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Garter Snakes

 
Ben Souther
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I'm looking for ways to encourage them to make a home in my garden.

We had an exceptionally cold and rainy late spring/early summer this year.
Up until recently, my lettuce has been covered in slugs and was being eaten as fast as it was growing.    I thought I fixed the problem with beer and cornmeal traps ( http://www.permies.com/permaculture-forums/609_0/critter-care/slugs ).  It seemed too easy.   

The other day I saw a huge garter snake slither away. 
I'm thinking he/she had a lot more to do with the disappearance of the slugs than a few rounds of beer and cornmeal.  So now, I'm looking for ways to entice them to stick around and multiply.  I'm going to start by stacking up some rocks and/or cinder blocks for protection from my cat.  She's brought more than one of them home unfortunately.

I've heard that snakes hate geraniums.
Does anyone know of any plants that would help or hurt.
Any other suggestions for making a family of garter snakes feel welcome?
 
Gwen Lynn
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We are all familiar with "Toad Abodes", the marketing name for a little toad house. Home made version is a (overturned) terracotta pot that has a chunk missing from the rim, makes a nice little entry for the toad. I've accidentally make a "snake place" out of a similar thing. I had left an overturned, partially broken, small clay pot saucer laying in my yard. On a chilly fall day, I decided to pick up the yard a bit. When I picked the saucer up, I found a small snake curled up in the leaf litter that was under it. It wasn't a garter snake, but to my knowledge, all snakes like hidey places.

If you don't have a pond, I'd consider building one. Water features attract all sorts of wildlife, including snakes.

I've never really heard of plants repelling snakes, so the geranium thing is a new one on me. I don't know if there are specific plants that attract snakes, but it sounds to me like your slugs are doing a great job attracting the snakes! 
 
Leah Sattler
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the best attractant is food! and you apparently have that. its sounds like you are on the right track. I would add that a large flat rock is appreciated by snakes for sunbathing and at night during cooler temps. and i second that a water feature seems to attract them although I am not sure if that is really the water or the other little critters it attracts that really does the job.
I found a pretty little one with a frog halfway down its gullet the other day. that itty bitty snake and a comparitively large leopard frog made for one immobile snake! i put a bucket on top of it because I wanted to show my daughter. by the time I came back it had regurgitated the frog and zipped off the moment I lifted the bucket. poor guy. I spooked him out of his dinner.
 
Ben Souther
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Did the frog survive?

It's tough to watch a garter snake eat something cute.
Unlike constrictors or venomous snakes, garter snakes just wrestle their prey into their mouth, alive. Slugs, no problem.

 
Dave Miller
Posts: 409
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
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Garter snakes like brush piles:  http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/habitat/brush-piles-rabbit.pdf ; So do lots of other creatures.  In my yard my brush pile is used by small birds all the time.

 
Leah Sattler
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Ben Souther wrote:
Did the frog survive?



nah. the snake had obviously been working on it for quite a while! he probably would have eventually got it down. it was sort of like those videos of anacondas eating caimans in miniature.
 
paul wheaton
master steward
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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adunca wrote:
Garter snakes like brush piles:  http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/habitat/brush-piles-rabbit.pdf  So do lots of other creatures.  In my yard my brush pile is used by small birds all the time.


After a fair bit of research, this seems to be the number one winner.  Brush piles, plus, maybe, a little bit of water.

 
Gwen Lynn
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I can see where brush piles would be a winner, as would any low growing brushy, shrubby type plant. I found it a little ironic that click on ads about snake repellent appear at the bottom of these posts!
 
Leah Sattler
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being smaller snakes especially cover is probably waaaay up there. we have quite a few snakes here due I think to the heavy brush and the rodent population.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
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Location: Oakland, CA
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You might consider locating the brush pile and/or sunbathing rock in a site the snake will like.  For instance, out of cold wind and traffic, but with some good morning sun.
 
Gwen Lynn
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Well, apparently garter snakes like holes! Especially hidden holes. For months now, I've had a stubborn hole underneath a hydrangea bush which is planted near my patio. No doubt the work of a pesky pocket gopher (lovely pix of a dead one on the moles & voles thread!).

Yesterday I happened to notice that hole had gotten bigger AND then I noticed this little guy poking his head out of the hole, along with the leg of some amphibian poking out of his mouth! Poor little frog/toad. I wish it had been a mouse tail, but I figure he's probably eating them too! I was so happy to see this snake.        The only other snakes I've ever seen were those little milksnakes.
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Brenda Groth
pollinator
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Location: North Central Michigan
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snakes love love love piles..piles of just about anything..they will nest in compost piles or piles of leaves, they will hide in piles of twigs and hunt the mice that live under them..and they will toast themselves in piles of hot rocks..they love hot rocks..any log is always great for snakes..but they even love a mixed pile of logs and sticks and leaves better.

we leave huge piles around our property..and we have tons of snakes..we love them a lot.

they also require some water..so having a pond is a great boon for snakes.

good luck..but this fall is the perfect time to set up some piles..if your family is afraid of the snakes..put the piles around the distant borders of the property..they can travel pretty far.

make sure the rock piles are in a sunnier spot..so they can soak in the heat of the sunshine.

the stick and brush piles can be in the shade..or sun
 
Leah Sattler
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what a beautiful one! the colors are so vivid! too bad about the amphibian. they do seem to be a favorite of the garter snakes. look at it this way they are just culling the less then ideal ones from the population....
 
Gwen Lynn
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All I can say is, cull away, beautiful snake!

I'm sad to say that I do see handicapped frogs from time to time. Usually both rear legs are poorly developed or they'll have one good strong looking back leg, and one that is barely there. I've also found frogs with too many legs!! One set of normal front legs and then another smaller, stunted leg is growing beneath one of those front legs. I haven't found one of those since I got my digital camera, which has been a few years. If I find another like that, I'll be taking it's picture. Seen frogs with eye problems too.

It was hard to discern exactly what that snake was eating. I've zoomed in on the original picture a few times and still can't quite tell exactly. The leg sticking out of it's mouth kinda looks like it's a little deformed, but it could be my imagination. I didn't want to overly pester the snake because I remembered how sensitive the python was that we had. He'd puke up his dinner if you looked at him cross-eyed! 

DH thought the snake was pretty too. It's funny because I'd rented a carpet cleaner that day & decided to do the rug in the studio at the last minute. Had I opted not to, I never would have noticed the snake!
Funny how life is like that sometimes.
 
                            
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Location: Corvallis OR
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When I harvested our sweet potatoes in October, I found three garter snakes in the bed.  I know there were at least three because one was twice the size of the other two, and the small ones crawled off in different directions.  One of those I think I found again in the second bed.  Anyway, we grew our sweets in beds that were covered in clear plastic, with slits for the plants.  We left the plastic on all season, so the beds were very warm and dry.  One of the snakes was actually curled up between two tubers! 

We had virtually no slug damage in that part of the garden, despite the ducks never going there.  Across the property, in the emerging forest garden where the ducks like to hang out, we had not only slug damage, but also rodents ate part of our potato crop.  We were thinking we'd plant the spuds nearer the sweets in 2010, to discourage rodents, but I hadn't thought about the slug control part! 

I will add sunning rocks to my plans.  We found one sunning on the south sidewalk yesterday.

Patricia
of Sunrise Corner
 
                    
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ive got everything above going on im my gardens, brushpile, stonepile, water...and holes. they love rodent smelling holes.

one more thing, and maybe not for the super tidy...In early spring  leave sheetmetal roofing out next to my beds in the spring, just a few 3x6 sheetsmetal roofing scraps painted black laying here and there, with a few rock or half rotten logs on them.

its not pretty, but in april, when nights still dip into the upper 30's and its raining, ive seen 15 or more snakes huddling under one, and have no doubt they slither out for the slugs....

by mid may to early june i pick it up, azs its warmer, and i start having guests,..and typically chenopodium will sprout wher ethe sheets were, so the chooks get that.

D


 
Dave Miller
Posts: 409
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
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Re: controlling slugs  by attracting garter snakes (http://www.permies.com/bb/index.php?topic=4268.msg61835#msg61835)

Are there any garter snake experts out there who can give a bit more detail on making rock piles for snakes?  Most of my rocks are either flat, about 3" thick, or roundish, 12"-24" diameter.

My compost bin is made from stacked, quarried stones and I have found snakes around the stones many times.  But I would like to design "snake habitat" all over my food forest, so I need to know how best to place/stack my rocks.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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