Help getting rid of snakes

sunny_daze_gardener(5 MI)July 19, 2009

I have a couple of questions about Garter snakes as we have so many and I have had it with them sneaking up on me.

1. What do they eat? Slugs? Frogs? Toads?

2. How are they beneficial?

3. How can I make them want to leave my flower beds.

I don't have the toads I used to have and wonder if the many snakes are eating them. I had a Chipping Sparrow that nested in a short bush inside of the back yard. Everyday I would pour myself a cup of coffee and walk around the yard after work to check things out and unwind. The little birds were a bright spot in my day, right up until the day I went out there and saw a Garter snake eating the last baby. He was all curled around the branch and the Birds were having a fit, as would be expected. I understand that that is nature, but I don't want to see it! I do not want to kill the snakes, but I would like to make them want to leave, there is just way to many of them.

Thanks for any advice!

Nancy VB

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Garter snakes eat many small things, but like all snakes they only eat when hungry and it can take some time for the digestion process to work. Garter snakes diet would include slugs and many other insects, possibly baby birds, moles, voles, etc. Larger Garter snakes might devour a toad, but I have them living side by side in my garden and the Garter snakes do not eat the toads, although the Blue Racers may well do that.
If you have a large population of them you have a large available food supply for them.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2009 at 7:44AM
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The garter snakes play as important a role in nature as do the birds that you so admire. Their ancestors were here before your house was. They're a native species and are important in the ecosystem.

If you don't enjoy the wildlife, why did you live on a property that has an abundance of it? Why not just live in an urban environment then? It's like moving on to a property with trees and wanting to cut all of them down because you don't like trees.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2009 at 5:58PM
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sunny_daze_gardener(5 MI)

ms minnamouse, Thanks for the lecture.
I don't want to get rid of the wildlife, I want to live comfotably with them. I have had the snakes around for years and am not afraid of them and I don't kill them.
I just wanted to know what they normally eat and if there was a way I could discourage them from being in my flower beds next to my house.
There seems to be more snakes than usual this year and I don't see as many frogs as I have in the past.
My house and flower gardens take up a very small portion of the land we own, the rest is all left to the wildlife.

Nancy VB

    Bookmark   July 20, 2009 at 8:39PM
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sirmatthew(4 - Iowa)

I understand your concerns Nancy! I think there is a snake repellent you can get to keep them away from ceratin areas, like the bird nest, while keeping them around for the other bugs and stuff they eat. I beleive there is a product called Snake Away. I've seen it in the store.

And I must say, Ms Minnamouse's lecture was a bit harsh. It was clear to me you weren't on a snake killing misson! :)

    Bookmark   July 21, 2009 at 10:48AM
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sunny_daze_gardener(5 MI)

kimmsr and sirmatthew, thank you for the information. I will check into the Snake Away. Also I have slugs so I will look into cutting them down. Someone told me coffee grounds kill slugs so that is where I will start with them. I have used Sluggo in the past, but I'm not sure it doesn't harm toads and frogs, oh and also the snakes.
I have noticed I'm not the only one that has gotten a lecture from ms minnamouse, so I'll take it with a grain.
Thanks again and happy gardening!

Nancy VB

    Bookmark   July 21, 2009 at 2:12PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Down south, garter snakes are well known as tree climbers. I wish I could find the pictures I had of one scaling (no pun intended) the large loblolly pines in my yard. They were after the baby squirrels in their nests. Which we had a roaring abundance of, by the way.

Quite often, crows or bluejays or similiar birds would chase the snakes away, sometimes pecking at them until they fell to the ground. The ruckus those birds created attracted all of the birds in the neighborhood, set the dogs to barking, cats running for cover, etc. Crazy.

I used to have one that followed me around in the greenhouse ( that I used to manage). My activities would scare up tree frogs, crickets, and other insects...which the snake would go after. He would literally slither over my hands to snap at his quarry.

Anyhoo, none of that has anything to do with your situation, does it? (I just happen to like snakes.)

I'm sorry that you've witnessed the rawer side of nature, but the benefits of having some snakes in your yard outweigh the problems. Try to learn to understand their behavior.

Please let us know if the Snake Away works for you. There are lots of people here in the GardenWeb who would be most interested in your experience.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2009 at 3:01PM
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Unless you have a mother and several babies you probably don't have as many garter snakes as it appears. I have noticed that except in the fall when they gather close for denning most garter snakes are independent and at least when I had them territorial and will chase other snakes out of their home. Eating them if they do not move fast enough.

As far as your toads. Toads and frogs have been dying because of several different causes. One of the main ones is a fungus. On a happy note for me when I go outside in the evening I can hear tree frogs, LOTS of tree frogs. We have not had any for about 6 years. I am very happy. Now maybe toads will move back into the area.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2009 at 9:54PM
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"And I must say, Ms Minnamouse's lecture was a bit harsh. It was clear to me you weren't on a snake killing misson! :)"

I didn't intend it as a lecture. I've seen lots of posts about people who are on snake killing missions. I'm glad to know that you're not.

Anyways, I haven't heard good things about the snake repellents you buy in stores. I've heard that they don't work.

To discourage snakes, you'll want to remove things that they require in a habitat, such as leaf litter and rock piles.

Also, I thought Chytrid was primarily found on the West Coast of the United States?

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 12:34AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Ms. minna, you are mistaken about the locations where Chytrid fungi can be found.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 12:28PM
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sunny_daze_gardener(5 MI)

I think the snakes are babies, there was one large Garter snake that we moved on and the rest are much smaller.
I won't be trying Snakes Away because it isn't safe for wild life. I am going to try to get rid of the slugs (a food source) and when I find a snake he will be going for a several acre walk.
We mulch with straw and I think they like to burrow under it. I take a stick and rustle the plants before I work in my gardens but sometimes they sneak up on me anyway and to me it is unnerving.
Thank you everyone for the advice.

Nancy VB

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 7:28PM
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I know well about unnerving, sorry if I laugh, at my old house I was resting on the steps of our shed when I thought I was being bothered by flies. Kept reaching down and brushing them off. Finally had enough and looked down to smack the fly. It was not a fly but a bunch of baby garter snakes playing arround with my foot. My father was always finding snakes, petting then letting go so I knew all I had to do was slowly pull my foot up from the wiggling mess then leave. Which is what I did after I realized they were baby garters. I did feel the snakes for a couple of days afterward. NOW I can laugh about it.

The babies will dispurse this fall so just enjoy and think of the pests they are eatting.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 8:28PM
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I keep seeing references to using coffee grounds as a deterent for slugs and I keep seeing slugs crawling over coffee grounds with impunity. Dry, moist, new, old, used, unused coffee grounds, in my observations, have done nothing to slow, much less stop the slugs
What I have seen is that cold, caffienated coffee sprayed on plant leaves has reduced slug damage in my gardens for years, even though many peple here tell me that that will not work even though research done by the USDA in Hawaii has shown that it does work. Some people insist that the slugs in Hawaii are a lot different than the slugs on the mainland and therefore this cold, caffienated coffee will not work.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2009 at 7:46AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Nancy, I've lived in a location where poisonous snakes were common. I got into the habit of turning a hoe or other long handled tool upside down and thumping it on the ground when I walked, sort of like an extra long walking stick. Snakes don't hear at all, but they sure do feel the vibrations. You can also stomp your way around the garden and accomplish the same thing. Let the snakes flee before you come up on them.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2009 at 1:03PM
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sunny_daze_gardener(5 MI)

The coffee ground thing got my attention because they are readily available and don't harm anything. From what I've read, it's the caffeine that causes the slugs to have digestive failure. So using cold caffeinated coffee would work if the slugs drink it, or maybe they absorb it through their skin?
I've used Sluggo, years ago and it worked like a charm but I never felt sure it wouldn't harm the frogs, toads or snakes. I worried that the little things that eat slugs would be harmed if they ate slugs that were treated with Sluggo. If I could be assured that none of the above would be harmed, I would go back to using that.

Nancy VB

    Bookmark   July 24, 2009 at 5:42PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

I don't know how it works, but I do know that when I use coffee grounds around my hostas (replaced monthly) I have no slug problems. Whether it kills them, repels them, or draws in caffeine crazed snakes to eat them, it seems to work for me.


    Bookmark   July 24, 2009 at 6:38PM
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sunny_daze_gardener(5 MI)

rhizo I'm thinking maybe I don't make enough vibrations with a stick. I will try stomping.
I'll bet the snakes are tired of me sneaking up on them too...LOL
I work in a restaurant so I have accesss to lots of coffee grounds.
I'll let you know how it goes.

Nancy VB

    Bookmark   July 24, 2009 at 9:39PM
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