“Get upclose and personal with snakes, you’re asking for trouble,” Robert Geller, medical director of Georgia Poison Center, recently told Channel 2 Action News.
Geller was talking about being bitten, but there’s another kind of trouble you could get in — trouble with the law.
In Georgia, it is illegal to kill a nonvenomous snake (O.C.G.A. 27-1-28). The misdemeanor offense is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Of the 46 species of snakes known in Georgia, only six are venomous: copperhead, cottonmouth, Eastern diamondback rattlesnake, timber/canebrake rattlesnake, pigmy rattlesnake and Eastern coral snake. So your chances of coming across a nonvenomous one are pretty good.
But it isn’t just killing the creatures that is illegal. If your kid comes home with a slithering friend and asks, “Can I keep it?” you have to say, “No.” It is also illegal in Georgia to keep a nonvenomous snake — corn snakes, garter snakes and the like — as a pet.
State law does allow you to keep a native venomous snake, however.
According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources: "Georgia Law allows the taking of certain native species — namely rats, mice, armadillos, coyotes, groundhogs, beaver, freshwater turtles, venomous snakes, frogs, spring lizards, fiddler crabs, freshwater crayfish, freshwater mussels, and nutria — because of their status as a nuisance or other reason."
Keeping live armadillos, coyotes, groundhogs and beaver require the proper permits or licenses, however.
But if you can’t kill a snake in your yard, what should you do?
“The best thing to do is to get a water hose. Snakes don’t like trauma, so if you get a cold water hose and you just spray them really hard, they’re going to head the other direction,” Trish Hobbs, coordinator at Reed Creek Park, told WRDW.com.
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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com