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BONNIE’S GARDEN – World Snake Day

By Bonnie Pega
Bonnie's Garden

July 16th is World Snake Day.  I can already hear some people go “Oh, Gross!”  I used to be one of them, but as a devout gardener, I’ve developed a healthy respect for them.  Still, every summer, I get a lot of questions about how to kill or otherwise get rid of snakes.

So maybe it’s time we learned a bit about what snakes actually do.  Snakes play a very important role in controlling populations of rodents.  They eat moles, voles, rats, mice, etc.  Without snakes, there would be a dramatic rise in garden/crop damage and a big increase in rodent spread diseases.

There are also snakes that eat slugs, snails, beetles, grasshoppers, etc.  They also help to prevent infestations of damaging insects.

SNAKES IN VIRGINIA

There are about 30 species of snakes in Virginia.  Only three are poisonous:  The Timber Rattlesnake is not found in Central Virginia, but in the western part of the state; the Cottonmouth aka Water Moccasin is found in wet areas somewhat east and south of here—most prevalent in the Virginia Beach/Back Bay areas; and the Copperhead which is found in most areas in the state.

Snakes are shy and would far rather avoid contact with you than interact—after all, we are their main predators. When you meet up with one, they tend to freeze momentarily then make tracks.  Just get out of their way.  Most people get bitten because they are trying to trap or kill a snake.

The chances of dying from a bite from a poisonous snake are slim.  To put it into perspective, over 800 people died on Virginia highways last year.  According to the Virginia Poison Center, less than 15 people have died from snake bites in the last 30 years!

KILLING SNAKES IS ILLEGAL

Did you know that it is illegal to kill a snake in Virginia?  It is only legal if it directly poses a threat to the immediate vicinity—like a copperhead in your basement or a snake in your chicken coop.  It is a misdemeanor punishable by a $1000 fine and up to six months in jail.

Most snakes you see are simply en route to someplace else.  If they’re actually hanging around, then you need to start thinking about what is attracting them.  Do you have an infestation of mice or other rodents or an infestation of insects?  Get rid of the food source and snakes will be on their merry way.

So the next time you see a snake, maybe take a minute to appreciate the job they do—before taking a step back and heading indoors.

For more information about snakes, go to www.virginiaherpetologicalsociety.com.

3 thoughts on “BONNIE’S GARDEN – World Snake Day

  1. I have a 5 foot black snake that’s been hanging around my garden for a few months now. I see him from time to time, but just let him be. I have 4 dogs so just try and make sure they never see him. He’s started climbing my front pillars and literally laying his whole body on top of my 3 hummingbird feeders… I can’t tell he’s just waiting for a bird to come and snatch him up. Needless to say, my hummingbirds are coming near those feeders anymore, even when he’s away. What do I do !?

  2. Thank you very much for speaking out for snakes. People need to learn how useful they are. I like to look at them in my garden, especially the nice green colored ones. They are also creatures of God and we need to respect that. Understanding the balance of Nature keeps our planet and our lives healthy.

  3. Michelle, I have a friend who has found a way to keep snakes out of her birdhouses. It might work for your hummingbird feeders, as well. She buys that kid’s toy, a Slinky, and slides it over the poles. Makes it impossible for the snakes to climb.

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