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VERIFY: Yes, it is illegal to kill non-venomous snakes in Georgia

According to Georgia law, you could be charged with a misdemeanor for killing a non-venomous snake or it could land you in jail with a $1,000 fine

MACON, Ga. — It's that time of year again when you could come across a slithering snake in your yard, or even inside your house, but what do you do if you see one a little too close for comfort?

Is it legal to kill snakes in Georgia?

Jenny Prater and her family got a big surprise when they walked into their dining room.

"There's a huge snake that's crawled around one of the birdfeeders on our window," says Koutsunis Prater.

Credit: Jenny Prater

"I came running in to see why he yelled 'oh my goodness' and it's at least four, five feet long," added Jenny.

Koutsunis immediately recognized it as a non-venomous rat snake.

"We just tapped on the glass and looked at it and hung out for a while," says Jenny.

"He was really friendly. He looked at the kids and it was actually kind of cool," he added.

But for those of you that think "the only good snake is a dead snake," is it legal to kill snakes in Georgia?

According to Daniel Sollenberger with the Department of Natural Resources, it depends.

"We have a law in Georgia that protects all non-game wildlife and that includes non-venomous snakes."

According to Georgia law, you could be charged with a misdemeanor for killing a non-venomous snake or it could land you in jail and cost you a pretty penny of $1,000.

"The only reason venomous snakes aren't included is that there's a separate law that makes some exceptions," Sollenberger says.

He says while there is a punishment for killing non-venomous snakes, DNR law enforcement officers say it is difficult to prosecute and depends on the county court system and judge involved.

Georgia law also says it's illegal to keep a non-venomous snake as a pet, unless you have a permit.

There are six venomous snakes in Georgia: Copperheads, Cottonmouths, Timber Rattlesnakes, Eastern Diamondback Rattesnakes, Pigmy Rattlesnakes and Eastern Coral Snakes.

Sollenberger says it's highly unlikely you'll be in an area in the state where are six are found, so more often than not, the snake you're seeing is non-venomous, but for your own safety, he says you should learn what those six look like.

"The average person probably knows dozens or maybe even scores or hundreds of logos -- company logos and things -- by sight instantly. Learning a handful of snakes, you can do it."

So, we can verify that it is illegal to kill non-venomous snakes in Georgia, but you can legally kill the venomous ones.

However, Sollenberger says unless they pose an immediate threat, it's best to just leave them all alone.

RELATED: See a snake? Don't panic! Here's what you should do

As for the Prater family, they say they're dealing with a rat problem on their property, so they hope that rat snake is there to stay.

   

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