BRASSTOWN BALD, Ga. – A large timber rattlesnake was spotted on the summit trail, leading to the peak of Brasstown Bald, Tuesday, July 9. The snake sighting is one of many reported this season in the Towns County area.
“Although it may be frightening to see a rattlesnake at such close range, remember these rattlesnakes are NOT aggressive, but will strike to defend themselves if disturbed,” Brasstown Bald staff wrote on social media. “Please give them distance and respect. They are important members of the natural community.”
Timber rattlesnake populations are on the decline. They are threatened or endangered in many states, at least partially due to people killing them out of fear. The rattlesnakes are one of the most common venemous snakes in North America. The reptiles belong to the genus Crotalus, which contains most other rattlesnakes, including prairie rattlesnakes and diamondback rattlesnakes. Timber rattlesnakes are sometimes called canebrake rattlesnakes or banded rattlesnakes. Found across most of the central and eastern United States, timber rattlesnakes occupy a diverse range of habitats. They can be found as far north as New York and Minnesota, and as far south as Texas and Florida.
Their nickname stems from their preference for living in forests and wooded areas, though they can be found anywhere with ample vegetation and a range of prey to choose from. Like all rattlesnakes, timber rattlers are venomous. They possess long fangs which they use for injecting venom into their prey. The venom toxicity is comparable to other rattlesnakes, and poses a significant risk to humans. Fortunately, it doesn’t typically result in death, as long as medical intervention is quickly sought.
Feature Photo Credit: Brasstown Bald
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – A 12-year-old child suffered a bite from a juvenile copperhead snake Sunday, May 19, shortly before 9 p.m. The incident occurred in the Macedonia area, east of Hiawassee. FYN learned that the child was struck on the hand by the snake, and air-lifted to Scottish Rite Hospital in Atlanta for emergency treatment. Towns County Emergency Medical Services and Towns County Fire and Rescue responded to the incident.
Copperheads are pit vipers, like rattlesnakes and water moccasins. Pit vipers have “heat-sensory pits between eye and nostril on each side of head,” which are able to detect minute differences in temperatures so that the snakes can accurately strike the source of heat, which is often potential prey. “Copperhead behavior is very much like that of most other pit vipers,” said herpetologist Jeff Beane, collections manager of amphibians and reptiles at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
Copperheads bite more people in most years than any other U.S. species of snake, according to the North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension Service. Fortunately, copperhead venom is not extremely potent. Unlike most venomous snakes, copperheads give no warning signs and strike almost immediately if they feel threatened. Copperheads have hemotoxic venom, said Beane, which means that a copperhead bite “often results in temporary tissue damage in the immediate area of bite.” Their bite may be painful but is “very rarely fatal to humans.” Children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems may have strong reactions to the venom, however, and anyone bitten by a copperhead should seek medical attention.
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