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Readiness Enabler for Operational Forces  •
Natural resource manager helps curb fear of snakes through education

By Nathan L. Hanks Jr. | Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany | May 14, 2015

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Hearing the word snake sends some people into a state of panic.

At least 20 percent of the U.S. population suffers from some degree of snake fear, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

Julie Robbins, natural resource manager, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, wants to help curb that fear by educating the base community about the different types of snakes in Georgia and aboard the base.  

“There are 41 snake species in Georgia and a majority of those snakes are nonvenomous and harmless,” Robbins said. “The most common snakes found on the installation are the rat snake, black racer and Eastern hognose snake, which are nonvenomous.”

There are six kinds of venomous snakes found in Southwest Georgia including Eastern diamondback rattlesnake, timber rattlesnake, pygmy rattlesnake, copperhead and water moccasin, better known as cottonmouth.

Of these, the Eastern diamondback rattlesnake and the water moccasin have been documented on base, Robbins said.

Robbins described the physical differences between venomous and nonvenomous snakes.

“In general, venomous snakes have distinctive triangular-shaped heads as a result of the venom glands found in the mouth,” she said. “Additionally, venomous snakes have ‘cat-like’ pupils compared to the round pupils of nonvenomous snakes. The one exception is the venomous coral snake, which is brightly patterned with alternating red, yellow and black segments in that order. Coral snakes are unlikely to be encountered on the installation.”

Robbins stressed that snakes should be left alone.

“Most snakes, even those that are venomous, are normally not aggressive unless provoked,” Robbins said. “The best thing to do it to walk away and don’t mess with them.”

“Please do not harm or kill snakes particularly those encountered away from homes or work spaces,” she said. “Many species of snakes attempt to bluff or mimic venomous snakes by striking, rapidly vibrating their tails, opening their mouths and/or flaring their throats. If handled, some species will also bite vigorously or expel a foul smelling, musky odor.”

Robbins added, “Approximately half of all bites occur when individuals attempt to capture, harass or kill a snake.”

Although some individuals say a good snake is a dead snake, they do play an important part of the ecosystem in Georgia, Robbins said. “Snakes are predators of small mammals such as mice, and themselves serve as prey for raptors, larger mammals and other animals. Without predators such as snakes keeping populations in check, mice and other rodents can reach densities that cause damage to crops and structures such as homes.”

Snake Tips: (Information from MCLB Albany Natural Resources Snake Encounters brochure)

# Be careful working around brush piles or other debris. Use a rake or long-handled tool to move brush, debris or other materials before picking it up.

# Snakes prey on small animals including mice, rats, lizards and frogs. Removing habitat for these animals (eliminating brush piles, wood piles, sources of food, etc.) will help reduce unwelcome encounters with snakes.

# Wear snake chaps or tall leather boots when walking in thick vegetation.

# Products that claim to keep snakes at a distance should be viewed with skepticism. These products are not generally effective outdoors.

# Seek medical attention immediately if you are bitten by any venomous or unknown snake. Do not and attempt to draw out the venom. If possible, collect the snake or provide a description of the animal to medical staff.

If a snake needs to be removed, call Natural Resources at 229-639-9946 or the game warden at 229-809-2495.
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