Snakes need some love. Misunderstood and much needed for our environment, snakes get a bad rap. Here’s a quick quiz. Are you more likely to be killed by a snake or a cow in the US? How about a deer? Now think about it and the answers are at the end.
Before we get into why snakes are good, here are a couple of cool facts. Snakes shed their skin once a month as they grow. Unlike humans, the snake’s skin doesn’t grow as the snake gets bigger so they get rid of (or molt) it on a regular basis.
HOW DO SNAKES EAT?
And most snakes eat their food whole. Since they have no limbs to hold onto their prey, they swallow the whole animal and digest it over a period of days. We saw this in person when our resident black snake ate our 7 baby bluebirds just before the birds were due to fledge (or leave the nest). While very, very sad, we could hardly be mad at the snake for surviving on what it could find. We now have a snake-proof birdhouse so the snake will have to find food elsewhere this year.
WHY ARE SNAKES GOOD?
But the big question is why are snakes good to have around, especially if they eat your bluebirds? Back to the quiz. Only 6 people on average die from snake bites a year in the US. Whereas 20 people die from cows often by being trampled and over 200 people die from deer, usually by auto collisions. Most folks bitten by a snake are trying to catch it or kill it. They are way more afraid of you than you are of them although that is probably hard to believe if you are one of the 33% of us that have ophiophobia or a fear of snakes.
Snakes also keep your rodent and tick population in check. As they eat the rodent, they also eat the ticks on the rodent, helping reduce the chance of getting nasty tick-related diseases such as Lymes. Their venom is also being used to develop life-saving drugs. Plus if you keep your distance, they are fascinating to watch slithering through your yard all the while dropping great poop for your garden. What’s not to love?
HOW CAN WE HELP SNAKES?
First, leave snakes alone. They will generally not bother you if you respect their space.
Second, please don’t use rodent poison near your property. When the snake eats the poisoned rodent, it will die as will any raptors (owls, hawks, and other birds) that might eat that mouse or rat.
Do not use bird netting around bird feeders as the snakes could become caught in the netting.
And share positive stories about snakes on social media.