Snakes, Ticks and Screwworms

Published 8:00 am Saturday, May 20, 2017

Venomous snakes have again been in the news. Snake bites are reportedly up 40% over last year. This may be due to the mild winter and early spring which may encouraged them to be more active earlier as well as more people being active.

Of the forty-six species of snakes in Georgia, only six are venomous. Only one portion of the coastal plain contains all six. The six venomous snakes are: Copperhead, Cottonmouth, Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, Timber/Canebrake Rattlesnake, Pigmy Rattlesnake and Eastern Coral Snake.

Fatalities caused by lightning strikes from 2002 to 2011 was 372 or about 37 per year. Death caused by a venomous snake over the same period was a total of 20 or less than two per year. Keeping that in mind, most people bitten by a snake are handling a venomous snake.

A good rule of thumb is never to get close to a snake that is fat-bodied and its head is triangular and wider than its body. The pupil in their eyes are elliptical. Never place your hands or feet where you can’t clearly see them. In snake country, wear snake chaps.

The best first aid is your car key. Get to the hospital as soon as possible. Sucking the venom out or making crosses over the bite just cause more tissue damage.

The best way to keep snakes out of the yard is to cut the grass and brush, keep firewood piles that harbor mice and other rodents away from the house and don’t feed pets in the garage or on the porch. Snakes are looking for a food source. Rodents are attracted to pet food and snakes are attracted to rodents.

Tick season is upon us. The best way to keep ticks away is prevention. Use sprays that contain “DEET,” tuck your pant legs into your socks and keep the grass and brush mowed. Sprinkling “Flowers of Sulphur” inside your clothing may work but you smell like a burnt match.

After working outdoors, do a tick check and remove all attached ticks with a pair of surgical tweezers. I carry a set of “Uncle Bill’s Sliver Grippers” on my key chain. Scrub with soap and a washcloth thoroughly when you bathe. It takes ticks 24 hours to transmit a disease so make sure you remove them in a timely manner.

Good news on the New World Screwworm front. After killing an estimated 135 endangered Key Deer and several other animals, the USDA has announced that screwworms have once again been eradicated in the United States.

Most deer that were killed were bucks in rut that had infested wounds. Once screwworms infest a wound, larvae eat living tissue until the deer dies. It usually takes around two weeks.

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) released 154 million male sterile flies and made 17,000 animal inspections in the process of eradicating the pest. The sterile flies are effective because the female flies mate only once. Each year over two billion sterile pupae are released all the way to the Panama/Columbia border.

Also, used in the eradication process were bins built along wildlife trails containing sweet feed. Paint rollers applied a topical anti-parasitic drug on the necks and chests of feeding deer. In neighborhoods, deer preferred doughnut holes to the sweet feed and they were marked with livestock paint when they received a dose.

Without these very effective methods, the screwworm would be a major pest to both livestock and wildlife in the southeastern states.

What’s going on in Extension?

Jefferson Street Market has transferred to Sim’s Pond on Bailey Road off Roanoke Rd. It begins Saturday mornings from 9:30 AM to noon.

June 3rd: Market on Main begins each Saturday from 8 AM to 10 AM at the Carmike Parking lot. The freshest vegetables in Troup County will be there.

June 6th: Lunch-n-Learn at the library. The topic will be “Becoming a Plant Detective.”

June 19th: Beekeepers Meeting, 7 PM at the Ag Center: Master Beekeeper Keith Fielder will speak on mite control.

June 20th: Troup County Cattleman’s, Philip Brown of the NRCS will speak on improving our grazing program, Dinner is at 7 PM, cost $6.00, call ahead and the program begins at 7:30 PM at the Ag Center.

If you have any questions or concerns, stop by or call the office.

Brian Maddy is the ANR Agent for Troup County Extension. The Troup County Extension office is located at 114 Church Street, LaGrange, GA. 30240 (706) 883-1675. Monday – Friday/8:00 AM – 12 noon and from 1:00 PM – 5:00pm.