Garter Snakes

mulberryknobOctober 28, 2011

Three years ago I saw a garter snake in the garden. I left it alone, hoping it would eat the mice and voles and other small mammals that inhabit my garden. Then last year I heard a squacking and found a leopard frog in the asparagus with one hind leg in the snake's mouth. I made it let the poor frog go. A couple weeks later had to rescue a toad near the house from it. This year there are at least three garter snakes around my place all of different sizes. AND there are far fewer frogs and toads of all kinds. Last year in the heat the little tree frogs would cluster around the water rock and climb into the old freezer that serves as a storage cabinet in the garden. This year I saw none in the freezer. So now I am wondering if I need to catch some garter snakes and relocate them.

I saw the largest one sunning itself outside the woodshed today with a lump in it's middle. I am hoping that the lump was one of the mice that makes its home under the wood. Every year as we use up the wood, we come upon nests and throw them out.

I know that the hognose snakes primarily eat toads and frogs, but I thought garter snakes ate mostly mice and voles. And I would be really happy if they ate grasshoppers. Any thoughts on this situation? Should I try to catch a couple of my resident garter snakes and relocate them. (I would never kill such a beautiful and harmless snake.)

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I love garter snakes and if it was me, I'd just leave nature to do its thing.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 2:56PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Garter snakes are very opportunistic carnivores and will eat almost anything they're large enough to overpower and catch, including rodents, frogs, toads, lizards, fish, insects, and even earthworms, slugs and leeches. I've heard that some of the larger garter snakes will eat birds but haven't witnessed that myself.

In our yard, the garter snakes tend to stay in the area of the shady flower beds and the veggie garden and they stay away from our pond, which might be because the large bullfrogs in the lily pond will eat the garter snakes if they catch them. We do have a huge problem with water moccasins moving from the native creeks and ponds to our manmade lily pond as the native creeks and ponds dry up during drought. Then, the water moccasins eat the frogs and toads, although we shoot and kill any water moccasin in the lily pond because it is right between the back porch and the patio, and we'd rather not share our outdoor living space with a venomous snake. Last year we had a huge number of water moccasins considering the small size of the lily pond, but this year we only had two or three and we were able to get them before they wiped out the frog population. Still, there were fewer frogs and toads here than usual, but I blame that on the heat and drought.

I am not crazy about snakes, but try to live and let live as far as they are concerned, except we don't tolerate venomous snakes in the civilized yard area (they can roam at will on the rest of the acreage) and we don't tolerate rat snakes and chicken snakes in the chicken coops.

I don't think relocating snakes works because when they are hungry they just come back to the places where they found food in the past, so I'd leave them alone.

Tim tried for years to relocate chicken snakes and rat snakes instead of killing them, but they just came back (sometimes in the same day) and ate more eggs and killed more young chickens and guineas, so now we kill them whenever we find them in the fenced chicken run or chicken coops.

Oh, and I meant to add that I think garter snakes even eat other, smaller snakes, including their own young. I like the racer snakes we have here for that very reason....they eat young,small rattlesnakes and probably other snakes as well. Anything that helps control the rattlesnake population is very welcome here.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2011 at 1:40PM
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