2013 is Year of the…Snake

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Posted by justtracy | Posted in Wildlife | Posted on 23-02-2013

If you are a Chinese Horoscope fan, you already know that we are now in the Year of the Snake: a year of progress and attention to detail.

If you are a gardener, you have probably encountered a few more snakes than the average person. Especially the Garter Snake (sometime mistakenly called the Garder or Gardener Snake), one of the most common snakes in the eastern U.S.  Most people have a fear or at least disdain for these legless lizards.  While I don’t enjoy encounters with any of them, I do know that they provide some benefits to the gardener, like controlling rodents such as chipmunks and squirrels and insects like grasshoppers. And some snakes even prey on other poisonous snakes.

For detailed information on managing snakes in your yard, see Managing Wildlife Damage: Snakes from the Virginia Cooperative Extension.  Or search your local state extension website for information on Snakes in your area.  The title above bothers me a bit as snakes actually do no harm to a garden other than frightening the unsuspecting gardener from time to time.  This publication also points out that of the 30 species in Virginia, only 3 are poisonous.  I also learned it is illegal to kill any snake in the state unless you are in imminent danger.  This publication also has good tips on ways to control and remove snakes from you yard as well.

For more information on why snakes can be good for the garden, see Snakes: Good for the Garden.

I will still always keep my distance of any snake and recommend everyone do the same. Stay calm and remember most snakes want to avoid you as much as you want to avoid them. And any snake that feels threatened will bite, which can be a painful experience.  Most snake bites occur because people get simply to close (about 6 feet) trying to get a closer look or pick up a snake.  Best advice: don’t handle snakes!  Back away slowly and remember they can strike a distance at least half their length. And know what attracts them to your yard in the first place and make changes to your environment to discourage them (dense ground covers, tall grasses, wood piles, rocks, water, birdseed on the ground that attracts rodents, etc.).  And snakes have predators too…enter our friend the Hawk.

 

 

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