HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Snakes are common in Appalachia, and rattlesnakes are one species that call northern Georgia home. Brasstown Bald is hosting a seminar entitled ‘Rattlesnakes of Appalachia’ on Saturday, July 7, 2018. The program begins at 2:00 p.m. at the Brasstown Bald Visitors Center. Dr. Chris Jenkins, director and snake researcher with the Orianne Society, will teach the class which will feature a live timber rattlesnake. The Orianne Society is a Georgia-based organization, tasked with conserving critical ecosystems for at risk reptiles and amphibians. Park entry is $5.00, and the program is included in the price of admission. Children are admitted at no charge.
According to researchers, the eastern timber rattlesnake population is declining in North Georgia, and the reason is thought to be due to agricultural and urban development. The reptiles typically dwell in heavily wooded areas and rock formations on hillsides. While timber rattlesnakes bites are highly venomous, attacks to humans are rare. The snakes rely on their camouflaged appearance to avoid confrontation, often remaining calm and coiled when approached, with a preference of slithering away rather than lunging. However, if threatened, the snake will rise and rattle its notorious tail, a warning that the creature is set to strike.
Timber rattlesnakes are characterized by their thick, heavy-bodies, and dark chevron-shaped markings which rest against a lighter background, with adult snakes maturing to 36 to 48 inches in length.
Timber rattlesnakes, also known as canebreakers, often hibernate in large numbers during the winter months. The primary diet of the snakes consist mainly of rodents, and occasionally birds that perch within reach.
According to the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, only six of the 42 species of snakes in the state of Georgia are venomous.
Brasstown Bald is located at 2941 Hwy. 180 Spur in Towns County. The Visitor Center is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Additional information can be acquired by dialing 706-896-2556
It’s Warming Up!!! If you are enjoying the warmer weather now, so are the snakes! As a matter of fact, while driving home, a Garter Snake slithered in front of my car while at a stop sign. Some of my neighbors have told me that they’ve seen Copperheads about.
Venomous snakes injure over 150,000 dogs and cats every year in the US. This data is about 10 years old! So, you can only imagine as we continue to encroach upon their territory, there are going to be more exposures. In our area, the Copperhead is the most common venomous snake; however, there are also Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, Timber Rattlesnake, Cotton Mouth, Pigmy Rattlesnake and Coral Snakes in Georgia. In North Georgia, the Timber Rattlesnake and Copperhead are most commonly the cause of envenomation in pets and people. Rattlesnake venom is much more potent and deadly than that of the Copperhead. All of the snakes listed with the exception of the Coral Snake are Pit Vipers which belong to the family Crotalidae. Pit Vipers have triangular heads, elliptical pupils and “pits” or scent glands where there “nose” is (pic. #1).
Pit Vipers in Georgia:
Pit Viper venom contains over 50 enzymes which damage tissue. The snake uses the venom to immobilize their prey and pre-digest the tissue. Basically, these snakes cannot digest food that well in their gut, so venom breaks down the muscle, the connective tissue and the blood before they ingest it. So, the same thing happens when a dog or cat is bitten. The venom starts to digest the tissue and causes the blood to not clot.
Bites to pets most often occur on their face and front legs. Most owners will say they saw their dog digging after something and then hear a loud “yelp.” Soon after being bitten the area becomes swollen, bruised and very painful.
Signs your pet has been bitten by a venomous snake may include:
• Rapid swelling at the site of the bite
• Severe pain
• Bleeding from the fang punctures
• Discoloration of the skin to dark red or purple
• Bite marks—these may be difficult to see because the pet’s fur
• Rapid breathing
• Collapse (inability to get up)
• Pale gums
What to do if your pet is bitten:
• Limit your pet’s activity and keep your pet calm. This will help decrease the venom from circulating throughout the body. The more activity, the more blood flow and faster the heart beats increasing the amount of venom spread in the body.
• Contact your family veterinarian immediately or an emergency veterinary hospital such as MEAC.
What NOT to do if your pet is bitten:
• Do not place a tourniquet above the bite
• Do not cut over the wound
• Do not try to “suck” the venom out of the area
• Do not apply ice to the area
• Do not apply electrical shock to the area
• Do not give any medications
Typical testing and treatment performed
• Blood tests to check cell counts, blood clotting ability (coagulation times), organ function tests of the liver and kidneys
• X-rays of the chest if the pet is having trouble breathing or congestion in the lungs
• Pain medication
• Cleaning of wounds
• Intravenous fluids for shock and blood loss
• Antivenin administration—this is the best treatment and acts as an antidote to the venom
• Supplemental oxygen
• Plasma and sometimes blood transfusion
• Hospitalization and observation