Snake season has arrived in Georgia; what to do if you or your pet is bitten

Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 6:34 PM EDT
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DECATUR, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Spring marks the start of snake season in Georgia. This time of year, late March into early April, you have a greater chance of encountering a snake if you’re out for a walk or hike.

The Georgia Department of Nature Resources sees an increase in calls from Georgians inquiring about different types of snakes, especially if they’re a pet owner. And the Georgia Poison Center also fields more calls this time of year from people seeking advice after being bitten by a snake.

9-month-old poodle Fiona likes belly rubs and long walks especially if they’re off the beaten path. But when it’s snake season in Georgia, Cindy deSa of Tucker goes out of her way to keep her pets from rustling through the brush and shrubbery.

“It is worrisome. Like this time of year especially because the snakes are kind of coming out. They’re kind of coming into the world, waking up from the winter,” said deSa.

A wildlife expert at the Georgia Department of Natural Resources says most of the snake species in Georgia or non-venomous.

In fact, 46 different snake species call Georgia home, including rattlesnakes, but Kara Nitschke the Georgia DNR says the metro Atlanta’s most common venomous snake is the copperhead.

“If you’re in an area that you know, has snakes, or might have snakes, always keep your dog on a leash. Be vigilant, and keep your eyes open. I know it’s hard because they blend in so well,” said Kara Nitschke of Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division.

Snakes bite humans too. In fact, the Georgia Poison Center receives hundreds of calls this time of year from people suffering from snake bites, most reporting Copperhead bites.

If you are bitten, the Georgia Poison Center recommends that you don’t put ice on the affected area, even if it swells because ice can make the venom move faster through your system.

GPC Director Dr. Gaylord Lopez says don’t take pain medications, that way when you get to urgent care your doctor can better evaluate your body’s reaction to the bite and better determine if you need antivenom treatment.

But to avoid a trip to the doctor or vet altogether - you and your pet’s best bet - is to make every attempt to avoid snakes in the first place.

“It’s hard because that’s where she kind of wants to go and explore. So, I just try to keep her to stay in front of me or close by me,” said deSa.

Veterinarians say you’ll know right away if your dog is bitten by a snake because they’ll yelp in extreme pain and the bite site will swell. The good news, while some cases will require antivenom, vets say more often than not your pet can be treated with pain medication and lots of fluids.