While people socially distance from each other as they enjoy outdoors during the coronavirus pandemic, they should similarly steer clear of snakes.

According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, it’s the season for snakes to be active again. That typically means many calls to DNR about snake sightings and questions about whether the reptiles are dangerous.

A black racer, one of many species of snakes native to Georgia. (John Jensen/Georgia Department of Natural Resources)

The short answer: Leave it alone and “give it the space that it needs,” according to a DNR press release.

In terms of danger to humans, most Georgia snake species are not venomous, and snakes typically bite only when handled or threatened, so leaving the snake alone prevents the risk. Of Georgia’s 46 native snake species, six are venomous, according to DNR, and only one — the copperhead — typically lives in suburban areas.

Snakes can be beneficial to humans because they are predators that eat such pests as rodents, insects, snails, slugs and sometimes other snakes. All of Georgia’s non-venomous snake species are protected under state law, and the eastern indigo snake is protected under federal law as well.

Some non-venomous snake species look similar to venomous species. Identification of the snake’s species should be done only by looking at the animal from a distance and never handling it. The DNR’s guide to snake identification is available on its website here.

If a snake is identified as venomous, and is an area where it endangers humans or pets, the DNR advises using a wildlife removal specialist. The DNR offers a list of specialists on its website here.

Residents can reduce the chances of snakes living or hunting near their homes by getting rid of features that attract their prey, such as brush or log piles.

The DNR says it sometimes gets questions about “baby snakes” and whether they are a sign of a snake nest nearby. Parent snakes do not watch over or tend to their young, so baby snakes will not attract more, according to DNR. And some snake species are simply small, so the “baby” snake may be an adult.

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.