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Snakes of Georgia and the Southeast

Georgia is home to an astonishing 55 species of native snakes. Zoo Atlanta’s extensive Herpetology collection features an impressive representation of snakes native to Georgia and the Southeast, a number of which are found in the metro Atlanta area. Learn more here about just a few examples; visit the World of Reptiles to get better acquainted with the fascinating reptiles that share your environment!

Snakes in your backyard?
All snakes are important parts of their ecosystems, and very few will engage humans without provocation. But as with any wild animal, a threatened or frightened snake may bite, and several species in Georgia are venomous.

  • The best way to approach a snake is to leave it alone!
  • If one wants to avoid snakes from inhabiting your yard try these steps:
    • Remove any brush or debris, because that will attract rodents which in turn will attract snakes
    • Store your woodpiles above the ground on a platform.
  • To learn more about identifying native species or to ask questions about snakes in your area, this is a great online resource.

Nonvenomous

Dekay’s brownsnake – nonvenomous

This tiny snake one of the most common snakes in eastern North America and, by far, is the most frequently encountered snake in metro Atlanta. They live in parks and backyards citywide, where they make their peaceful living eating slugs, snails and worms. Many people confuse them with baby copperheads, but they are far more slender with smaller heads and a less distinctive pattern. These snakes are a great friend to backyard gardeners and we should delight in their presence.

Eastern indigo snake – nonvenomous

Perhaps no snake is more stately and beautiful than are the Indigo snakes native to the deep southeastern U. S. They may reach an impressive length of about nine feet and eat virtually any type of small mammal, bird, amphibian, fish, or reptile that they encounter. They are immune to the effects of snake venoms and readily consume rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cottonmouths. They require large expanses of relatively undisturbed longleaf pine habitat and are famous for sharing the burrows of Gopher tortoises.

Eastern hognose snake - nonvenomous

The eastern hognose snake inhabits sandy habitats, fields and forests throughout  the eastern U.S. The species gets its name from a distinctively upturned snout and exhibits scales patterned in brown, yellow, green, gray and black. Hognose snakes rarely bite, but they are efficient bluffers. Deceptive behaviors like playing dead or hissing and displaying in bluff “strikes” effectively deter many predators. Hognose snakes feed primarily on small amphibians, with a particular preference for toads.

 

Florida pine snake - nonvenomous

Native primarily to Florida, pine snakes are occasionally found in other coastal areas of the southern U.S., preferring shady underbrush and deep sandy soils. One of the largest snake species in the Southeast, Florida pine snakes prey primarily on rodents. Florida pine snakes are non-aggressive and are not known to bite humans. Impressive bluff displays include pronounced hissing and tail-twitching.

   

Venomous

 

Copperhead – venomous
The southern copperhead ranges in deep forests, rocky slopes, and wetlands throughout the southeastern portion of the U. S. Distinguished by their beautiful copper-colored heads and brown-banded bodies, copperheads are easily camouflaged in brush and undergrowth and usually lie peacefully and undetected as humans pass by them. Copperheads are social, frequently sharing dens with other snakes. The species is most active in spring through early fall. Prey includes almost any type of small animal including rodents, insects, birds, frogs and small reptiles.

Cottonmouth – venomous
This is a common southeastern snake that found almost exclusively in ponds, swamps, and streams. The babies are strikingly colored and look like a less colorful version of the a copperhead and the pattern fades to a dull black in adulthood. When approached by a potential threat, cottonmouths typically face their aggressor and display their characteristic gaping white (= “cotton”) mouth as a fair warning.  Unless physically provoked, they are unoffensive creatures that live on a diet of fish, frogs, and rodents.

Eastern diamondback rattlesnake – venomous
Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes are a great icon of the American South, being found in dry pine and palmetto woods of the the coastal plains and Florida Peninsula. These are some of the largest of North American snakes, ranging three to six feet in length, with distinctive brown and ivory diamonds along their backs. Characteristic rattles on the ends of their tails sound at the approach of a perceived threat. If disturbed, rattlesnakes coil their bodies defensively in order to carefully monitor their aggressor. Prey is almost exclusively limited to small mammals.Although they are highly effective pest controllers, eastern diamondback rattlesnakes  often are exterminated as foes rather than conserved as friends. Unprovoked killing of rattlesnakes and practices known as “rattlesnake roundups” not only threaten snake populations, but they also eliminate an important part of the ecosystem.