How to Identify the Snakes of Georgia

Snakes in Georgia can be identified by two types, poisonous and non-poisonous. Of the 41 species of snakes found in Georgia, only six are poisonous. Snakes' natural habitats are being destroyed, making it more likely that the general public will encounter a slithery friend (or foe). While any snake will bite if provoked, it is vitally important to be able to separate the potentially deadly venomous snakes from the non-venomous. Identifying a snake in Georgia is a matter of making some careful observations about the physical appearance of the snake. Make these observations from a safe distance.

A close look with tell you what kind of snake you see.

Look at the shape of the snake's head. All but one of the venomous snakes in Georgia has a triangular shaped head. The base of the head is much broader than the tip. It almost looks like it has a neck. Non-poisonous, or non-venomous, snakes will have a rounded head without the obvious broad base. Their body will be virtually straight from tip to tail unless they are feeling threatened, then they will flatten their head.

Look at the snake's eyes. Non-venomous snakes have round, circular pupils. The venomous, or poisonous, snake will have elliptical pupils that look like a cat's eyes. Their eyes are oval, not round.

Look for a small pit between the snake's nose and eyes. All poisonous snakes in Georgia will have a heat-sensing pit on each side of the head. This pit is the origin of the term "pit-viper" sometimes used to describe a venomous snake. Non-poisonous snakes do not have these pits. The area between the nostril and eye will be smooth.

Observe the shape of the snake's body. Most non-poisonous snakes will have slender bodies. The poisonous snake's body is wide and thick. Do not confuse length with thickness. Snakes of either variety can range from a few inches to several feet in length.

Look for a skin pattern. The characteristics listed in the steps above are distinctive for the two types of snakes, but skin pattern is not. While most non-venomous snakes have only a minimal pattern, there are some that have variations in colors and stripes. The venomous snakes, on the other hand, will each have its own distinctive pattern of stripes or color splotches. Learn the skin pattern of each poisonous snake if you frequent areas that may be home to snakes (see Resources).