Doppelganger Reptiles in North Georgia

Snake Sensibility: How to Avoid Misidentification

by Kristin Love

With warmer temperatures on the rise, hikers are heading out in droves to explore the trails surrounding middle and North Georgia in search of incredible vistas and terrain challenges. As many are finding out, the chances of encountering a slithery wildlife member along those adventures are increasing as well. One hazard of these very natural encounters is completely preventable, misidentification.

Many of Georgia’s native snakes mimic other snakes for a variety of reasons, which is typically done when a harmless species mimics another more potentially harmful species to scare off predators. Keep reading below to decipher these copycats and feel more prepared when encountering snakes along the trails.

Copycat 1: Copperhead vs. Northern Water Snake

FALSE: Copperheads are highly aggressive and hold a heavy amount of toxins in their venom that kill hundreds of people a year.

FACT: Copperheads avoid encounters with large predators (i.e., humans) at all costs. Only five (5) people die per year in the entire U.S. from ALL venomous snake bites!

Copycat 2: Scarlett King Snake vs. Coral Snake

“Red and yellow, ignore that fellow; Red and black, friend of Jack.”

FALSE: All venomous snakes have large, thick bodies and triangular-shaped heads.

FACT: The coral snake is slender and small, typically under 20 inches long! These snakes have a round, bulbous head, which is blunt and black to behind the eyes, and its colored bands that completely circle the body instead of breaking at the belly.

Copycat 3: Rattling

FALSE: Only Rattlesnakes can rattle, which is always an aggressive behavior.

FACT: Almost all snakes can somewhat rattle their tails at an intense speed, which mimics the sound a Rattlesnake creates. Many snakes engage in this behavior to scare off potential threats, especially Corn Snakes and Pine Snakes. While Pine Snakes have no federal protection, several states have them listed as threatened, with a few having laws protecting them.

The Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve provides a haven for native wildlife to be able to live their lives as naturally as possible with minimal interference from human beings. More and more of snakes’ native habitat is reallocated with higher human populations and business/residential development, which makes natural preserves like Chicopee Woods even more vital in protecting native species in our area. We depend on the public to admire wildlife from a distance, which promotes both human and animal health and wellbeing.

If you have any questions on how to identify certain snake species or how to hike safely, please call Elachee at 770-535-1976 or email us at

2022 Wildlife Festival at Elachee

Saturday, September 10, 2022 from 10-3

Mark your calendar for this annual family-friendly favorite that celebrates creatures great and small, both native and exotic wildlife. Meet herpetology, birding and ecology experts. Enjoy exciting reptile and raptor demonstrations and related activities. You may also enjoy a petting zoo and tree climbing! DETAILS