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How To Attract Snakes To Your Garden
Despite their bad reputation, snakes can be a gardener's best friend. They will happily take care of insect and rodent pest problems for you free of charge. Garter snakes are considered especially beneficial by many gardeners thanks to their taste for slugs.
If you live in an area where poisonous snakes are common, be wary of deliberately attracting snakes to your yard, especially if you have young children or pets. Otherwise, here are some tips:
Chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizer can harm and even kill snakes, and pesticides will certainly kill their primary food supply: insects. If you are making the switch from conventional gardening to organic gardening, you should be aware that you will probably lose more plants to insect pests at first, because most pest species reproduce faster than their predators. However, within a few months to a year, snakes, birds, beneficial insects and other helpful critters will notice the all-you-can-eat buffet going on in your garden and move in. Established organic gardeners typically lose fewer plants to pests than conventional ones.
Provide Hiding Places
Snakes like to hide from predators in cool, dark places. Keeping a slightly "messy" garden is the easiest ways to do this. Brush piles, fallen logs, and loosely stacked rock piles all make perfect hiding spots for snakes. Taller vegetation, especially grasses, also make good hiding places.
Provide Warm Places
Because snakes are cold-blooded reptiles, they also love to bask in the sun on warm days.
Dry-stack rock piles (no mortar) are great because they offer both dark crevices to serve as hiding places and sunning spots. Snakes also love to rest under black plastic sheets that are used to smother weeds and in piles of decomposing grass clippings, wood chips, and other organic matter left in the sun.
Red in Tooth and Claw
Although the preferred foods of many snakes are pests, snakes will also eat beneficial wildlife when given the opportunity. There are few sounds more pitiable than a nest of fledglings or a young frog trapped by a snake. Do not try to interfere in these cases - it is best to let nature run its course.
Unfortunately, there is not much you can do to protect your frogs and toads, since they have similar food and habitat needs as snakes.
You can protect birdhouses by placing them on poles with cone guards.
Many snakes are killed accidentally every year when they are stepped on, mowed over, decapitated with shovels, and similar fates. Walk carefully in areas where snakes are likely to be hiding or basking. (This is especially important in area with poisonous snakes, whether you are trying to attract them or not.) Before mowing or using a weed whacker on tall grass or overgrown weeds, walk carefully through the area or shake the plants with sticks to alert any snakes in the area to leave. Move logs, rocks, and brush carefully to prevent startling or crushing any hidden snakes.
For most snakes, a shallow basin of water set on the ground is enough. Snakes will also appreciate garden ponds and other water features, as long as there is at least one shallow edge and/or logs or rocks that can be used to safely reach the water. Shallows and ledges will also attract birds, frogs, toads, turtles and other wildlife, so they are a good idea for any wildlife lover's pond.
Cool Video About Garter Snakes
- Living with Wildlife: Snakes
Information from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, but useful for many areas of the United States