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Copperhead Snakes

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    Copperhead Snakes

    Hi, We've had our farm for 3 years this month just outside Atlanta. We had a contractor working on a fence line by the creek and he noticed a bunch of copperheads, including babies. This creek runs right through our property and every one of our pens abuts it. On top of the 3 horses, we also have 2 dogs. We actively welcome snakes into our barn as a means of rat control; of course, these are the non-venomous type and they have never bothered the horses and the horses don't seem concerned with them. Once we had a rather large tortoise (probably 14" long) in a pen and the horses went crazy not knowing what it was. They kept circling and trying to touch and the tortoise kept hissing.
    I'm concerned about the copperheads. We cross over the creek via a bridge that the horses also use and my daughter saw a baby copperhead right in front of the bridge. I'm concerned one of the horses would be curious and get bitten on the nose or step on its tail and be bitten.

    BTW, last year we had about 10 snakes around our the house (front door, back deck, deck steps, etc.) and put out ziplock bags with paper towels soaked in ammonia. It worked fantastic!

    Anyone have this problem? Any words of wisdom? Ideally, I'd like to get rid of the copperheads and not bother the non-venomous snakes. Thanks in advance!

    #2
    Are you sure the snakes the contractor saw were copperheads? Copperheads tend to be nocturnal in the hot summer months. Also, some non-venomous snakes can be mistaken for copperheads. One example is the water snake, and the snakes the contractor and your daughter saw were all near water, where you would expect to find water snakes. If these are water snakes they are not venomous. I used to catch them as a kid.

    If your horses aren't bothered by snakes in the barn then it is unlikely they would be bothered by them when out riding. And generally, if you don't bother a snake, the snake won't bother you.

    We have copperheads on our property. I rarely see them (only a handful of times in nearly 30 years) and as long as they're not by the house I leave them alone. I've never had a dog or horse or cat get bitten.

    Comment


      #3
      we have roadrunners who eat such snakes

      Comment


        #4
        Copperheads are so reclusive.

        I am also skeptical about a sighting of several near the water and think it’s far more likely they were common water snakes. They can be colored and patterned similarly and have a stout, heavy body that often gets them mistaken for venomous snakes. They also are diurnal and fairly social.

        But, even if they were copperheads, they will probably move into hiding and stay away from human and equine activity. They don’t like regular foot traffic.
        Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO

        Comment


          #5
          If you have lived there for three years, and not had an issue yet, is there something that makes you think it would be an issue now? My bet would be the snakes have been there the entire time.
          "You can't fix stupid"- Ron White

          Comment


            #6
            As a precaution, because chances are you will never eradicate all the poisonous snakes on your property, I'd call my vet and get
            the current protocol on what if a horse or dog gets bitten.

            I've heard that very few vets or clinics even stock the anti-venom needed for such bites anymore due to exorbitant costs. But I'd check in case you ever do have a problem.

            Not the same snake, but my yearling fill was bitten on the nose by a large water moccasin and the vet wasn't especially alarmed when I called. She just said to monitor it and call if there was a problem. Filly nose swelled up and looked like a monster horse for a few days but otherwise was OK.
            "There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery." - Charles Darwin

            Comment

              Original Poster

              #7
              Thanks everyone. When we first moved in, we trimmed all the vegetation on the banks with the exception of the shrubs. As we have a sandy loam soil, the Soil Conservation rep at one point advised us not to trim anymore and we haven't, hence, it's really overgrown. As the banks have caved in over the years, a lot of the banks are covered with very large rocks for stabilization purposes. So this year, we have more vegetation and rocks for them to hide. All together, we've seen about 30 snakes on the property (just guessing). The contractor thought they were copperheads. My daughter (grown woman) is accustomed to snakes on our property also thought it was a copperhead. Unfortunately, from our pens to the creek, there's about a 10 foot drop, so there's plenty of room for various snakes to live without ever entering the water. Last year, we saw this humongous black snake - pretty awesome!

              Marla 100 That's really great advice about the vet. Hopefully we'll see him this week or next.

              clanter Can you FedEx me a roadrunner? Just kidding of course. Luckily we have hawks and owls and other large snakes. Our current snake, nicknamed Willow, is fairly long.

              Comment

                Original Poster

                #8
                Thanks everyone. When we first moved in, we trimmed all the vegetation on the banks with the exception of the shrubs. As we have a sandy loam soil, the Soil Conservation rep at one time advised us not to trim anymore and we haven't, hence, it's really overgrown. As the banks have caved in over the years, a lot of the banks are covered with very large rocks. So this year, we have more vegetation and rocks for them to hide. All together, we've seen about 30 snakes on the property (just guessing). The contractor thought they were copperheads. My daughter (grown woman) is accustomed to snakes on our property also thought it was a copperhead. Unfortunately, from our pens to the creek, there's about a 10 foot drop, so there's plenty of room for various snakes. Last year, we saw this humongous black snake - pretty awesome!

                Marla 100 That's really great advice about the vet. Hopefully we'll see him this week or next.

                clanter Can you FedEx me a roadrunner? Just kidding of course. Luckily we have hawks and owls and other large snakes.

                Comment


                  #9
                  I would just keep your eyes open and see if you can get some photos if you spot them. Then take them to a snake ID group (the north texas one on facebook is one of the best, or reddit /r/whatsthissnake) for confirmation For what it's worth, copperheads seem to rely mostly on hiding and trying to escape before biting. One of our local wildlife groups recently did a study to this effect with local copperheads. Obviously that doesn't help if you step on one, but if you haven't had a real problem thus far I wouldn't worry too much. Keep brush, etc, trimmed around barns and houses, etc. If it turns out they are copperheads there are many folks all over who will relocate them for you. But any time you remove something that's found a good habitat, more will likely move in eventually
                  "smile a lot can let us ride happy,it is good thing"

                  My CANTER blog.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Do check photos & if you have any to share, I'm happy to look at them (wildlife biologist). 99% of the time that people "swear" they ID'd a copperhead, they show me the photo & it's a young rat snake or some other patterned harmless snakes (such as water snakes).

                    Copperheads are EXTREMELY shy -- they're one of my favourite snakes for their beauty, but they are so good at hiding & running away, I don't get many photos because they obviously fear I will steal their soul. They will do everything they can to stay away from any encounters. The ones I have gotten pics of were very cold & thus failed at running.

                    They are also very loathe to bite (venom is expensive to produce & snakes would rather save it for eating) & adult copperheads, if given no other out except biting, will usually give a dry bite (no venom is injected). I have a friend who has been bitten by copperheads multiple times (he's a biologist, you'd think he would eventually learn to look where he steps in the woods, sigh), but all were dry. At any rate, just give them space to move on & they will happily do so.

                    For more info in GA, here's a good starting point at GA DNR's snake page: https://georgiawildlife.com/georgiasnakes
                    Life doesn't have perfect footing.

                    Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
                    We Are Flying Solo

                    Comment


                      #11
                      We've been here 10 years and this is the first copperhead I've ever seen... just a baby (note the bright yellow tail) -- one of the cats was harassing it the other morning, otherwise I'm sure it would have just moved along.

                      200803_7368 by Wendy, on Flickr

                      The DOT is crashing around in the creek bed nearby replacing a bridge, I suspect they've displaced all kinds of creatures in there. Other than this we've seen a few timber rattlers but mostly it's enormous rat snakes and the occasional king snake.

                      Do you have outdoor cats? That and letting the chickens out to free range in the afternoons is my best advice. Cats and chickens will harass snakes and keep them away, or at least identify them so you can deal with them. When I see multiple cats sitting in a semicircle staring at something... it's usually another extremely annoyed rat snake!
                      --
                      Wendy
                      ... with Patrick and Henry

                      Comment


                        #12
                        and there goes Georgia as a place to retire to.....
                        www.settlementfarm.us

                        Comment

                          Original Poster

                          #13
                          caffeinated That's really great advice. I didn't even know that snake FB groups existed. We usually have a phone with us so a photo will work. We were at the barn last night taking pictures of Willow, a snake that we like. Whenever we go down, she pops her head up from the drain in the washrack - totally cute, just like answering the door!

                          wildlifer Thank you! I just googled and it's a really nice website. If we get a photo, I'll send it to you.

                          wsmoak No outdoor cats or chickens, just 1 19 lb. indoor cat who surprisingly can run really fast. We have possums along the creek bed and didn't want them coming into the barns for the catfood. I also really like the snakes, just wish they wouldn't move on. Really gorgeous snake.

                          dotneko I'm a transplant from the midwest and really love it here.

                          Thanks everyone.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            I'm going to go with the probably not a copperhead group. Being that it was near a creek, I'm guessing broadband or banded water snake, but without pictures who knows. Copperheads tend to be out at night at this time of year, hunting cicadas as they emerge, but of course, that's not 100%. It could have even been young cottonmouths.

                            Snakes do not hang around with their babies, so it's likely that the snake was actually livebearing the babies at that time. Both water snakes and copperheads are livebearers.

                            A good rule of thumb, in the US, no venomous snakes have labial bars, so if you see vertical bars on the lower jaw, it's not a venomous snake and all water snakes in the US have these bars.
                            Rhode Islands are red;
                            North Hollands are blue.
                            Sorry my thoroughbreds
                            Stomped on your roo. Originally Posted by pAin't_Misbehavin' :

                            Comment


                              #15
                              "Copperheads are responsible for the majority of snakebites in the Southeast each year." per Atlanta Journal.

                              I've been around snakes most of my life, caught a few and been bit by two. Every year the master gardeners around Atlanta send out warnings about watching out for copperhead babies while doing landscaping or gardening. They are quite plentiful here. Adults are shy but the babies will bite first and ask questions later. I'm not an expert and will defer to wildlifer's expertise. I have gotten warnings about the babies from my dog and horse vets.

                              Comment


                                #16
                                Can you set up a game camera to try to catch videos and photos of the snakes? Seems like you have a better chance of catching them on "film" with a game cam than seeing one, pulling out phone and getting a photo.
                                Oh, well, clearly you're not thoroughly indoctrinated to COTH yet, because finger pointing and drawing conclusions are the cornerstones of this great online community. (Tidy Rabbit)

                                Comment


                                  #17
                                  Originally posted by wsmoak View Post
                                  We've been here 10 years and this is the first copperhead I've ever seen... just a baby (note the bright yellow tail) -- one of the cats was harassing it the other morning, otherwise I'm sure it would have just moved along.

                                  200803_7368 by Wendy, on Flickr

                                  The DOT is crashing around in the creek bed nearby replacing a bridge, I suspect they've displaced all kinds of creatures in there. Other than this we've seen a few timber rattlers but mostly it's enormous rat snakes and the occasional king snake.

                                  Do you have outdoor cats? That and letting the chickens out to free range in the afternoons is my best advice. Cats and chickens will harass snakes and keep them away, or at least identify them so you can deal with them. When I see multiple cats sitting in a semicircle staring at something... it's usually another extremely annoyed rat snake!
                                  Wow, beautiful critter, thanks for sharing!

                                  If you have king snakes, they also feed on other snakes -- lots of king snakes present usually means you won't find so many venomous snakes because they've been eaten for dinner.
                                  Life doesn't have perfect footing.

                                  Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
                                  We Are Flying Solo

                                  Comment


                                    #18
                                    Originally posted by Southernboy View Post
                                    "Copperheads are responsible for the majority of snakebites in the Southeast each year." per Atlanta Journal.

                                    I've been around snakes most of my life, caught a few and been bit by two. Every year the master gardeners around Atlanta send out warnings about watching out for copperhead babies while doing landscaping or gardening. They are quite plentiful here. Adults are shy but the babies will bite first and ask questions later. I'm not an expert and will defer to wildlifer's expertise. I have gotten warnings about the babies from my dog and horse vets.
                                    The vast majority of snakebites occur when people try to do the snake harm so the easiest way to reduce the chances of that is to just leave them alone. Of course, surprises happen for both parties but just keeping an eye out can go a long way -- don't stick your hands under cover without looking (which I am super careful about because we have Black Widow spiders, whose bite is far worse), watch where you step, those kinds of simple things. Remember that if they are cold (mornings, cooler days), they can't dash off right away.

                                    The reason you hear more warnings about juvenile copperheads is that, like most species, young things are dumb. When they bite, the juveniles are more likely to dump venom, before they age & learn life skills.

                                    In my many years working in woods, streams, prairies, & farms, grabbing & tagging & encountering many kinds of snakes, I've only ever been bitten by one -- and since it was a big, beautiful female Banded Water Snake who I grabbed by the tail because I wanted to see her closer, it was totally fair, I deserved it, LOL.

                                    Life doesn't have perfect footing.

                                    Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
                                    We Are Flying Solo

                                    Comment


                                      #19
                                      Originally posted by wildlifer View Post

                                      The reason you hear more warnings about juvenile copperheads is that, like most species, young things are dumb. When they bite, the juveniles are more likely to dump venom, before they age & learn life skills.

                                      This is no longer considered to be true. It's actually been hypothesized that the opposite is true, that young snakes have less venom to inject than mature snakes. I know there have been a few studies done but I'm not sure by who and I haven't actually read them myself.
                                      Rhode Islands are red;
                                      North Hollands are blue.
                                      Sorry my thoroughbreds
                                      Stomped on your roo. Originally Posted by pAin't_Misbehavin' :

                                      Comment


                                        #20
                                        Originally posted by RacetrackReject View Post

                                        This is no longer considered to be true. It's actually been hypothesized that the opposite is true, that young snakes have less venom to inject than mature snakes. I know there have been a few studies done but I'm not sure by who and I haven't actually read them myself.
                                        I think you are misunderstanding wildlifer 's post.

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