It’s that time of year again, when snakes are spotted in driveways, yards and wooded areas around metro Atlanta.
Jason Clark of Southeastern Reptile Rescue in Griffin said the warmer weather and heavy rains also drives snakes out from their shelters.
For some species it’s also into the breeding season. Common snakes in the Atlanta area are breeding now. Some will soon lay eggs. Others will give live birth in late summer.
That also means more calls and emails to snake experts like Clark of Southeastern Reptile and John Jensen of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
All native snakes, including the venomous species, are part of the natural fauna and thus “belong,” said Jensen. Many of them perform helpful functions such as controlling rodents, slugs, centipedes and leeches, or providing chemical compounds used in cancer and heart disease treatments. Those that do not have any apparent benefit are still important in the ecosystem and may serve as important prey for other creatures, he said.
Of the 46 species of snakes found in Georgia, six are venomous.
So, to separate the myths from reality about those slithering creatures, we turned to the experts.
They hear some pretty far -fetched things, like snakes can hypnotize birds or if you kill one others will show up to exact revenge.
Related: Six venomous snakes to watch out for
While those might make good movie scenes, they’re simply not true.
If you want to learn more about snakes, join a Facebook Live conversation with expert Jason Clark at 8:30 a.m. Thursday on The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s DeKalb County News Now page.
Here are some of the most common misconceptions about snakes:
Myth: A triangular head means the snake is venomous.
Reality: Actually, five of the six venomous snakes, including copperheads, timber rattlers and cottonmouths in Georgia have triangular heads. The eastern coral snake, found along the coastal areas, does not. Some harmless snakes have the ability to move the bones in their skulls to a triangular shape to appear dangerous in an effort to ward off threats.
Myth: If a snake has elliptical pupils that means its venomous.
Reality: Not necessarily. Some dangerous snakes found in other nations, like the mamba in sub-Saharan Africa, have round pupils. So does the Georgia native eastern coral snake . Also, sometimes because of environmental changes, like a lower amount of light , a venomous snake’s eyes can dilate, making them round. Who wants to get close enough to notice, though?
Myth: Lime, sulfur, mothballs and commercial snake repellents will keep snakes away.
Reality: Experts say not so. If you toss mothballs in your yard, for instance, and don’t see a snake, it’s probably because you simply don’t see the snake or perhaps there aren’t any in the immediate area. You’d have to use so many mothballs anyway that you probably couldn’t stand to be in your own yard. Snake repellents and lime wash away and there’s not much proof they keep snakes away.
Myth: If you’re bitten by a venomous snake, tie a tourniquet around the area or cut the wound and suck out the venom.
Reality: Don’t do this, say experts. Some venoms contain toxins, which destroy tissue or affect the respiratory system. Applying a tourniquet concentrate those toxins in one place. Also take off watches and rings. The best thing to do is call 911 or poison control right away. Program the Poison Control Center number (1-800-222-1222) into your phone or have it nearby in case you need to call. Get help quickly.
Myth: Snakes don’t like to crawl over small garden rocks or ropes.
Reality: They can crawl over and under rocks and up trees and structures. Snakes like ground cover. It’s a lot easier for them to burrow under pine straw and ivy. Harder for them (though not impossible) to burrow under mulch, small garden rocks and bark. It’s best to keep your grass cut low and remove yard debris like fallen limbs and piles of dead leaves. Also remove tree limbs that hang over your home.
Myth: Rat snakes will eat copperheads.
Reality: Different kinds of snakes have different diets. Some like bugs, snails, frogs and lizards. Others like rats and mice. King snakes will eat copperheads and lots of other prey. Rat snakes do not eat copperheads although they do eat smaller snakes.
Myth: if you see a baby snake that means there’s a family around somewhere.
Reality: Whether a snake delivers live babies or eggs, their parenting skills leave a lot to be desired. Once born, “they’re pretty much on their own,” Jensen says of the youngsters. If you see a bigger snake around, it’s probably coincidence. “They immediately start dispersing.”
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