Snakes on a trail: What would you do?

What would you do if he/she appears in front of you on a trail? (Photo: Ed Kabay, Zoo Atlanta)

What would you do if he/she appears in front of you on a trail? (Photo: Ed Kabay, Zoo Atlanta)

What would you do?

You’re running on a somewhat familiar trail around a small neighborhood lake. At several points the trail forks and you have the option of which way to go. You go left. All of a sudden in front of you is a snake taking up the entire path.

At one point in my life – thanks to STT science classes at Fernbank – I wanted a corn snake (never got one, though). I am not anti-snake; I just don’t know how to identify them. I can’t tell if the snake will kill me or if I’m good.

When I saw a black and yellow snake ahead, I quickly chose to turn around earlier this week. It wasn’t scary-looking or anything. I just didn’t want to mess with it. I picked up some speed (good work snake) and chose the other fork. Usually, animals don’t do much to me while running. Just ignore that barking dog chasing you and it will eventually stop. That’s always worked for me.

As a part of my plan to expand my running horizons, I have started running around the lake at a local park. Snakes come with the territory. The fish in the lake – I’m not worried about them either. It’s the dogs and their owners on the trail that cause me most problems. Actually the owners are the problem. People, please clean up after your dog, even on an off-road trail. It smells, and it’s no fun to step in. I can avoid the snakes. Poop is another issue. Hopefully, neither will be issues July 4 at the AJC Peachtree Road Race.

I'm not scared of this snake - AJC Peachtree Road Race runners snake down Peachtree Street.

I'm not scared of this snake - AJC Peachtree Road Race runners snake down Peachtree Street. (Photo: Bob Andres,

10 comments Add your comment


May 25th, 2011
9:15 pm

I run on Big Creek Greenway in Forsyth County. When it’s not cold, I see a snake almost every time I go out. I saw the black and yellow snake today. I have seen a copperhead as well. Sometimes, I stop and take a picture. Most of the time, i simply avoid the snake. Yesterday, I saw a huge turtle. Actually, the biggest turtle I have ever seen right on the Greenway. That thing was scarier than a snake. I love seeing all the animals at Big Creek.

Mudville Nine

May 25th, 2011
10:34 pm

So I am not a runner, but I hike in several places around the metro area with my dog frequently.

I have seen more snakes in the last month than I have the last few years. I don’t know if it’s because summer weather has come earlier than usual or what, but be careful out there people!

We have almost stepped on a couple before we realized it was there.

And yes, I pick up after my dog. Those who don’t need to be called out.

Ted Striker

May 25th, 2011
11:33 pm

Great column.

Ramblin Recluse Road

May 26th, 2011
5:47 am

A black and yellow snake is a King snake.

Gen Neyland

May 26th, 2011
5:59 am

You’ve touched upon a delimma that faces not only off-roAd runs, but early morning rural asphalt run as well. BTW, did you know that snakes will climb trees and have been known to drop out of them..? Happy trails..!


May 26th, 2011
6:44 am

Yeah I’ve had them drop out of trees in boats with me. Them suckers will make you tear a boat up. There just aint enough room in a boat for me and a snake. Yall do know thats how Jesus learned to walk on water.


May 26th, 2011
7:04 am

I love running by the Hooch right outside the Perimeter. I love to look for snakes in the water there. There are several gorgeous (but a few dangerous) snakes around here. But I also got pretty familiar with the “Southern Reptiles” part in the Audobon Nature guide so I really can know which ones to avoid. King snakes (what it sounds like you saw) are great for controlling pest populations. The only ones that freak me out a bit are cottonmouths…just so dang mean! But overall, wildlife spotting is one of my fave run activities.

At Cochrane Shoals in one 3 mile run I’ve seen a rat snake, blue heron, weird crested bird thing, several turtles (red eared sliders, I think) and countless jays. Gorgeous slice of nature right outside the city.


May 26th, 2011
7:22 am

Love walking on the Silver Comet Trail. Grassy areas are on both sides of the trail, but some careless owners prefer that their dogs poop where people travel without cleaning it up. Come on people!!! Either clean up after your dog or let it do its business in the grass.


May 26th, 2011
3:07 pm

That reminds me of one time when I was running on the Athens greenway, when a stick on the trail miraculously started to move right as I was stepping over it. I then promptly ran the other direction.


May 26th, 2011
10:23 pm

I live in the mountains not far from Highlands. Went out on a low trail a few weeks ago, not far from the Chatooga at the old iron bridge. Was doing seem speed work on parts of the trail which weren’t too rough. Just as I slowed down, there he/she/it was across the entire trail. I think my little-girl scream must have hurt his eardrum (or the equivalent–whatever a snake has): immediately coiled and started rattling. Damn….. Had to turn around and retrace (I’d gone about 3/4 of my loop). Every stick and root I saw the rest of the way back scared the crud out of me. Oh well…