Expert blasts snake strategy in Slate article

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt July 1, 2014
Photo by Greg Hume, Source: Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Greg Hume, Source: Wikimedia Commons

This story has been updated. 

There’s been a big to-do in Druid Hills this summer about sightings of copperhead snakes, a venomous variety native to North America.

Residents of Druid Hills came up with a novel solution to the problem: releasing other snakes. According to WSB-TV, the idea is that the nonvenomous snakes will deplete the food source and the copperheads will slither away in search of food elsewhere. To read the WSB-TV article, click here.

But a recent article takes issue with that strategy.

The article quotes David Steen, a wildlife ecologist and research fellow at Auburn University. He isn’t too keen on the snake relocation strategy.

“There’s virtually no evidence that this will work,” he told Slate. “The relocated snakes have a relatively small chance of surviving for long; the relocated snakes may actually harm the local population of harmless snakes; and the practice may be illegal in your state.”

Turns out he’s right, according to the article. To read the full article, click here.

The snake rescue group that released the nonvenomous snakes said that statement is not correct.

Jason Clark, owner of Southeastern Reptile Rescue, said his company is properly licensed to relocate nonvenomous snakes.

Clark said the relocation was also about raising awareness about leaving snakes alone.

“The snakes we relocate, the snake calls that we get, if we don’t remove the snake it’s definitely going to die,” Clark said. “We’re not just a pest control company. We’re a reptile rescue.”

Decaturish reached out to Glenn Horner, owner of The Wildlife Professionals in Atlanta. He’s noticed an uptick in calls about snakes and says those calls tend to increase after it rains because that’s when the snakes come out to feed.

He said when most people see a copperhead they choose to “terminate their existence.” Horner recommends using a shovel and making sure you separate the head from the body.

“They can still put a biting on you when they’re dead,” Horner said. “Separate the two and bury them.”

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has also published this useful fact sheet about dealing with both venomous and nonvenomous snakes.

Here’s a video on how to identify a copperhead snake:

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of

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  • Jim Dillon

    Since far more snakebites happen to people who are messing with snakes than to people who are minding their own business, my suggestion would be to leave the snake alone. Copperhead bites are quite painful but very, very seldom fatal.

    • SnakeCatcherVictoriaAustalia

      Totally agree Jim

  • SnakeCatcherVictoriaAustralia

    Cutting a snakes head off is cruel and inhumane. After decapitation the body whithse around and is dead apart for the nerves making it wriggle.
    The head on the other hand, will stay alive and aware for upto 15 minutes.. longer sometimes. The head is watching while you dispose of her body and can see smell and think.. It is terrified and will bite you. She is not dead until you crush her head.
    Decapitation is cruel and inhumane, please do not cut a snakes head off.

  • Raini Way

    These people know nothing about venomous snakes. First off, copperheads are just as important to the environment as nonvenomous snakes. Second, decapitating a snake is one of the worst ways to kill it. It would be akin to impaling you and leaving you to die for three days. Third, copperheads are very shy snakes, and their venom is mild compared to the other venomous species. This makes them reluctant to bite. They account for the most snakebites only because they’re the most plentiful species. But generally speaking, copperheads are not all that dangerous.

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