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Extension: Not every snake is a copperhead
Copperheads are one of three venomous snakes native to Forsyth County. Photo by Brian Romm

By Beverly Adams, For the Forsyth County News

We all have probably saw a post on social media where someone posts a picture of a snake and ask for someone to identify it. It immediately is identified as a copperhead. News flash -- not every snake in Forsyth County is a copperhead.  

Here in Forsyth County we have many beneficial snakes that are non-venomous such as the gray rat snake, black kingsnake and the black racer that are mistaken for venomous snakes. These snakes are beneficial because they eat rodents such as mice, insects and other venomous snakes. There are only a few snakes that are venomous in the Forsyth County area. These include the copperhead that is often confused with the gray rate snake, the timber rattlesnake, and the pigmy rattlesnake often confused with eastern and southern hognose snakes.  

Some repellents, like mothballs, may be offensive to a snake but it is illegal to use them outdoors and using them in attics or crawl spaces can be harmful to humans and pets. This product is a pesticide and should not be used to repel snakes from a home. Also, products, like sulphur sold as a snake deterrent, are both ineffective at repelling snakes and can be dangerous if it gives the user a false sense of security. 

Snakes need three things: food, water and shelter. Remove any one of these and they will go somewhere else. Remember: Treat the problem not the symptom. If you cannot identify the snake as venomous or non-venomous then err on the side of caution and leave the snake alone and it should go on its way. If you need help removing a snake from your home call an expert to come and remove it.  

Did you know that it is illegal to kill a non-venomous snake in the state of Georgia? 

Many people feel “the only good snake is a dead snake” and go out of their way to kill them. Harmless water snakes often are mistaken for cottonmouths and are killed “just in case.” However, killing non-venomous snakes is illegal in Georgia. It is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. 

Keeping native non-venomous snakes as pets also is illegal without the proper permits. Call the DNR Special Permits Office at (770) 761-3044 for info on obtaining exhibition permits for educational purposes. Venomous snakes, although beneficial, are not protected since they may pose a threat to humans. Be sure you know which six of the 41 species of snakes in Georgia are venomous. If possible, simply leave venomous snakes alone; you don’t need to kill them just because it’s legal. 

In case of a venomous snake bite follow these rules:

1. Stay calm. Get the patient to the nearest hospital right away! Call 911 immediately. 

2. Try to identify the snake by site only.  Look for color, patterns and head shape.

3. Do not try to kill the snake; it could bite again.

4. Keep the patient calm and immobile (preferably lying down).

5. Keep the affected limb at an even level with the rest of the body.

6. Do not give the patient food, drink or medication (e.g., pain medications, alcohol etc.)

7. Do not use a tourniquet.

8. Do not cut the wound.

9. Do not try to suck out the venom.

10. Do not pack the wound in ice.  

Bites from non-venomous snakes should be washed with warm soapy water; a tetanus shot may be needed.

For more information on Georgia snakes visit:

Visit the Extension’s website at or call (770) 887-2418. The Extension is at 5110 Piney Grove Road, Cumming, GA 30040. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Beverly Adams is the Agriculture and Natural Resources program assistant for the Extension in Forsyth County.