top of page

Lake Snakes, or Snakes on the Lake...

Mother Copperhead Snake with Babies
Copperhead with her babies!

For most people, snakes make them shake in their boots. Snakes are something people love to hate. But really, on Lake Hartwell, 9 times out of 10 you have nothing to fear and the snakes we have in and around the lake are actually very good for the environment and life cycle.

We see questions all the time about snake identification and whether or not the snake they found in their yard or garage is venomous. This article will detail the most common snakes you will find here and help you know what to do when you find one.


First off, contrary to popular belief, there are NO cottonmouths to speak of in NorthEast Georgia. Seeing a cottonmouth here would be extremely rare! So lets not focus on them here.


An overwhelming percentage of snakes that you come across at Lake Hartwell will be non-venomous snakes of one of the following types:

  • Water Snake

  • Rat Snake

  • Black Racer

  • Garter Snake

  • Dekays Brownsnake/Redbellied Snake

  • Ringneck Snake

All of these snakes are harmless and some will even take on and kill a venomous snake.

These snakes feed on small animals like rats and mice, squirrels and moles. You can see how they might be worth keeping around as your property's rodent population will be controlled by having a snake friend around. Water snakes and Rat snakes are very common on Lake Hartwell along with Dekays and Ringnecks.


Ok, Ok, yes we do have a population of venomous snakes near Lake Hartwell. If you do come across one of these beauties, they will most commonly be one of these:

  • Pygmy Rattlesnake

  • Copperhead

  • Timber Rattlesnake

The Copperhead (middle photo above) is by far the most common venomous species in our area. Timber Rattlesnake and Pygmy Rattlesnake are rare and still beautiful. You can see how their colorations sometimes blend in well with their surroundings.


If you are looking for a quick way to know if a snake is "good" or "bad" - here are some tips:

The Copperhead is the most common venomous snake at the lake. Copperheads are banded in an "hourglass" type of shape, some call it a Hershey's kiss pattern to them. Watersnakes bands do not go all the way around their bodies and are typically a broken up pattern or have a split across the top. Also, Copperheads have more of a triangle shaped head while a water snakes head is more narrow straight and rounded. If you can get close enough to see their eyes, a venomous snake's eyes will be more like a cat's eye with a slit pupil. Non-venomous snakes typically have round iris. In the photos above, which one do you think is the venomous one? (Left Photo is a Copperhead-Venomous).


Your heart is racing, your dogs are barking like crazy and you need to know, what do you do if you find a snake in your yard, garage, boat, pool, etc. First off, DON'T PANIC and DON'T GRAB YOUR SHOVEL! There are a couple of things you can do.

  1. Leave it alone. Snakes are more afraid of you than you are them. They see us as predators, not prey.

  2. A gentle spray with a water hose will encourage most snakes to move along in most cases.

  3. Have it relocated. Several snake relocation groups on the lake would be happy to help you out. Scottie Holcombe is one of those people! You can find his contact information at the bottom of this article.

  4. Educate others! Take a photo of the snake and share it in the comments here! Building up a photo library will help your neighbors find out quickly what snake they have found!

  5. Take some time to learn our native snakes and share your knowledge. Lots of educational snake can be found on Facebook. Learning the venomous species first is easy, because there are only a few.

Keep in mind, Lake Hartwell is home to over 20+ completely harmless species of snakes and only three venomous. So when you come across a snake, try to reel in the panic reaction, and enjoy the beauty of this environmentally friendly friend.

For more information on snakes on the lake, visit the Snake Directory on Facebook or call Scottie Holcombe at 706-436-7036. He offers free identification and removal services. You can also visit the GA Dept of Natural Resources for more information on snakes and wildlife on Lake Hartwell.

Here is a free download for you! Provided by the GA DNR for your snake identification convenience!

DNR Snake Reference Guide
Download PDF • 1.10MB

4,828 views1 comment

1 Comment

Jun 11, 2022

Snakes, scary but good to see the Lake Hartwell does not have a problem with water moccasins!

bottom of page