Sunday, 26 October 2008

can snakes and dogs share a garden?

I'm wondering whether I'm attracting snakes to my garden by setting out multiple bowls of water for wildlife. I've started to worry over the last couple of weeks, as the weather warms up. A couple of days ago the nesting blackbirds in our back garden got very agitated, chattering loud warnings and racing back and forth along the top of the fence. Seeing they are quite tame - underfoot, actually, when I'm gardening - I knew it wasn't Penny or I who was causing the uproar. I couldn't see a cat around, and Penny can generally sense a cat immediately it approaches our property.

There's also the fact that Penny spent ages sitting near that corner of the garden staring fixedly at the messy pile of old flower pots near the shed. Luckily I had fenced it off in case the blackbirds' babies fell out of the nest.

Our suburb has the unenviable reputation of being rife with snakes.

I'm most appreciative of a warning sent to the dog walkers this weekend about snake activity in Darebin Parklands, which is at the bottom of our street.
The warning came from Peter, the ranger. He included a map of snake sightings in the last two weeks.

Ten different locations. Wow! Scary!

Peter warned us that snakes are becoming active in this season and that only tiger snakes have been seen. He reports that no eastern browns have been sighted for over 25 years. That's useful information, if reporting a bite to the vet.

He said that because tiger snakes like to eat frogs, they are likely to be near the waterways and wetlands, especially at dusk and at night. They're less likely to be around the leachate ponds, as the water is not suitable for frogs, though I do notice one of the snake locations is smack in between the leachate ponds.

He warns us to beware of snakes sunbathing anywhere during the day and that they are slow to get away at this time of the year. That might be why Penny and I had a super scary encounter with a snake that didn't move off the path in May last year - a day that was so cool I was unprepared to step over a snake. We had a a less traumatic one last November.

The thing I really, really appreciated was information about how to become aware of a nearby snake. Amongst other things, Peter said to look for constant localised chattering of birds - the birds will have the snake in immediate sight. And of course, the traditional warning we all listen for - movement and rustling of clumps of grass.

Hmmm... that sure sounds like what was going on in the corner of our garden last week.

There's a most informative article about snakes in our area written by Raymond Hoser, who runs Snake Busters and obviously respects and likes these reptiles. In part he says:
These snakes tend to live on the ground and rarely stray from the ground to climb.
The two circumstances where the snakes will climb are as follows:
To catch birds in a nest in a tree or other high structure.
The snakes are generalists in that they feed on any vertebrate and even in the wild state will eat pieces of discarded meat and chicken as dropped by a human.
Tiger Snakes are a deadly species and their venom attacks the nervous system.
While they are slightly slower moving than the average snake, they can still move fast when warm and agitated. Bites commonly occur when people try to catch and kill them.
Decapitated snakes may still bite the person attacking them.
As a rule, Tiger Snakes will attempt to bite if cornered or an attempt is made to kill them. In this regard they are one of the more aggressive species, hence the advice to lay people not to deal with them
Maybe the blackbirds were reporting a hunting snake - the next day their nestlings were all gone from the nest. The optimist in me hopes they are safe somewhere in the garden...

There's a tiger snake photo at another site and some advice about removing water from around the house in order to discourage reptilian visitors.

But I'm not going to take away the water. It's so dry now that I think the birds and small creature would suffer if the constant supply of water suddenly dried up.

However, I will clear away that pile of old plant pots. Carefully!


curator said...

Yikes!! I got the creepies around the line, "rarely stray from the ground to climb"! I find snakes bad enough on the ground, thanks. Do be very careful for yourself and Penny!

The Aphasia Decoder.... said...

Interesting information! I like the tip about being in tune with what the birds are doing. We've had a couple sighting of blue racers in our yard last summer. I hope that species of snakes eat toads because we were over run with them over the summer.

Levi's mom

Amber-Mae said...

Errr, my answer is no becoz it's usually the dog who becomes the victim. You know, snake bites, venom? Dangerous! But sometimes it's the snake who becomes the victim. So not safe for the snake too...

Butt wiggles,
Solid Gold Dancer

parlance said...

Levi's mom, I guess it would be horrible if Levi was bitten by one of those blue racers. I had a look on Google and got the idea they are not poisonous. I hope that is true!

parlance said...

Curator, I agree. When I read that they can climb my stress factor notched up higher.

parlance said...

Amber-Mae, you are right - we can't afford to have snakes in the yard. Now I'm nervous if Penny goes outside to sniff around. Luckily, she prefers to be with her people, so if she's outside it's usually because I am gardening. I think my activity would scare off any snakes. I hope...