Re: Snakes in the Garden

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We have occasional black (rat) snakes. These snakes are big--up to 6 feet long. One wound around a dieffenbachia to the top. These snakes eat copperheads, rats, moles. and other pests. I've seen 3 copperhead snakes on my property in 12 years, but many more black widow spiders which are more dangerous. Learn to identify snakes, most are very beneficial. Watch where you put your hands and where you step and you will propbably never have a worry. They don't want to be in your house, but you can help by keeping the doors closed and tight. Many folks have a natural fear of snakes; something I never understood. I have found snake eggs in the compost pile--I guess the heat attracts them. There's a product with sulphur that supposedly deters snakes but I havn't tried it.
We had a skink living in the garage one year that sunned himself every afternoon. Gave him fresh water everyday in a small dish. His job was eating all the roaches and spiders in the garage. One day he just disappeared. One of my neighbors kills them.
On Tue, 09 Sep 2003 08:28:37 GMT, "Shell91"

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We have those as well as several water snakes. I didn't know they ate copperheads. Haven't ever seen a black widow here, I imagine there are some around somewhere but we've never seen any. We keep an eye out for brown recluses though.
I never harm geckos or lizards, skinks or toads or frogs either. They're welcome to all the roaches and mosquitoes they can eat :) In fact last night I caught George the Wonder Gecko and his twin Jeffrey and put them outside :) We had 12 geckos on the garage wall last night around and under the security light. It's a real treat to hear them chirping at night.
Mostly I just want to discourage snakes from hanging around by the sliding door to the back yard.
Shell
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Is this maybe a case for Your Local Extension Service? I was about to post something on the rarity of truly dangerous snakes in the US, but it sounds as if you live one of the few areas that has 'em. All I know about is *attracting* small beneficial garden snakes with wood/twig piles. I suppose (newsgroup speculation) one thing to do would be to find out what sort of habitat they *like* and get rid of it. Particularly close to your house.
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Yep, Houston has it all including both warm and cool weather mosquitos so I get bit year round :)
Shell
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I don't buy that. I do buy that people vary in how sensitive they are to changes in the environment (some more jumpy than other) and then you have a great deal of social messages sent out from day one (little girls are dressed in pink and lace - told not to get dirty, kept close and not allowed to explore on their own - little boys told to go out and play, dressed in dark colors, plaids, etc.)
I'm not the least bit afraid of "creepy, crawlies" but I certainly respond if I feel something crawling on me. Whether that response is negative or not is pretty much what we have been taught.
DKat
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I guess the young ones that you say are coming into your house are either stupid, cold or hungry. Not much you can do about the stupid, except maybe hire out your local rent-a-mongoose. Water moccasins and copperheads are typically found near water, and as you probably guessed the flood control ditch is probably the source of your problems.
You could try amending the fence in a way to inhibit the migration of snakes or at least make it more likely for them to be caught by a predator when making the crossing (example: a border of white paint or chalk). If the fence is already more or less solid, find out what hole (s) they are crawling through and stuff it.
- S
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In many regions, just before winter, snakes migrate from considerable distances to shared dens. In some places even kingsnakes that eat other snakes den harmlessly with species they would eat at any other time of the year. Harmless snakes can be found denned by the thousands with rattlesnakes by the hundreds. During the migration process snakes will be crossing the small properties of housing developments that never used to be there -- same goes for newts & toads migrating en masse to breeding swamps at winter's end, arriving from miles around, formerly passing through forests on their way to the Call Of The Orgy, but nowadays passing through suburbs & being crushed by the thousands crossing highways.
Snakes returning from the edges of their dispersal pattern to the centralized winter den tend to make this journey over a slightly lengthier period than toads & newts or ambystamid salamanders who species by species are all on the move for scant days trying to arrive at ponds simultaneously. They'll appear en masse, then be gone just as suddenly. Snakes can be passing through for a few weeks.
Hopefully the snake den is not discovered by children, nor by adult snake-haters with dynamite, so that the den continues to be of use even with human settlement encroaching. Some of these dens are used for generations, conceivably for centuries. New ones tend to be established at the foot of stone landslides & if not extremely old will have smaller but still impressive hibernation populations.
When a den is discovered in the midst of a development area, even if there are no poisonous snakes in the area, some ignorant goon is apt to poison, burn, or blow it. Such depravity has caused the destruction secondarily of many garden & orchard trees when after the mass snake extermination the rodent population rises so dramatically it can no longer feed itself, & so eats the bark from around the bases of trees, with increased health risk to humans from zoonotic diseases carried by said overpopulation.
Also field studies have shown these animals can become befuddled by changes in landscape. Salamanders can become confused and never find their way back to their traditional breeding ponds if they have to cross farmland that was for years plowed south to north, but then one year is plowed east to west, implying some visual & landmark recognition for these local migrations. Snakes too, finding their areas of passage inexplicably broken up by new housing & roads, may never again find their traditional den, & will have to make due in the basements of houses.
When eventually the den is molested or destroyed by harmful humans, the next time a snake migration heads to winter hide-away, they will be forced to seek out new lodging willynilly all over the place, singly or in small clusters. There is no reason they MUST den en masse, & the only thing that makes their situation difficult to adapt to is the human tendency to smash them all to hell with shovels. Their den having been lost or destroyed thanks to human decimations, snakes begin entering the crawlspaces or basements of houses when autumn temperatures drop & the hibernation spot that served thousands of snakes for generations can no longer be located. Dispersed through development areas & slowed down by autumn temperatures, they become easy pickings for pets, birds, children, & adults that keep diminishing ophidian populations & their environments.
In deserty areas where rattlesnakes may be at issue, or near southern wetlands with water moccassins, fears of snakes may have a survival value for humans. In other places where racers, garter snakes, & harmless constrictors are the only snakes ever to be encountered, the human desire to kill them on sight is not beneficial to human survival, as our destruction of all things of nature does come back to haunt us eventually, in ways that afflict our own health & well being.
As kids none of us were afraid of snakes. Adults told us never to harm them. Everyone's gardens, fields, ponds, & nearby run-off ponds had at least garter snakes, which everyone WANTED in their gardens because they eat slugs. Why this old attitude has been supplanted with a preference for wacking them with shovels would seem to have very little to do with our evolution breeding fear into us because in some places they're poisonous, & everything to do with the human population's decreasing familiarity with the natural world. Most mammals from lowest to highest fear what is new to them. It's easier today for humans to overcome fear of loud noises & instant death wrought by guns and automobiles or warmongering presidents, which are too familiar to frighten us as they should. Yet if a totally harmless & even beneficial garter snake wiggles out in front of us, it's instantly "omigod what the hell is that get me a sledge hammer!"
Add to that the pure destructive meanness of omnivores for which anything that exists, whether it can move or can't move, is fair game for destruction, & the only reason we don't stuff it all in our mouths after it's mashed is because the microwave oven is more than fifteen steps away & we're already stuffed with McGreasy Burgers & pizzas, just like that well-fed pitbull won't stick around & eat the child it just mauled to death.
-paghat the ratgirl
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"Of what are you afraid, my child?" inquired the kindly teacher.
"Oh, sir! The flowers, they are wild," replied the timid creature.
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snipped-for-privacy@netscapeSPAM-ME-NOT.net (paghat) wrote in

This sounds kind of hokey. I wouldn't think amphibians would have keen eyesight at all. If anything I would guess they are myopic to suit their amphibious nature. I would guess it's more likely they're following a narrow chemical trail that if heading N-S would be not be much affected by plowing N-S (same chemicals but on different places on the trail), but would be dispersed willy-nilly by E-W ploughing.

Actually, being cold-blooded, they would freeze to death if alone. But like any living animals, are at least 80% water and have good heat retention. Underground in in sheltered area, on ground with high thermal resistivity, with friends to share heat loss, give them a good chance of making it to the spring.

I dunno paghat, there is something aboriginally evil about snakes. What is the essence of a snake? Primally, a snake is just a mouth connected to a body, well adapted to a life of consumption and seemingly ill suited towards any act of creation. You may recognize that some politicians (or even ordinary people) bear a striking resemblance.
That said, I'd sooner whack a politician than a harmless snake.

I don't think there is anything intrinsicly 'mean' about omnivores. However, people, if you subscribe to evolutionary theory or psychology, operate on different levels. Brutes. fearfuls and children who don't know any better will always attempt to fight or flee. Technology, giving man superior power, emboldens him to fight, while population pressures removes most options to flee. Otherwise, there is the third option, clearly not popular, and not even clearly better, so it stands; make the bed you sleep in.
- ST
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It IS remarkable, but that's the prevailing theory. I know from my own animals that eyesight is not a problem for amphibians. For my tiger salamanders & european fire salamanders, when I look at them, they turn their faces to my face & look me eye to eye. When I hold up a worm or a cricket, they rush to the front of their terrarium to take it from me, even when seen outside he glass. They're clearly responding by site. Whether their pond-homing instinct which can extend for several miles is judged by sighting landmarks is unprovable, but the prevailing hypothesis, since changes in the landscape confuse them on their journeys. And a salamander's idea of (or response to) a landmark might be wildly different from yours or mine.

Well that at least is an alternative hypothesis beyond the idea of landmarks. I'm not sure how it would be observably proven wrong or right, so it's an interesting optional possibility at least, not one I've seen expressed in any of the literature, but that a hormonal Thaang is also going on to trigger these newt, salamander, & toad "marches" en masse to their breeding pools is likely (though the breeding responses are triggered by temperature & degree of wetness, & can be triggered out of season artificially by manipulating temperature & apparent rainfall).

Since their bodies generate no heat (pythons excepted -- they do have a little-understood body-warming mechanism & have even been observed regulating egg temperatures with their bodies, rather like broody hens), snakes certainly wouldn't warm each other up. The possibility of masses of snakes cooling down more slowly might explain why old dens do become increasingly populated until some include thousands upon thousands of snakes. They do also shelter singly or in small numbers, however, very effectively. Some garter snakes can even be frozen solid & thaw out in spring perfectly all right, yet they cluster in dens by the thousands -- so their ability to survive freezing seems to have little to do with mass-denning behavior practiced by snakes of many species that share few other behaviors in common.

For some people, that response is to cats, though to me a fear of kitties is absurd. For others, its to rats, which are so much like small puppies in their intelligence & loving behavior, that too seems irrational to me. I happen to have that response spiders, even knowing that in my region at least, none of them can kill me -- logically knowing they're largely safe, I've still never gotten over the jerk-away response when surprised by a big spider, & dislike picking them up even on reflection. This is true for me only of "running" brown spiders -- I find nothign at all scary about an orb spider, which get in my hair when I accidentally walk through their webs & give me none of the fear response I get from a hand-like spider running out from a dark place. So fear of one style of spider makes sense to me because I "feel" it & I suppose fear of cats makes sense to people who feel that. I have never found snakes anything but beautiful & easy to handle, though I've never wanted to handle rattlesnakes, & on a herp society outing to eastern washington to investigate rattlesnake dens, passed on the chance to handle them though they seemed calm enough, safely manipulated, & no great danger. I didn't even have the sinking feeling of fear I get from a big running spider, but I just felt no particular reward in taking a chance with the rattlers either. If there is a survival value to these seemingly random fears -- that in some people can become a cripping phobic response to such things as shirt buttons or feet -- then it's a value that has gone all haywire in the process of evolution & is not because there's any real reason to fear little kitties or shirt buttons OR snakes.
Yet there is very little snake-mythology that is entirely devoid of an element of fear -- even Chinese serpent mythology which assumes a profound nobility is also edged with powerful authority -- so though it makes little sense to me, it's clear that it is indeed much more common to be scared to death of snakes than of shirt buttons.

When you see vegetarian gorillas delicately handling & admiring small animals in the wild with curiosity & affection but never harming them (as captured on nature shows), then compare that to omniverous chimps wacking the same beasties & fighting over the pieces, our own omniverous behavior in wrecking everything we encounter in nature seems indeed an omniverous trait. That some of us have the same delicate adoring responses to wildlife that gorillas have, while others can't imagine going on a walk in the woods without a rifle to kill something, suggests that it is a range of behaviors, & in more primitive times this range likely resulted in specialized behaviors within an extended social order, just as is true in our more "civilized" social order that requires specific skills & specialization to make a living.
Most animals are attentive mainly of what they can eat, or what can eat them, & ignore everything else. As omnivores there's not much that fails to capture our attention, whether a little mushroom that doesn't move or an antelope that runs like hell -- even a bear that might try to eat us we have to eat it first. Grab it, mash it, shove it in your mouth before someone else shoves it in theirs, no matter what it is. Bugs! Yum!

Territorial restrictions for many human populations occurred even in low population areas, wherever it was not necessary to travel distances to find food or to follow wild herds or feed domestic herds. People stay put if they can; "specialists" transport goods between the settled communities. Here in the coastal Northwest & along the Columbia river, tribes were often restricted in their wanderings with very well defined territories, food being so plentiful nothing encouraged nomadism or a need to cross territories of other tribes (with a very few special exceptions of the Klikitat inland festival of all tribes, or the "casino" tribe at the mouth of the Columbia that invited all other tribes to visit duruing the salmon runs (& did not themselves capture salmon because they ran the gambling concessions instead, so that some of the visiting fishermen went home with none of the fish they'd caught).
Technology is an explanitory advantage only if one regards the cleverness in chasing buffalos off a cliff a "technological," or digging a hole too big for a mammoth to get out of, the shovel being the extent of that technology. But as toolmaking or tool using has turned out not to be exclusive to humans, I'm not sure technology is the overriding factor. That we've taken it vastly farther than other species of tool-users seems to be to our DISadvantage, unless supplanting all of nature with concrete really does have some long-term advantage for our species as we warm up the planet, melt the polar caps, toxify our immediate environment, drive all other species to extinction, eradicate all forests, & by means of rapid travel introduce new terrible diseases into our populations with increasing regularity. I've a sneaking suspicion that when technology has run its course, we'll have killed ourselves.
-paggers

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"Oh, sir! The flowers, they are wild," replied the timid creature.
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I personally am not afraid of any animal, reptile, insect, or whatever with the exception of the two legged kind. I do have a healthy respect for anything which might bite me and do damage or make me ill, so I watch what I pick up or walk through.
Shell
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snipped-for-privacy@netscapeSPAM-ME-NOT.net (paghat) wrote in

That's true.

My thinking is that while they won't generate any heat, they will gradually lose some of the heat they brought with them. However, with a bunch of snakes at the same temperature, the heat transfer will be slow.

I heard about that, didn't remember until you mentioned, though. I dunno, they may come out of it alive, but I imagine it can't be too good for them. At any rate I still think the survival chances are better en masse. I mean (if you're the snake) who knows when it'll be warm enough to thaw out. You'd be like, oh shit here's a badger thinking 'snake popsicle' play dead play dead. Wait, I can't move.

I guess I have the same type of aversion towards insects. I'm not really scared of them, but I'll be damned if I'll let one touch me. The only insects I'll willingly touch are mosquitoes and only to crush them. I'll also attempt to flick houseflies to hell with my fingernail if I can sneak up on one. Other pests I'll have to use gloves or some other indirect method.

I'm not that familar with Chinese serpent mythology, only "Legend of The White Snake", but the rest seems to cast snakes unfavorably. There's also some Greek myths favorable to snakes, not sure I remember then correctly, but one is Aesculapius (the physician) getting the "gift of tongues" by having snakes lick his ears. There's also the episode in the Iliad where Lacoon (?) and his kids (?) get eaten by giant serpents at the altar. Good if you're a Greek, not so good if you're a Trojan.

hmm, I've seen some of the shows you might be talking about, especially with Jane Goddall and some of her chimpanzee studies. But I keep thinking about bonobos (but I don't know if they are omnivorous, but being nearly identical to chimps I would say so). The shows I've seen make bonobos out to be the hippies of the animals world. Additionally, pandas are omnivorous, and while they can go mental on you, seem to be content to sit around. Still more, adolescent elephants, clearly herbivorous, have been known to kill rhinoceroes for no good reason (Cynthia Moss). When they brought in some older elephants to serve as role models, the rhino killing stopped. There are some other examples of elephants going on rampage, but those acts seem more retributive than wanton.

Well that's the rub. Technology gives people power to do things that they could not every possible hope to accomplish by themselves. But eventually when Mephistophles comes to Faust for payment, things will have come full circle.
- ST
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The majority of really ancient snake mythology seems to shift around the idea of the serpent as an emissary of a cthonic goddess, later in antiquity sometimes also of a god, & this cthonic divine serpent has rule over all diseases. This means serpents cause diseases, but also that they cure diseases. Many Semitic goddesses were depicted wrapped in a serpent, & the Greek maenads kept them as pets & "wore" them in their hair as symbols of terror & of Cybele. The naga divinities (cobras) of India cause & cure diseases, in service of such goddesses as Sitala or Kali. The bronze serpent-idol of Moses did the same; it was worshipped for a long while, into the time of kings even within the Temple, being a personfication both of poison & of the antidote. Asclepios's serpent is of that kind & Mose's rod-serpent & Asclepios's caduceus probably have a common origin; Christians have said this serpent was a precursor to Jesus on the cross, but I have to admit I've never entirely got that one; I bet the association of Jesus as Serpent came about because Jesus as a deity resembles Attis the adopted son of Cybele (& son of the virgin nymph Nana, impregnated by an almond), Cybele having been one of the greatest of the mothers of snakes in antiquity.
In China the royal lineage was represented by a five-direction dragon which is mainly a long snake-body with tiny legs & whiskery goat-head, & most of its mythology is positive, but in an awesome way intended to frighten & instil subserviance to the royal family. A similar serpent was tamed by Kwannon (who as Benten in Japan is commonly depicted as riding on this serpent). It ofen represented storm & chaos in the sea or in the heavens, but was a powerful ally when it submitted to a divine power. Some "legged" serpents are presumed to predate Eden when the legs were lost because the serpent was so sneaky & had finally to go upon his belly. The serpent Tiamat represented chaos, & is still around in Greek myth when Zeus wrestles with it; in the book of Job, God tames this very Leviathon & puts her on a thread for little girls to play with. Innana possessed a serpent that lived in the roots of the haloopa tree, probably the same tree that had the Golden Apples of the Sun guarded by a great serpent in its roots, & again the same as the serpent/labyrinth that represented Gaea as source of all life & source of all death.
-paghat the ratgirl

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snipped-for-privacy@netscapeSPAM-ME-NOT.net (paghat) wrote in

It's easy enough to imagine how this came about, if you take 'snake' semantically to be 'limbless creature'. After all, maggots and various worms are easily associated with death and the idea of 'returning things to the earth'. A genuine ophidian, being the pinnacle of limblessness, despite not really having the same death associations of worms and maggots, would make a suitable herald or emissary for any chthonic diety.
Perhaps the notion of the snake as a healer can be explained by the use of venom medicinally. If you take that and the notion of sin as disease, then the cross-Jesus:caduceus-snake analogy fits well, at least superficially. (I've read some pendants arguing about the true nature of a caduceus, but I don't really recall the arguemnts; here I mean the physician's symbol, a winged staff interwined with two serpents).

The traditional Chinese royal symbols are the dragon ('long-2' in Mandarin) for males and phoenix ('feng-4') for females. The Chinese dragon may superficially resemble a snake, but the written character for dragon is absolutely distinct from the character for 'snake' ('she-2') [the character for 'snake' contains the morpheme/radical for 'limbless wriggly creature' (now referred to as "insect") while the character for 'dragon' occurs as it's own morpheme (still "dragon")] and the associated semantics should be as old as the writing system. There's no confusing the two, unless something got lost in translation. It's not the same as in English, where although both 'snake' and 'dragon' can occur as distinct ideas, both can use 'serpent' synonymously. There is no such metonymy in the Chinese.

I guess here is where the Western idea of 'snake' as agent of death and by extension 'dragon/uber-snake' (primordial snake that has not lost it's legs) as agent of destruction differs from the Chinese idea. Chinese dragons are masters of destruction, but also agents of creation, e.g. controlling the rain, bringing forth life when adequate, but flooding and destruction when too much. Normal "Chinese" snakes, (being regarded highly but also listed as one of the "five noxious creatures") have nothing to do with that (and don't normally have supernatural status).

There's also the Norse Midgard serpent being only the final source of death. I always thought he lived in the "World Tree" gnawing at it, but apparently Odin just chucked him into the ocean and dispensed with the tree.
- S
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Cool, I will definitely change the batteries. I'm allergic to bees and wasps and several other stingers. I've been seeing a lot of wasps lately so there must be a nest near by. I got one for everyone in the family :)
Shell
On 11 Sep 2003 06:49:11 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@localnet.com (Beecrofter) wrote:

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I have one, and a friend who comes over loves to use it.
It was rather entertaining when he swung at a mosquito and managed to smash his glass full of wine....
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Garter snakes and even yellow bellied water snakes (the protected species in my area) I don't mind. It's the poisonous ones, especially as I have an elderly dog and a handicapped and legally blind mother to be concerned about when they go outside. So the best thing seems to be to discourage all snakes from coming up close to the house
Shell
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I'm thinking seriously about digging a small trench and setting the new fence in concrete. It might help although I've seen snakes climbing trees around here.
Shell
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I have a large lily pond and am in the process of cleaning it out and making repairs. The deep end of the pond is 8' deep. After I drained it, a snake crawled down the corner at the deep end. It wedged its body in the corner and just casually crawled down this vertical wall. We didn't see it crawl out, but saw it after it did crawl out. When we picked it up to look at it, and about 4 small fish came out its mouth. It had just crawled into the pool for lunch. Now I know why the small fish never got any bigger. They never lived long enough.
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I don't know enough about snakes to know if the aquatic kind can climb walls, but it wouldn't surprise me if they can. But hopefully a solid fence would make it less convenient for the snake (or snake's prey) to make it's way into your yard. If the fence's color contrasts greatly with the snake, the small ones, if they can climb the fence at all, should make easy pickings for any predators (herons, hawks, giant bullfrogs) on the other side.
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Some snakes can move their belly scales like little grippers & are damned good climbers; some spend the majority of their lives in trees with bird diets; others hunt rodents on cliff faces. But there are many other snakes that would be unable even to climb over a branch without crimping their lungs & suffocating to death, cobras for instance.
-paghat the ratgirl
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