Snakes

All across Georgia and including Appling County, Wayne County, Jeff Davis County, Bacon County, Tatnall County, and Pierce County Snakes can pose a threat to humans. Knowing about more about them is the first step to protecting your home and family.

Black Racers

As their name implies, black racers are relatively large — to 60 in (152 cm) — fairly slender, solid black snakes. They have smooth scales, large eyes, and often have some white coloration under their chin. The belly is generally uniformly dark gray or black. Adult racers can be mistaken for any of the other large black snakes present in our region including black rat snakes (which are generally restricted to the Piedmont and Mountains in our region), black-phase eastern hognose snakes, eastern or black kingsnakes, or dark coachwhips. However, black racers are generally more slender and uniformly black than those species. Additionally, racers lack the upturned nose of hognose snakes and keeled scales of hognose and rat snakes. When observed from a distance, behavior is often the best way to differentiate a racer from other species. While rat snakes, king snakes, and hognose snakes generally freeze when approached, racers usually flee rapidly or sometimes stand their ground and attempt to strike.

Eastern Diamondback

The eastern diamondback rattlesnake is the largest of the 32 species of rattlesnake currently recognized. They are large, heavy-bodied snakes with large, broad heads with two light lines on the face. Adults are    usually 33-72 in (84-183 cm) long, but the largest individual on record was 96 in (244 cm). Mature snakes can tip the scales at over 10 lbs. The background color is brown, tan, or yellowish and covered with the namesake diamonds, which are brown and surrounded by lighter scales. Males are larger than females.

Range and Habitat: Diamondback rattlesnakes are restricted to the Lower Coastal Plain of the Southeast, from southern North Carolina to eastern Louisiana, although the stronghold of their range is in Florida and southern Georgia. This species usually inhabits dry sandy areas, palmetto or pine wiregrass forests.

Eastern Coral Snakes

Adult eastern coral snakes are slender, medium sized — 18-30 in (46-76 cm) — snakes that may reach almost 4 feet (122 cm) in length. They have smooth scales and the anal plate is usually divided. The most obvious feature of an eastern coral snake is the bright body pattern of red, yellow, and black rings in which the red and yellow rings touch each other. The nose is black. Scarlet kingsnakes (Lampropeltis triangulum elapsoides) and scarlet snakes (Cemophora coccinea) are superficially similar but the red only touches the black rings. The coral snake is the only eastern species of snake with a pair of fixed fangs in the front of the mouth.

Range and Habitat: The eastern coral snake is found in scattered localities in the southern Coastal Plain from North Carolina to Louisiana, including all of Florida, where they are most prevalent. They can be found in pine and scrub oak sandhills habitats in parts of their range but sometimes inhabit hardwood areas and pine flatwoods that undergo seasonal flooding.

Habits: Coral snakes are rarely seen in most areas where they occur, probably because they are highly secretive and spend most of their time underground. They typically do not climb trees or shrubs and spend only limited time crawling above ground. Most sightings of coral snakes are in the spring and fall. When threatened, coral snakes often elevate and curl the tip of their tail. They are noted for preying primarily on other snakes and lizards, which they kill by injecting with venom. Eastern coral snakes lay an average of six or seven eggs in early summer and the young hatch in late summer or early fall. Perhaps because of their secretive habits, coral snakes often persist is suburban areas.

Water Moccasins

Cottonmouths are venomous semi-aquatic snakes often referred to as “water moccasins.” They have large, triangular heads with a dark line through the eye, elliptical pupils, and large jowls due to the venom glands. They are large – typically 24 – 48 in (61 – 122 cm), occassionally larger, keeled-scaled, heavy-bodied snakes. Their coloration is highly variable: they can be beautifully marked with dark crossbands on a brown and yellow ground color or completely brown or black. Older adults are often dark and solid-colored whereas the juveniles are brightly patterned with a sulphur yellow tail tip that they wiggle to attract prey. The belly typically has dark and brownish-yellow blotches with the underside of the tail being black. As pit-vipers they have facial pits that sense heat and are used to detect prey and predators. Male cottonmouths are larger than females.

Range and Habitat: Cottonmouths range throughout the Southeast, north to southeastern Virginia. In our region cottonmouths are generally restricted to the Coastal Plain but are found in a few Piedmont locations west of Atlanta, Georgia. They can be found in nearly all freshwater habitats but are most common in cypress swamps, river floodplains, and heavily-vegetated wetlands. Cottonmouths will venture overland and are sometimes found far from permanent water. Cottonmouths often congregate around drying pools in wetlands to feed on trapped fish and amphibians.

Habits: Cottonmouths can be found during the day or night, but forage primarily after dark during the hotter parts of the season. Throughout much of their range, they can be found year-round, even in sunny days in the winter. Cottonmouths bask on logs, rocks, or branches at the water’s edge but seldom climb high in trees (unlike many of the nonvenomous watersnakes which commonly bask on branches several feet above the water). They employ both ambush and active foraging strategies. Cottonmouths are opportunistic feeders and are known to consume a variety of aquatic and terrestrial prey, including amphibians, lizards, snakes (including smaller cottonmouths), small turtles, baby alligators, mammals, birds, and especially fish. Cottonmouths mate in the early summer at which time male-to-male combat occurs in competition for females. Females have litters of 1-20 live young every 2-3 years. The young are large (20-33 cm) and have bright yellow tail tips. The cottonmouth receives its name from the whiteness of the interior of its mouth that it exposes as a defensive display. This species is often confused with nonvenomous watersnakes, but watersnakes typically flee immediately if on land or in a tree, usually going underwater, whereas cottonmouths frequently stand their ground and gape to deter a predator. Despite their aggressive reputation, research has indicated that cottonmouths will seldom bite unless stepped on or picked up. When not alarmed, cottonmouths can be readily recognized when swimming because most of their body is above the water’s surface.