Some DeKalb County residents, particularly those whose property borders the snake-friendly nooks and crannies of Fernbank Forest, have been spotting some unwelcome visitors in their yards lately: venomous copperhead snakes. So the people of Druid Hills did what any reasonable neighborhood would do... they asked Southeastern Reptile Rescue (website: snakesareus.com) to bring in more snakes. The idea is to create an old-school, "this town ain't big enough for both of us" situation wherein the newly introduced good-guy (read: non-venomous) snakes eat all the food and the bad-guy snakes slither off into the sunset. Hopefully, a West Side Story dance-off ensues at some point during the showdown. How on earth could a plan like that go awry?
Let's say you don't want to orchestrate a reptilian turf war in your yard but you're nervous about copperheads. (Druid Hills isn't the only neighborhood to have spotted the animals. They've been recently reported in Dunwoody, Kirkwood and several other intown neighborhoods). Here are a few tips:
· Don't go around killing every snake you run across in your yard. You'll likely be killing harmless snakes (only six of Georgia's 43 native snake species are venomous and it's illegal to kill those that aren't) and leaving plenty of food that makes the area attractive to copperheads.
· Learn what a copperhead looks like. He won't have a name tag but he's got the next best thing: a noticeable pattern of 10 to 21 dark-brown hourglass crossbands along his back. These bands are wider at the sides of the body and narrower along the top of the snake's back. They're usually around three feet long but can grow to up to 4.5 feet.
· Watch where you're going! Copperheads hang out near piles of brush or firewood, in and around crawlspaces and in the city's hippest clubs. Wait, scratch that last one. Playing a game of Spot-The-Copperhead is more fun on a screen than in your yard, so practice now:
· Keep things neat. Don't let big piles of leaves and other snake-friendly hiding spots accumulate near your house or where your pets go.
· Don't try to catch or touch a snake. Duh. Tell your kids not to catch or touch snakes.
· If you get bitten, the Georgia Poison Center's advice is to stay calm (so easy!), call 911 or the Poison Center (800-222-1222). If you can describe the lil fella who got you, that'll help. Keep the affected area at an even level with the rest of your body and avoid eating, drinking, taking medication, fashioning a tourniquet for the area, cutting the wound, packing it in ice or sucking out the venom. All of those are terrible ideas.