snakes!

nanelle_gw(9/Sunset 14)June 10, 2006

I may have to get rid of my compost pile of 6 years. For some reason I have had four gopher snakes caught in bird netting over the last 24 hours.(Blew off a nearby fig tree). They were all within 4 feet of the compost heap. I am not comfortable with snakes in close proximity, but would never kill them. I also have no desire to attract them; thus my dillema. I guess they've been around all along, but I have mananged to accidently trap four in the last day. Animal control came and freed them, and took them away for release by the way).I've removed the netting, but now have to deal with the realization that I am attracting snakes ( as well as foxes, bats, cayotes, hawks...)Perhaps I need to tend it better to avoid rodents ( which I have not seen but I assume there are voles and gophers near by; I live on the very edge of town, bordered by an oak grove and an abondoned orchard).I've been told they might be looking for lizards which I really treasure and don't want to discourage. Is it impractical then, to expect compost without attracting snakes ( even if they can't get in the pile)? (I also posted this on the compost forum but regions seem to differ in their perspective).

Here is a link that might be useful: visitors

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wanda(Z9 CA)

I have doubts that the compost pile is attracting snakes, unless it is attracting rodents. Rodents would attract snakes, not compost. Gopher snakes, while like most wild creatures, can be an opportunistic feeder, would prefer to prey upon rodents.
You are more likely to see them now while in breeding mode ( getting a late start this year because of the cool temps and wet weather) and their activity level should cease as summer sets in.
While they can be scary, they are harmless and if you have rodents, a beneficial critter to have around.
Bats eat tons of insects, are active at night, and not particularly a problem. Your compost pile would only attract them if your compost pile attracted lots of flying insects, active at night.
Foxes, another nocturnal creature, are scavengers and would be attracted to your compost pile if your compost pile was more of a "garbage" pile.
Hawks would only be attracted if there were rodents, so again, a beneficial creature, and not one of concern.

If there is an abandoned orchard nearby with fruit bearing trees, I would suspect that the fruit is attracting the rodents and thereby the other predatory animals and that is the culprit, NOT your compost pile.

wanda

    Bookmark   June 10, 2006 at 2:12AM
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youreit

I don't have a compost pile (yet!), and I had a visit from a 6 ft. gopher snake last year. If he hadn't been right outside my front door, and hissing loud enough to hear through the door and over the sound of air cooler, I wouldn't have had a problem with him.

Personal accounts of the aggressiveness of these snakes (mainly during mating season) was enough to get me on the phone with a nice, older neighbor, who subsequently rescued me from my own home. :D They're not poisonous, of course, but they CAN bite if they feel threatened. I guess my visitor felt I was encroaching on his territory. Sheesh! Can't we all just get along? :)

I had to take this pic from around the corner, and I was shaking so much, I'm surprised it even turned out.

Brenda

    Bookmark   June 10, 2006 at 9:05AM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

I do not understand what it is about snakes that frightens people. I live in the woods with lots of wild life and am never surprised what shows up. My compost pile attracks salamanders which brings snakes who feed on them. We have lots of rats and voles which brings us owls and hawks. Nature has a way of keeping in balance unless we upset it. Al

    Bookmark   June 10, 2006 at 9:42AM
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napapen(ca 15)

Send the snakes to me, I need gopher control. Penny

    Bookmark   June 10, 2006 at 1:29PM
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CA Kate

If you're near Fresno I'll take the Gopher and King snakes. You let Animal Control take away your best rodent killers.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2006 at 4:55PM
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nanelle_gw(9/Sunset 14)

Wanda; Yeah, I figured it was the rodents and lizards (that are attracted to the bugs) attracted to the pile that attracted the snakes (not the pile itself); I remember them discing the orchard a week or so ago, so that might have sent the snakes this way as well.I don't believe the trees bear fruit. I mention the bats (they return annually to my front stoop' about ten this year), hawks, foxes,etc. to say it's fairly rural around here, not that they were attracted to the pile. I value my bats, but they are pretty messy, and even though I sweep it up most mornings and put it on my garden, when I don't sweep, and have visitors, I DO wonder what they think. They ARE rodent droppings! Anyway, no snakes today, and my husband is supporting continuing so I will. I use it primarily for my guinea pig litter, and for fruit and veggies I'm not going to eat (I have a community supported agriculture subscription), and would consider putting this in my green bin, and reserving the pile for yardwaste if that was a compromise.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2006 at 5:57PM
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nanelle_gw(9/Sunset 14)

Westelle, I would have let them go wherever they go, but they were miserably trapped in the bird netting.:(

    Bookmark   June 10, 2006 at 6:06PM
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napapen(ca 15)

One year I had gophers take up housekeeping and baby raising in my compost pile. They tunneled out and it took me forever to bring them under control. I was ready to buy a snake!

Penny

    Bookmark   June 10, 2006 at 7:24PM
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tracy_m(9-Sac/CA area)

Aren't the black with yellow stripes a garter snake? I saw one on the retaining wall the other evening, and thought it was too small to eat any of the mice and other rodents that are attracted to my compost pile. But could they also be eating all the little frogs we are enjoying right now? Millions of the little frogs every where.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2006 at 8:37PM
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wanda(Z9 CA)

Yes, tracy, if the stripes run vertically down the snake's body, then it's probably a garter snake. They'll eat fish, salamanders, frogs and small rodents.

If they are bands that circle it's body horizontally, then it's most likely a kingsnake, non-venomous, who's favorite prey is other snakes, including rattlesnakes (our only venomous snake), but they will also eat rodents and lizards.

wanda

    Bookmark   June 13, 2006 at 12:52AM
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fouquieria(10b)

This Spring I caught four baby rattlesnakes in the yard, last year it was two, the year before three. I have two large, curious dogs. There are also ground squirrels and rats and field mice all around. I ALWAYS encourage a good Gopher snake or King snake or Rat snake to stay.

-Ron-

    Bookmark   June 16, 2006 at 2:23PM
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Moon Rabbit(Sunset24 CA)

I'd love to have those snakes, too. Maybe it would also help control the neighbor's little dog that keeps pooping in my yard! ;)

    Bookmark   June 19, 2006 at 3:15AM
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nanelle_gw(9/Sunset 14)

I guess I'll just hope they are coming and going without me seeing them!

    Bookmark   June 19, 2006 at 6:52PM
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