MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY --
Although many people say a “good snake is a dead snake,” Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany’s Natural Resource manager is trying to change this perception.
Snakes, despite their fearsome demeanor, are very important to the ecosystem, according to Julie Robbins, natural resource manager, MCLB Albany.
“Snakes are predators of small mammals such as cotton rats, house mice and other rodents, and they themselves serve as prey for larger mammals and other animals,” Robbins said. “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.”
She stressed that educating the base population is key to helping reduce the fear of snakes.
“There are 41 types of snakes in Georgia, and of that, we have 12 species documented here on Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany,” Robbins added. “Two of the twelve species found on the installation are venomous, the water moccasin (also known as a cottonmouth) and Eastern diamondback rattlesnake.”
She also noted that MCLB Albany Natural Resources makes a special effort to educate all personnel about snakes at welcome aboard briefs, safety programs, through pamphlets and traffic signs, to help reverse the steep population declines seen in some snake species.
For example, the Eastern diamondback rattlesnake, is now a candidate species for the Endangered Species Act. There are two primary reasons this species is a candidate for the list, habitat loss and being killed by humans, according to Robbins.
She further stated Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes are typically found in dry, sandy upland forests across the coastal plain from South Carolina to Louisiana, which also overlaps with the gopher tortoise.
Robbins explained rattlesnakes often use gopher tortoise burrows for homes and that the two species often share the same burrow.
The development of forests into farmland, housing and other urban landscapes reduces the habitat available for these species and makes them more susceptible to being killed on the road, the natural resource manager stated.
Another reason Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes are in decline because people kill them – either by collecting them using gasoline from gopher tortoise burrows, or where they encounter the snakes on hunting leases, their backyards or other places, she revealed.
“Snake bites, although not very common, can be fatal,” Robbins pointed out. “On average, about 12 people in the United States die from snake bites. Most snake bite deaths are from the Western rattlesnake species.
She stressed, however, that almost half of all snake bites occur when people attempt to kill, harass or catch the snake.
“The fear of snake bites is a primary driver for people to kill Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes or any snake they encounter,” Robbins continued, “however, Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes aboard the installation are in a unique situation.
“It's really neat, with as much human activity as we have on base, that our snakes are able to coexist with us,” she said. “For all the people and traffic that constantly move on a daily basis, the rattlesnakes have been good neighbors.”
Providing a robust healthy population for the rattlesnakes are among the many goals of the MCLB Albany’s Natural Resources section.
Robbins described the rattlesnake as long-lived and have large home ranges, with some roaming more than 200 acres.
“We estimate there are maybe 25 on the installation,” she said. “Snakes found on base have been anywhere from 18-inches to 6-feet long.”
People are liable to see snakes during spring and summer months, or on roads during cool nights, according to Robbins.
“Obviously we do not want drivers to run the snakes over, we just want everyone to respect the snake and leave it be,” she said. “People working out in the woods need to be careful walking through thick brush and are advised to wear snake chaps and go slow, so there is a greater chance of seeing snakes or alerting the snake to your presence.”
When found, Robbins stressed that the game warden or Natural Resources Office should be called so the rattlesnake’s location and size can be recorded.
“Do not touch or harass the snake,” she stressed. “If a snake is in an area where it may need to be removed, we will do it. But, if a snake is seen in or near the woods where it is supposed to be, just leave it alone.”
If there is an emergency situation, call Marine Corps Police Department at 229-639-5181. If a snake needs to be removed, call Natural Resources at 229-639-9946 or the game warden at 229-809-2495.