My most memorable encounter with a snake was as a camper at Camp Marymount. I was swimming smack dab in the middle of the lake. Suddenly, I hear everyone screaming to get out of the water, and I see two counselors are waving their canoe paddles like maniacs trying to catch something with an empty trashcan—it was a “water moccasin”—or so they said. (Looking back, it probably wasn’t a cottonmouth, but it did a good job instilling a lifelong fear of running across one of these slithering guys).
Snakes are especially front of mind in the summer months when the whole family is spending lots of time together—camping, hiking, and exploring the outdoors. At least, they are mine, and venomous or not a run in with a snake is spooky—especially with toddlers in tow.
The sign below was at the start of my most recent hike alone with the boys—not a good feeling for someone who knows nothing about snakes.
What is that, anyway?? Turns out it is a copperhead.
But what the heck would I do if I came across one of these guys with my kids—especially when my gut would say, scream and throw things at it. Well, that’s the absolute worst thing to do.
Sarah Grimes with the Rome-Floyd ECO Center says if you do come across a snake, venomous or not, it is best to slowly move around the snake, keeping your distance and a close eye on it. Do not throw rocks at it or use a stick to try and move it.
Interesting fact: “in the state of Tennessee, it is illegal to kill any species of snake native to the state,” Grimes says. “In Georgia it is illegal to kill non-venomous native species.” They are an important part of the ecosystem. For example, they control rodent populations.
Snakes are often found hiding under rocks and leafy debris. Snakes are cold blooded reptiles, as a result “snakes will often find sunny spots on rocks or logs to bask for their energy, so you may see them during the daytime,” Grimes says. “Some venomous snakes may be more active during the evening hours when they hunt for their prey.”
If you do spend a lot of time outside with the kids, Grimes says it’s important to familiarize yourself with the most common snakes in your area. Considering there are 44 species of snakes in Georgia (6 being venomous) and 32 species of snakes in Tennessee (4 being venomous)—that’s a tall order.
Grimes says that “one of the most common non-venomous snakes in northwest Georgia (and in the Chattanooga area) is the rat snake, which can be grey or black in color and grow to be up to six feet long. Other common snakes in these areas include common garter snakes, corn snakes, Eastern hognose, common kingsnake, milk snakes, northern water snakes, black racers, and rough green snakes.”
When it comes to being snake aware:
- Wear ankle boots and pants when hiking.
- Don’t put your hands (or feet) where you can’t see.
- Use a flashlight at night.
- Move away slowly.
These are some of our favorite picture books about snakes.
For the little one:
For the 4-year-old:
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