Rare appearance is made by snake

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When it comes to cottonmouths, it's generally accepted that Richmond County has them and Columbia County doesn't.

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Well, sort of.

The geologic "Fall Line" that separates the Coastal Plain from Georgia's Piedmont region roughly straddles Interstate 20 and the county line -- and the much feared reptile typically is found on the lower side of that highway.

Last week, however, there was evidence the big snakes are moving farther west and into higher elevations.

On Thursday, Columbia County's Animal Control Department was called by deputies who found a huge cottonmouth that had been run over by a car in Evans -- not far from the Mullins Pond off Washington Road.

It measured a whopping 4 1/2 feet.

"It's definitely a cottonmouth, and a large one at that," said Whit Gibbons, senior ecologist at Savannah River Ecology Lab, who has studied venomous snakes more than 50 years.

Its presence in Columbia County, he said, is unusual.

Many people think they see cottonmouths in the Piedmont areas and at Thurmond Lake, but the great majority are similar-looking water snakes.

Although the snakes might be moving to higher elevations by traveling up the Savannah River, there is no scientific reason they would expand their range to cooler, drier climates.

Maybe it's global warming? Time will tell.

SMALLMOUTH GRANT: Scientists will use a federal grant to expand research into the imperiled redeye bass that thrives in fewer and fewer locations -- including the Augusta shoals.

The grant, to be shared by South Carolina's Department of Natural Resources, Duke Energy and the University of S.C., will help finance studies of the redeye, Alabama spotted bass and the newly discovered smallmouths that have turned up near Augusta.

The main concern is that smallmouths have been introduced by unknown means into the Savannah River above Augusta and are interbreeding with the small population of pure redeye bass.

"One goal is to re-sample many of our originally surveyed populations to track changes over time, and identify populations that are still pure (redeye bass)," said DNR biologist Jean Leitner. "Right now we are focused on analysis of the data we have, and developing faster genetic assays for evaluating fish."

Alabama spotted bass were introduced, presumably by anglers, into Lake Keowee in the mid-1980s. This unauthorized introduction resulted in the growth of a significant spotted bass fishery there, which coincided with a dramatic decrease in abundance of native redeye bass.

There was a similar introduction in Lake Richard B. Russell, Leitner said, and Alabama spotted bass has spread throughout Lakes Jocassee, Keowee, Hartwell and Russell. By the early 1990s biologists were seeing physical characteristics of both species in single specimens.

DOVE OUTLOOK: Hunters statewide can celebrate the beginning of dove season at noon on Saturday, and also enjoy a new bag limit expanded from 12 to 15 birds.

"In addition to being the 'kickoff' to the fall hunting season, dove hunting is a prime time to introduce family and friends to hunting, as it is typically a fun-filled day," said John Bowers, assistant game management chief for Georgia's Wildlife Resources Division.

The complete 2008-09 dove seasons are Sept. 6-21, Oct. 11-19 and Nov. 27-Jan. 10.

Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119 or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.

Comments (2) Add comment
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sjgraci
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sjgraci 08/31/08 - 12:43 pm
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41 FEET!!! That's one big

41 FEET!!! That's one big Cottonmouth!

TheVirusOfLife
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TheVirusOfLife 08/31/08 - 05:53 pm
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LoL I think they meant 4 1/2

LoL I think they meant 4 1/2 feet, at least thats what the measurer indicates.

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