snake, for instance, inflates its head and neck, coils, hisses and strikes when disturbed, but it doesn’t bite.
Remember: Snakes are beneficial. They eat mice, rats and other pests.
In the sky: The Perseid meteor shower will be visible all next week, reaching a peak of 50 meteors per hour Wednesday night, says David Dundee, astronomer with Tellus Northwest Georgia Science Museum. Look to the southeast from 2 a.m. until dawn.
The moon will be new on Monday. By Tuesday it will be a thin crescent low in the west just after dark. Mercury is low in the west and sets just after dark. Venus is in the west just after sunset and sets about two hours later. It will appear near the moon Wednesday. Mars sets in the west two hours after sunset and will appear near the moon Friday night. Jupiter rises out of the east about three hours after sunset. Saturn, low in the west at sunset, sets about two hours later. It will appear near the moon Thursday.
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