Rabies Is Out There

by William Wise, Director of Walton County Animal Control

 Photo: William Wise

Photo: William Wise

I don’t mean to over-dramatize or spark panic, but two recent encounters have pushed forward the fact that although rare, rabies is still a threat to your pet. However, there is no need to call out the National Guard. Rabies is a fear that is easily abated by a simple, affordable vaccine.

In the month of February, two dogs in Walton County were quarantined in rabies observation after being exposed to rabid raccoons in two separate incidents. In the first encounter, a raccoon wandered aimlessly into a yard where it got into a tussle with the homeowner’s dog, Sam. The dog owner told animal control that the raccoon was stumbling around and then flopping on the ground while growling. Not surprisingly, the raccoon tested positive.

The second incident occurred just a few days later. Nut and his owner were in Rutledge, GA not far from Hard Labor Creek State Park when the Coonhound came face to face with a raccoon and was bitten on the nose. Once again, the raccoon tested positive.

The good side of this story is that both dog owners were responsible pet parents and had their dogs’ rabies vaccinations up to date. Therefore, both were allowed to do an in-home rabies observation for 45 days. Had they not been current on rabies vaccinations, the outcome might have been much worse.

According to the Georgia rabies guidelines followed by all animal control agencies, unvaccinated dogs and cats that come into contact with a rabid animal “should be euthanized immediately.” Imagine putting down your beloved pet because of an overlooked annual visit to your veterinarian for a rabies vaccine!

Well, most of us couldn’t stand for that. So what is the alternative? Six months of “strict isolation.” And this is no easy task. The exposed dog or cat must be kept in a secure, double-walled enclosure with a feeding door and a method of sectioning off the pet for cage cleaning. Even if you could find a veterinary clinic or boarding kennel willing to quarantine your pet, the cost would be astronomical.

The cost of prevention, however, is quite small. Rabies vaccinations are available through all veterinarians at a reasonable price. There are even regular, low-cost vaccine clinics hosted on Saturdays at various locations in nearly every city. Costing less than dinner for two, there is no reason to not have your beloved pet vaccinated regularly.

So when it comes to your pet and rabies, there is no need for alarm. But there is a need to be a diligent, responsible pet parent by ensuring your dog or cat is kept current on the necessary vaccines. Mark your calendar, set a reminder on your phone, whatever it takes—don’t let it slip your mind, or it can be costly.

Bats!

by Kaley Lefevre

 Photo: Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Photo: Georgia Department of Natural Resources

With Halloween right around the corner, bats are bound to be seen throughout Athens in the form of spooky decorations and fun costumes. Fortunately, the mammals themselves will be present around town as well to assist with maintaining the natural landscape by feeding off of the available flora and fauna. 

Though bats are often viewed negatively as rodents and nuisances, these smart mammals are vital to our existing ecosystem not only through their environment management, but also through the keystone role they play in many food chains. 

Pete Pattavina, a Southeast Regional White-Nose Syndrome Coordinator, said there are a plethora of reasons why he finds bats to be so interesting. 

 Photo: Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Photo: Georgia Department of Natural Resources

“What impressed me so much when I started studying bats was how long-lived they are,” he said. “They aren’t like a mouse or a rat that has multiple litters of young a year. [Bats] have one or two pups a year, and they can live [up to] 40 years old, which is incredible for an animal that small.” 

Bats are also impressively intelligent, have an elaborate social network and are capable of traveling hundreds of miles to hibernate every year.  

Pattavina’s focus on bats’ many capabilities is overshadowed, however, by White-nose Syndrome, which is a fungus that has overtaken entire species of bats within only six short years. 

According to Pattavina, nearly 95 percent of Tri-colored Bats have disappeared since they were last counted four years ago. 

“A train tunnel in North Georgia had almost 5,000 bats in it when we first counted it,” he said. “I think the [most recent] time we counted, we had somewhere around 200.” 

The fungus responsible for this staggering decline in these small bats was a complete mystery to scientists until recently. Because the fungus is difficult to understand yet intensely powerful in its wrath, bats are literally dropping like flies across the entire country. Pattavina said it’s because of this exact reason that biologists have been left feeling helpless as they attempt to learn so much about a disease and produce a cure in such a short time. 

Though there is not currently a definite cure to the fungus, Pattavina is hopeful that the few possibilities they have worked towards will produce positive results in the near future. 

Though there is nothing an average citizen can do to assist in this research aside from donating to the cause, there are still many other ways we can help the bats that are still left in our region. 

Katrina Morris, a Wildlife Biologist at the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GADNR, emphasized the impact of our lessening amounts of natural landscapes available for these animals. She stressed the importance of planting native species in our yards to attract native insects who can thrive off the environment. The bats will then be attracted to those areas and will assist in the maintenance of our yards, most likely without even alerting us of it. 

According to Morris, the increased use of pesticides has likely had a significant effect on our bats, as well, considering those pesticides will eventually be consumed. 

Many citizens often have an inherent fear of bats coming to roost in their houses, especially if they are knowingly attracting them to land. Luckily, there are safe ways to remove bats from houses without harming them.

According to GADNR’s website and Pattavina’s expertise, one of the most important factors to consider when removing a roost from your attic or chimney is the timing of doing so. 

If a bat has just had a pup that has not yet gained any fur and cannot fly, the idea of evicting that bat out of the house is nearly impossible. Instead, Pattavina instructs to wait until the bats are grown and capable of flying before installing a one-way plastic door that will allow the bats to leave the structure safely, but not return. 

If a citizen feels so inclined to offer a safer home for bats, they can do so by constructing a bat-house for their yard that will invite bats to roost when the environment reaches cold enough temperatures.

Though every citizen may not enjoy the idea of creating a house for bats, it is vital that citizens understand the importance of these special creatures and do what they can to assist with preserving them. 

According to Pattavina, if White-nose Syndrome continues in the direction it has been heading since it was first seen in 2005, there could be such a drastic decrease in these mammals that we may never see them again in such large capacities. 

For animals that do essentially nothing but help us, it is time for us to do our part to help them in return.  

Box Turtles Meant to Stay Wild

by Amanda Newsom

 Eastern Box Turtle. Photo: Kevin Stohlgren

Eastern Box Turtle. Photo: Kevin Stohlgren

I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen Eastern Box Turtles crossing a road, trail or driveway in Athens—I even saw one laying her eggs at a park last year! Many people aren’t sure what to do when they see a turtle in the road or their yard, and some even think it’s a good opportunity to take one home to keep as a pet. That’s why we want to share some tips to let you know how you can be a best friend to turtles in our area:

Helping Turtles Cross the Road

Why did the turtle cross the road? To get to the other side, of course. If you see a turtle in the road, your safety should always be your first priority. If safely possible, pick up the turtle with both hands securely around its shell and place it on the side of the road in the same direction it was traveling. (This goes for any turtle, but be especially careful with snapping turtles!)

Taking a Wild Box Turtle Home is Illegal

While bringing a wild box turtle home might seem like an opportunity for a cute new pet, it’s actually illegal to do so. According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GADNR), “By Georgia Law, most native species of wildlife cannot be held without permits or licenses. These licenses are not issued for the purpose of holding native wildlife as pets. These restrictions apply to the various species of animal, regardless of the origin or morphology.” Eastern Box Turtles are included in this law.

It’s Not a Happy Life for the Turtle

Box turtles have a close connection to their home range and rarely roam very far from where they were born. Because of their connection to the range (and the fact that most people don’t care for them adequately), bringing one home to keep in an aquarium on your shelf is depriving it of living a happy, healthy life that it deserves. Box turtles can live upwards of 50 years in the wild, but in captivity, many do not live very long.

Turtles Play an Important Role in their Ecosystem

Turtles are a sign that a habitat is healthy, and they play a vital role in our world. Matt Elliott, GADNR Assistant Chief of Nongame Conservation, says of their importance, “Box turtles are one of the classic reptile species of mesic forest types throughout Georgia. They are the only terrestrial turtle species that is found statewide. While not what I would call a keystone species like Gopher Tortoises, I imagine they play an important role in terms of herbivory and seed dispersal.”

Taking One Turtle Affects the Entire Population

When you take one turtle from the wild, you are affecting its entire population. Turtles are long-lived animals that don’t reproduce until they are around 10 years old. So when you take one turtle, you are taking away its ability to reproduce and keep the local population thriving. 

According to GADNR Herpetologist John Jensen, Eastern Box Turtles have been documented in 144 of the 159 counties in Georgia, and they’re most certainly found in others. He explains, “Turtles have a life history that puts a premium on adult survivorship (they have few natural predators), and removing them mimics that unnatural level of predation. Removal of just a few adults from a population can truly impact it. Turtles often out-live the novelty pet interest of most that collect and keep them. They then often get released back into the wild where they may no longer be fit to survive, and they may introduce pathogens or parasites picked up in captivity to wild populations.”

Matt Elliott says, “Declines in numbers for the species have been pretty well-documented in other parts of their range. In Georgia they seem to be doing okay, and we would like to keep it that way. Certainly they already have enough to contend with from being run over by vehicles, harassed by loose dogs and direct loss of habitat from development.” 

Elliott says that it’s common to hear of people attempting to keep box turtles as pets, and GADNR has repatriated a number of them. And a recent poll at just one local pet store in Athens showed that at least 45 people have asked for advice on keeping a found box turtle so far this year. Most of those people have the misconception that “it’s just one turtle,” but when you consider all of the other people that say the same thing, it really adds up and causes populations to be negatively impacted.

Enjoy Them from Afar

Instead of trying to illegally capture a box turtle, make your yard turtle-friendly to enjoy them from afar! You can leave large areas of natural leaf litter under trees as well as an isolated clearing nearby to provide a nice habitat for them. You can also walk your yard to check for turtles (and other wildlife) before mowing your grass, and mowing during the middle of a dry day will mean they’re less likely to be out, as well. Last, you can plant native plants and brambles that produce fallen fruit for them to snack on.

World Snake Day is July 16!

 Eastern Ratsnake (non-venomous). Photo: Matt Moore

Eastern Ratsnake (non-venomous). Photo: Matt Moore

by Matt Moore

Happy World Snake Day! If there ever was a wild animal that was a candidate for needing advocates, undoubtedly the snake is that animal. Below are a some common questions and beliefs that I have heard from people regarding snakes native to the southeastern United States:

 

“What good are snakes?”

Snakes are essential components of functioning ecosystems. They eat other animals, and other animals eat them. If snakes were removed from the ecosystems that they evolved to inhabit, it would be tantamount to removing a huge supporting structural block from a giant Jenga puzzle. Removing an essential part from a complex system inevitably puts the entire remaining structure in jeopardy of collapsing.

In addition to the critical ecosystem role that they fill, snakes directly help people in many ways. They consume huge quantities of disease-carrying pests. These pests include rodents and the disease-carrying parasites that are on the rodents (especially ticks!). There are even some snakes that specialize in ridding your gardens from slugs and snails.

 

“Are snakes dangerous?”

A relatively small number of snake species native to Georgia—only six species are venomous out of a total of 46—are potentially dangerous, but only if they feel their life is threatened. It is important to realize that no one ever gets bitten while consciously leaving a snake alone; however, lots of people get bitten while NOT leaving them alone (i.e. trying to kill or handle them). Accidental bites do sometimes occur inadvertently (i.e. stepping on or placing a hand on an unseen snake), but these accidents are statistically rare.

 

“Poisonous snake bites can kill you, but non-poisonous snake bites will just make you sick.”

Bites from nonvenomous snakes native to the United States are not capable of causing injuries of any medical significance to people or pets. I have been bitten at least a few hundred times over the last 20 years by native nonvenomous snakes of a variety of species—every one of those bites was due to me catching or handling them— and have never gotten sick from a bite from any of them. Nonvenomous snakes here in the Southeast are only capable of bites that are of less than a brier scratch in significance.

 

“But snakes chase people, especially those aggressive ‘water moccasins!’”

A snake has nothing to gain by chasing something much larger than itself that it perceives to be a predator (i.e. humans). What does occasionally happen though is attempted escape behavior, which is mistakenly perceived by people as chasing. A snake that feels threatened by will often attempt to flee in the direction where they feel there is a safe refuge. If a person startles a snake and they happen to be in between it and the hole in the ground or the pile of sticks that it wants to escape into, then the snake may crawl towards the person in order to get to that refuge. I have actually had snakes crawl right over my feet on numerous occasions in their attempts to reach safe refuge. The problem is that very few people wait around to see why the snake is coming towards them. They too often just kill the snake that was crawling in their direction and tell people they were “chased by an aggressive snake.”

 

“What should I do if I find a snake in my yard?”

Leave it alone, and let it go about its business of helping keep our environment healthy. If you have snakes in your yard, it is a sign that you are in an area that is still capable of supporting wildlife. This is a good thing! Also, it is a good idea to learn what the few venomous species that are native to your area look like. 

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has two great online field guides called Is it a Water Moccasin? and A Guide to Venomous Snakes of Georgia at georgiawildlife.com/GeorgiaSnakes.


SNAKE TRIVIA:

Although there are six total species of native venomous snakes that can potentially be found in Georgia, there is only a relatively small area within the Coastal Plain where all six of those species co-occur. The majority of Georgia’s counties only have three or four species of venomous snakes.

It is illegal to kill a nonvenomous snake in the state of Georgia. Misidentification of a harmless snake is not an excuse. Although it is currently legal to kill venomous snakes in the state of Georgia, it is very seldom necessary and doing so puts the person at great risk of being bitten.

A triangular-shaped head, thick body and/or short tail are not traits exclusive to venomous snakes and therefore are not reliable ways of differentiating between venomous and nonvenomous species. A quality field guide is a much better way of learning to properly identify snakes.

 

World Snake Day is a perfect day to start looking at snakes in a more positive light. Let’s all give snakes the respect and appreciation that they deserve, not just on World Snake Day, but rather on every day of the year. Please remember: the only good snake is a live snake!

Atlanta Wild Animal Rescue Effort (AWARE) Wildlife Center

 Photo: AWARE Wildlife Center

Photo: AWARE Wildlife Center

by Amanda Newsom

Founded in 1999 by Michael Ellis, Atlanta Wild Animal Rescue Effort (AWARE) Wildlife Center is one of the few wildlife rehabilitation centers in Georgia. Their mission is to “rehabilitate injured and orphaned wildlife and to educate the public on how to peacefully coexist with our wild neighbors,” and they help upwards of 2,000 animals each year, which is pretty impressive. AWARE accepts any wild animal in need of help—such as owls, songbirds, turtles, snakes, deer, possums and bobcats—as long as they have the capacity to do so. If they’re unable to take an animal in, they can provide references to other organizations that may be able to help. 

Recently, the center received a duck that had a four-pronged fish hook that had punctured through its lower bill and tongue. Under anesthesia, they were able to cut and remove the hook, and then they administered antibiotics and monitored the duck until it was able to eat and drink. Once its tongue was fully healed, AWARE released it back to the pond where it was found. Like this lucky duck, AWARE releases every animal that recovers in their care back to the wild.

 Photo: AWARE Wildlife Center

Photo: AWARE Wildlife Center

Many local shelters get calls asking about wildlife they’ve found and what to do to help them, so we asked Scott Lange, Executive Director of AWARE Wildlife Center, about some of the tops questions they get. He said they get tons of calls from people who find fledgling birds on the ground, but this is actually part of their natural life cycle where they need a few days on the ground to learn how to fly. 

They also get calls throughout the year from people who see animals like coyotes, foxes or raccoons in their yards. Lange says it’s important to remember that these animals pose no threat to you. “They only want food and safety, and people offer neither. Next, know that trapping or killing these animals—in addition to being cruel—is counterproductive, as it simply opens up territory for others of the species, spurring them to overbreed to take advantage. In short, removing these animals can leave you with more than when you started.”

One of the biggest takeaways from AWARE is that unless you can tell an animal is in distress or injured, the best thing to do is leave them be. They are wild animals and being in nature is what they do best! Sometimes attempts to help wildlife inadvertently lead to doing more harm than good. 

If you want to help the wild animals at AWARE Wildlife Center, you can of course donate online at awarewildlife.org, as the organization relies on individual donations to purchase items like food and medical supplies. You may also consider volunteering—it’s a bit of a trek from the Athens area to their facility in Lithonia, but AWARE has volunteers who drive up to three hours for their weekly shift, so it sounds like it is worth the trip!


Wildlife Tips

If you find an animal that truly needs your help:

  • Always put your safety first, and be careful! 
  • After safely retrieving a hurt animal, confine them to a box or portable carrier, and put it in a dark, quiet room. 
  • Many injured animals need extra warmth, so you can put a heating pad under part of the carrier so they have both a warm and cool space to help regulate their body temperature.
  • Contact a wildlife rehabilitation center such as AWARE to ask for advice. 
  • Don’t give food or water to an injured animal until you know what the next step will be for treatment according to professional advice.

Try to eliminate food sources outdoors, like accessible trash cans and pet food, to deter wildlife from coming onto your property if you perceive them as a nuisance.

Young wild animals are better off being left alone—their parents know the best way to care for them. When you hang around the babies wondering what to do next, you’re deterring the parent from returning to the area, which may prevent them for caring for their young. Unless you see a specific injury or witness something happening to the parent, leave them be and do not attempt to move them. 

Leave it to the professionals. Rehabilitating wild animals should only be done by licensed organizations who have the knowledge and capabilities to give them the best chance at recovery. 

Hanovi the Bald Eagle

by Chris Sparnicht, Assistant Zookeeper at Bear Hollow Zoo

 Photo: Chris Sparnicht

Photo: Chris Sparnicht

Hanovi the American Bald Eagle came to Bear Hollow Zoo in 2005 because one of his wings does not function properly. He can hop about 6 feet. He remains with us as a native wildlife ambassador, and in return, we take care of him. Hanovi gives our citizens and out-of-state visitors a chance to see close up what kinds of animals live right in our neighborhoods—bald eagles truly live in Athens-Clarke County! A great place to view them is on the Orange Trail at the State Botanical Garden along the Middle Oconee River.

 In the wild Hanovi would eat fish, small fowl, rodents and reptiles, so we feed him a variety of the same types of prey. While bald eagles generally don’t prey on small pets, they can lift up to 4 pounds and will take advantage of domestic fowl or carrion if they are hungry enough. They can also see at a distance four times more sharply than humans.

Their nests can be 13 feet deep, 8 feet across and weigh over a ton, so they are the largest type of bird nest found in North America! Like many of our wild raptors, bald eagles were once threatened by the widespread use of DDT, an agricultural pesticide that caused their egg shells to become weak. Because we no longer use DDT in America, their populations are again flourishing. As of 2007, they are no longer on our federal Endangered or Threatened Species Lists. 

Bald eagles tend to mate for life. However, if one mate passes away, the survivor may seek a new partner. Courtship can involve behavior that looks a bit like an aerial battle. They will dive, lock talons, tumble and free-fall together. 

Mature adult bald eagles have white feathers on their heads and tails, blackish-brown feathers covering the body and wings, and a yellow beak and feet. Their talons are black. However, immature bald eagles are often covered head-to-tail with a mixture of brown and white feathers with a dark, almost-black beak. It may take as many as five or six years for a young bald eagle to fully show its adult plumage.

A little over two years ago, Hanovi had a yard mate, Amazon. While they were not a bonded pair, bald eagles do tend to enjoy the company of others. Amazon was the feisty one, while Hanovi is more timid. Unfortunately, Amazon passed away due to a number of complications, but mostly because she was fairly old. In the next month or so, we are hoping to acquire a new yard mate for Hanovi who, like him, is only able to hop. She will never be able to survive on her own in the wild, so we hope we can make a permanent home for her at Bear Hollow! If things go as planned, we hope to introduce the new young eagle to Hanovi sometime next fall. She will probably still have adolescent plumage when she arrives. We also hope it may be possible for the new young eagle to become a program bird, like some of our other raptors. She would be trained to stand on a glove while a keeper talks about eagles in demonstrations for the public. 

Raptors recognize individual humans. It takes time to develop trust between each new keeper and any specific bird of prey, especially if they come from the wild. When I stop by his exhibit, Hanovi gives me a greeting squawk, likely because he recognizes me as one of the keepers who feeds him. He does not do this for most regular visitors. If we are able to train the newcomer as a program bird, I can only further hope that the new eagle may set an example for Hanovi that coming to the glove of a trusted trainer can mean treats as reward, perhaps deepening a layer of trust between keeper and bird. When you stare a bird in the eye, you can absolutely sense their level of trust and mutual respect.

If Hanovi were able to live in the wild, he would have more opportunity to use his beak and talons. His beak and claws grow continuously, much like human hair, so about once a year, we have to trim his beak, and sometimes his claws, to make sure they don’t grow too long or crooked.  

The name Hanovi means “strong” in Hopi. Bald eagles and their feathers are considered sacred by many North American Native Nations. It’s important to note, however that collecting native bird feathers in the wild is not allowed in the United States, except by institutions like Bear Hollow Zoo, who are licensed to use them for our educational mission.

We at Bear Hollow Zoo hope you’ll stop by to visit Hanovi and our other native wildlife ambassadors!

Saturdays are for the Bears

by Erin Schilling

 Photo: Greyson Ike

Photo: Greyson Ike

Saturdays may be for the Dawgs in the fall, but in the spring, Saturdays are for the bears. 

On April 1, 2017, cars overflowed in the Memorial Park parking lot not for football, but to celebrate the birthdays of Athena and Yonah, two of the American black bears at Bear Hollow Zoo.

“I tied balloon bears for almost two hours,” said Clinton Murphy, park coordinator with Athens-Clarke County. “My hands were almost crippled... But there was always education sprinkled among [the entertainment], and I’ve had kids a year later be able to tell me the same stuff they learned here.”

Bear Hollow Zoo is a free-admission zoo that houses non-releasable wildlife with either physical or behavioral problems that prevent them from surviving in the wild. The bears and other species “have been placed here to live out their lives serving as ambassadors for their species,” according to the Bear Hollow Zoo website said. 

“We will only appreciate and conserve what we understand,” Murphy said. “Think of an animal in your head that doesn’t exist. There are some people out there who really wouldn’t care about that animal regardless of what it may or may not do for the environment.”

Bear Hollow Zoo is open daily from 9am to 5pm, and the reptile house is open from 1pm to 4pm on Saturdays. 

Murphy said the park is funded by the ACC park budget, and having the zoo is beneficial to sparking economic development in a city. 

“The citizens of ACC range greatly in economic benefit,” said Murphy. “We are in a unique position to influence the next generation.” 

About 70,000 children pass through the zoo annually, and on a typical spring Saturday, it’s not uncommon to have about 1,000 people visit in one day. 

Children look through the railings at other animals in Bear Hollow like turkeys, deer and owls. Murphy said that in his 17 years working with the zoo, he realized that all the animals are appreciated by zoo-goers. 

“Every animal out there has its own little fan club,” said Murphy. “Every keeper out there has their own favorite as well, from the crankiest opossum—you name it.” 

Murphy said the zoo always needs volunteers, and he tries to fill up spaces for the 56 zookeepers they need in a week or the endless amount of docents. 

Murphy said these volunteers mostly come from University of Georgia students looking for experience with animal-related jobs, since that market is so competitive. About 5 percent of the volunteers are “townies,” and they’re always looking for people to fill in during UGA breaks or summers. 

“We’ve had several of our guys go from school to [Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredited] zoos all over the place,” said Murphy. “We have an internship program [during the summer], as well.”

The zoo started in the 1940s as a private collection of wild animals, which was then donated and became a facility of the Athens-Clarke County Department of Leisure Services to emphasize conservation and education. 

Murphy said through the ‘50s and ‘60s, Bear Hollow was just your “quintessential crummy zoo. As time progressed and people got more interested, they changed that,” Murphy said.

How to Spot a Copperhead: Agkistrodon contortrix

Introduction by Amanda Newsom; Illustration by Rose Williams

Warning: you’re about to experience a blog about a venomous snake, and it’s going to be pretty cool! If you’ve ever logged onto social media and seen a photo of a snake with someone asking what kind it is around here, the large majority of the answers you’re going to see will vehemently identify it as, “Copperhead!” 

But let’s be honest—not everyone can accurately identify a snake off the top of their head, and too few take the time to do a quick Google search to see if they can figure it out based on the characteristics in the photo.

Just a couple weeks ago I saw one such post of a juvenile Eastern Ratsnake that had been misidentified as a Copperhead by someone who claimed to have no doubt about the ID, and no one challenged it before I was able to comment. So I reached out to a herpetology (that’s the study of reptiles and amphibians) enthusiast who also happens to be a fantastic artist, Rose Williams, to see if we could work on an educational illustration about how to identify a Copperhead, and she designed the illustration on the next page. 

We not only want you to be able to identify a Copperhead more effectively, we want to show off some features of this native venomous snake. If you take the time to really look at them, they truly are beautiful snakes. They have some interesting characteristics, like their pits used to track down prey and the yellow tail they sport as youngsters to lure prey. 

We also hope to change perceptions of Copperheads when encountered in the wild. It’s understandable that many people are scared of these snakes because they don’t want to be bitten (or have a dog or child be bitten). However, most snake bites occur when people try to kill the snake or accidentally step on it, so the best way to avoid a bite is to steer clear and to watch where you step. Once they see you, chances are they’re going to leave to get away from the scary human they just saw.

We hope you’ll enjoy this illustration and learn a little bit about one of the venomous snakes in your area. Please think twice before killing a snake and let it be instead, and pass on your newfound knowledge to your friends and family. We hope that by learning more about these beautiful creatures, you’ll come to admire them as much as we do!

 

FUN FACT:

There are only two venomous snakes that are native to Athens, GA—the Copperhead and Timber Rattlesnake (also often referred to as Canebrakes)—and only six in the state of Georgia, compared to over 30 non-venomous species. 

 

RESOURCE ALERT!:

The University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory has an excellent website that lists each snake species in Georgia and South Carolina that can help you identify snakes in a pinch: http://srelherp.uga.edu/snakes/.