What creatures are lurking behind your shrubs?
by Sue Allen
Cherokee County Master Gardener
November 22, 2012 08:11 PM | 1555 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Last fall when working in my yard an Eastern Garter Snake decided to pass through my herb garden. I quickly got my camera and took a picture. I don’t mind it being in my backyard, but it does like to eat what is in my pond, such as, small fish, frogs and, in the early summer, tadpoles. Then this spring when working on the upper level of the waterfall, another Eastern Garter Snake passed through and was on the hunt for something as it slithered by me flicking the ground with its tongue.

When I was getting my certification to become a Master Gardener I put together a power point presentation on snakes in Cherokee County. I kept using the word venomous and poisonous interchangeably and quickly learned they are not interchangeable. The difference is venom is injected and poison is ingested. So if you think snakes are poisonous or nonpoisonous you are mistaken they are venomous or nonvenomous.

Did you know that there are fewer deaths caused by snake bites than from bee and wasp stings and dog attacks every year in the United States? On average, there are approximately 1,900 related animal deaths, and snake bites account for only 5.5 of those deaths. Most of these bites occur in our very own backyard where people try to remove the snake or pets get a little too nosey, dogs sniff and cats think they are a play toy. Also more bites occur to white males and young adults (18- 28 years of age) trying to impress their friends.

Cherokee County has three venomous snakes the Copperhead, Carolina Pigmy Rattlesnake and the Canebrake/Timber Rattlesnake. The snakes you most likely will encounter will be the garter snake, black racer, rat snake and nonvenomous water snakes. All are very important predators in our ecosystem. Some of the places you might see them will be in your yard, crossing a road or basking near a habitat.

One way to protect your property from snakes is to keep debris cleared from your yard. Snakes will use the debris to keep cool or to camouflage themselves from their predators as well as to catch their prey.

How many of you place your hands, arms, feet or legs where you can’t see them when outdoors? Many of us do; whether it is to retrieve a garden tool, a ball for a child or a pet; or pull a weed. If there is a snake under the shrub it will strike if you grab it by accident instead of what you are trying to retrieve or pull. Also, spiders will bite as well, I know from experience. So never place your hands or any part of your body where you cannot see what is lurking from beneath. A good safety tip is to wear gloves, long sleeved top, closed shoes and long pants. Stomping your feet on the ground and clapping your hands is also recommended because the vibration from the ground and clapping alerts the snake and it will go in the other direction. There is a misconception that snakes cannot hear, but they can. They lack an external ear or ear drum, but their skin and bones picks up the vibrations from the sound and transmit them to a functional inner ear.

The most important thing you can do for yourself, as well as your family, is to become educated on snakes. Once you know the difference between what snakes are venomous in your area and what are harmless it will make observing them from a distance more enjoyable as well as give you peace of mind when your children are playing outside. Visit the following website http://srelherp.uga.edu/snakes/

index.htm to learn more about snakes and how to identify them in Cherokee County and Georgia.

Nonvenomous snakes are protected in Georgia, so please do not kill them. When you see a snake moving in your yard it is just trying to get from point A to point B.

Information about Extension Solutions for Homes and Gardens can be found on the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension website, www.caes.uga.edu/

extension/cherokee. Or contact the Cherokee County Extension Office, 100 North St., Suite G21, Canton, (770) 479-0418. The Georgia Extension Master Gardener Program is a volunteer training program offered through county offices of the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.

Information about Extension Solutions for Homes and Gardens can be found on the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension website at www.caes.uga.edu/extension/cherokee or by contacting the Cherokee County Extension Office at 100 North St., Suite G21 in Canton at (770) 479-0418. The Georgia Extension Master Gardener Program is a volunteer training program offered through county offices of the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.
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