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Maintaining Lizards, toads/frogs, snake population with chickens and cats

 
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R Ranson wrote:Okay guys, before we advocate killing cats and risk upsetting more people, I've asked our Mother Tree to have a look at this thread. We seem to have gotten away from the original topic which was...


ANy in general comments about the northern fence lizard and gardening? How about dealing with dense growth, snakes and 2 year olds?



Is there a way we can help the original poster with her problem without picking on felix?




Yes there is. Ive addressed lizards enough but here is a list of tricks:
- Have a mulched lawn, lizards love to shelter and lay eggs in it,
- always try and have soft soil as they lay eggs in it,
- have lots of debirs about for them to hide or raised walkways about the garden
- No need to build a lizard park, they are super resilient, generally.

Snakes and lizards like similar environments so you have challenges as you want to encourage one and deter the other? Therefore, keep your lizard shelters small. If you have snakes Id avoid raised walkways or anything large for snakes to hide under. No wood piles lifted slightly off the ground or up against walls.

If you’re concerned about snakes, you basically need to make the environment less suitable for them or ….kill them, your choice. Mind you, kill and don’t fix the environment, they’ll come back. To alter environment get rid of extensive thickets and get plants up off the ground. That area you fenced off might be the worst thing for you.

Snakes hide under any flat sheets on the ground. You have chickens, and snakes love chickens and eggs. Have nothing in chicken pen snakes can hide under, eg broken slabs of cement, but theyre coming for those eggs I guarantee you. I had a chicken pen and ended up lifting it up well off the ground and had barbed wire over everything that went vertical to stop them crawling up. It worked well.

Sometimes, snakes are just endemic and numerous and you won’t get rid of them. There are snake repellent in ground solar thumping devices if you want to repel them, theoretically. They make them in Australia where we have real snakes and people swear by them. Put them about lawned areas where your kid plays and you don’t want snakes, as snakes like to sun on a lawn.

If you’ve seen snakes, they aren’t going anywhere, and you have to address the fact if you don’t want them, otherwise do nothing and learn to love them – not my thang, but where I live snakes are so potent they will and do kill, and I don’t tolerate them. Many permies do, but I won’t. I had a tiger snake in my yard and I simply killed it and cleaned things up a bit. My yard had got way too feral. No snakes since, but hey werent comon to start with

Better still, have faith in your cat. Cats are good snake deterrents. If yours is too soft get a tough one. Mine was so good I’d put him up against anyone or anything. Less rats, less snakes, as snakes love rats as we know. I felt safe when he was around and had no rats in my roof. But the lizards are so resilient they will be fine, don’t worry about them Get rid of your snakes.
 
Philip Hyndman
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haha. Nice one. The internet's number one purpose, cat pics.
 
gardener
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The Northern Fence Lizard generally makes its home in brush piles, rock piles or quite often in stacked wood piles.
The easiest and perhaps best method to give them homes is to mimic their preferred quarters (listed above).

Most predator animals give up once the lizard has made it to the safe haven.
 
pollinator
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Location: KY - Zone 6b (near border of 6a), Heat Zone 7, Urban habitat
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Domestic cats a.k.a. house cats are fantastic animals...in the house. Introduced in ridiculous numbers outside, they are deadly killers creating staggering numbers of dead native wildlife. I don't blame the cats...in part. They didn't ask to be in their position. Humans engineered it. I love love love cats as animals. But if there was a magic switch on the wall that when flipped, would cause all feral cats to drop dead painlessly, I could flip that switch. I live in a heavily urban area. Many places are carved into apartments. I've seen numerous cats abandoned by tenants leaving apartments over the years. The highest sources of mortality here for cats are car strikes, feline leukemia, feline AIDS, dogs, and people. None are great ways to die. Yet even with the large mortality that occurs, people keep bringing in more. My areas has groups spaying and neutering cats and then returning them to where they were trapped. That may prevent some litters but there are always kittens. Feral litters usually are great places for diseases to wipe out large parts of litters and cause needless suffering. With that in mind I can't fathom why people who care for their animals would allow them to roam free in our type of habitat. Even on a bad day if I walked around my block (including the alley) I could see a couple of dozen cats. We've lived here for a long time and I've seen numbers of wildlife drop and many are just gone. I haven't even seen a rabbit anywhere near us in probably 25 years. No chipmunks, no frogs, no toads, few birds and huge drops in numbers of bird species except for a handful (including non-native starlings and house sparrows which hoover up EVERYTHING). For sure there are no snakes and very few lizards. I got excited seeing a skink a few years ago so I started putting in lots of mini-refugia. We now have a fair amount of them. But we are an island. I'm hoping to get others to follow suit. However, irrational fears make building habitat for lizards far more palatable than doing the same for snakes. I'll take native small mammals but I'll kill any house mice I can. Luckily rats have yet to be a problem though I've seen them less than half a mile away. The first time we see one or my game cam picks them up I'll be hunting them.

I'll try to post some pics of adding small wildlife refugia, mini water sources, etc later. Some are more natural, some not so much but are there to enhance habitat structure. I don't use a lot of wood as I live in an older area and termites are a real threat. So I try to remove positive food sources. Otherwise, I'd have a yard FULL of river driftwood habitat structures as I can get all the driftwood I could haul if I wanted it. I use natural stone, brick, tiles, intentional gapping, and whatever I can to add refugia. I'll use urbanite in a second.

I'm looking forward to the day I see a snake in the yard!
 
gardener
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Location: Southern Germany
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echo minarosa wrote:Domestic cats a.k.a. house cats are fantastic animals...in the house. Introduced in ridiculous numbers outside, they are deadly killers creating staggering numbers of dead native wildlife. I don't blame the cats...in part. They didn't ask to be in their position. Humans engineered it. I love love love cats as animals.


Same here!
I love cats, they got me through my teenage years and since then I always wanted to have a cat around me.
Our family cat died last summer which was a sad event but I also knew that this was the last cat I would have - for several reasons, but one of the most important ones was to save the wildlife from my cat.
Here in Germany there are no feral cats but far too many pet cats. There are scientific investigations on how many birds and amphibes a free-ranging cats kills each year.
This year we have installed birdhouses and feeders and it is such a pleasure to see the little birds starting to collect straws and moss for their nests! This is definitely different from last year (although our cat was frail last year already).

The two local lizard species are endangered and near human settlements it is almost impossible to have sound lizard populations. Cats chase them and even if they do not kill them, they make them shed their tail (they can only do this once) and with that they lose their fat reservoir and will perish in the winter. A friend of mine tried to make a lizard habitat in her (small) garden but she met with exactly this problem. So we are planning a communal lizard habitat a bit off the housing area near the railroad tracks and hope to have better luck there.
I have seen very few snakes in my lifetime, you really have to live in a more remote corner of the country to find some.

Similar with amphibes, especially some of the toads and tree frogs which have to face a huge variety of reasons for their extinction, but one reason is the number of roaming cats. I have witnessed a cat in the neighbourhood killing a frog some time ago. Last year we had two frogs in our tiny pond (which was built three years ago) and I was soo happy until one day one of the frogs floating in the pond with both his lower feet bitten off.

And one of the reasons why I don't let the chickens free range in my  small garden is (apart from scratching and eating my veggies) that they will eat anything they find, also beneficial insects, larvae and small amphibes like newts.

If you live in a wide space with lots of nature that might differ. But in my situation, living in a densely populated country, I have decided to do as much as I can to protect the little wildlife we have left and not endanger it any further.

 
pollinator
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When I had my sheep farm for several years, I sadly never saw a single snake.   Pretty sure this was due to my neighbors peafowl combing through my fields every single day.  Rats were a problem in and around my rabbit colony,  could have used a healthy snake population.    At least snakes won't chew through hardware cloth to get to baby rabbits!
 
pollinator
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We have a lot of feral cats on our property and haven't noticed any decline in wildlife that we like, but they help keep the ground squirrels from decimating the fruit trees. We have lots of rock piles and areas that snakes and lizards can hide. It's actually the foxes that eat the bull frogs, but they are invasive anyway. I'm actually surprised that the cats aren't killed off by predators. I guess it really depends on what your property is like.
 
pollinator
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Casie Becker wrote:Our cats don't like to walk on the wood mulch in our garden beds. This is some pretty coarse stuff, which leaves enough room for many smaller snakes and lizards to actually hide within them. This is another one of those areas where it helps not to make things to smooth.



Pinecones help keep cats away as well. Apparently they hate walking across them, so we used pinecones to mulch around the tree that our bat house is in.
 
pollinator
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So after being dormant for four years, this post immediately turns back to cats.

Stop it. How about this? If you're feeding your dog vegetables (i.e., corn, soy, etc) you are guilty of animal abuse. They are also predators.

And this is just as applicable to the topic as people's hatred of cats.
 
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Wishing for more reptiles to help me deal with the ground squirrels that would devastate everything I grow if they could reach it, I consulted a niece who is a herpetologist. She recommended rock piles and water, which I have provided. Still I see few snakes, none of which are large enough to eat a ground squirrel. (Snakes here are not venomous and no small children visit my garden.)

My cats could probably help but I keep them indoors where they keep my garage free of pack rats. I have Tohees that are ground nesters and bird feeders that attract other birds. I would be cruel to invite them for lunch only to have them become lunch. And speaking of predictors the bears are waking up and they are hungry. Soon I will have to take down the bird feeders. No one wants griz on the porch.

My only real answer to the ground squirrel problem had been to plant things out of reach, mostly in bath tubs on cement blocks and other raised boxes. A secondary scourge of Chipmunks live underneath the boxes. Strawberries and such must be planted in hanging baskets.

I will continue to build my garden rock and brush piles and add water in large plates and bowls but I suspect that the reptiles will mostly live out in the forest where there are big piles of deadfall and the pickings are better.
IMG_20210321_194754142.jpg
Useless house cat
Useless house cat
IMG_20200823_142654406.jpg
Useless dog
Useless dog
IMG_20180304_094406682_HDR.jpg
Piliated woodpecker at feeder
Piliated woodpecker at feeder
 
master steward
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Willy Walker wrote:wood forest for a garden oasis.  It consists a few hugelkultur beds, raised beds, terraced beds and will make use of in ground planting in a few years.    South Eastern facing slope.    I see a northern fence lizards every day,  multiple actually.   I have seen a few black snakes.   I would like to think my cats would enjoy the area,  getting away from the dogs, enjoying the  plants and munching on some bugs.  

I am concerned about depleting the lizards.  They seem like the ultimate garden friend.  bug patrol like crazy. ...

Of course the ultimate answer is to observe but I would like to not mess up and knock out the balance.    

I would think that my lizard and snake hotels (hugelbeds) will become less desirable as they melt into a moist soil mound.  ?

ANy in general comments about the northern fence lizard and gardening?  



Oh, I love this!  A garden oasis for lizards! It is so fun to watch the lizards.  My hotels are rock piles and brush piles.

And yes, the lizards eat lots of bugs!

Here are a couple of threads about making rock piles:

https://permies.com/t/52755/Rock-Piles

https://permies.com/t/28638/rock-piles

I would like to encourage more brush piles for lovely critters like the lizards.  Where you are making your brush piles take some pictures so you can get a PEP BB:

https://permies.com/wiki/108150/pep-animal-care/Brush-Pile-PEP-BB-animal

 
Lauren Ritz
pollinator
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roberta mccanse wrote:Wishing for more reptiles to help me deal with the ground squirrels that would devastate everything I grow if they could reach it, I consulted a niece who is a herpetologist. She recommended rock piles and water, which I have provided. Still I see few snakes, none of which are large enough to eat a ground squirrel. (Snakes here are not venomous and no small children visit my garden.)



I don't think we have lizards or snakes in this area any longer, and I KNOW we don't have frogs. Nothing has moved into my brush piles.

I'm not sure if it would work for the ground squirrels, but I've learned that gophers don't like horseradish. I grind it up into a slurry and pour it down their holes. It generally takes a few days for them to vacate. Maybe your ground squirrels would be the same?
 
Anne Miller
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Snakes usually don't use brush piles.  Since they cannot dig, snakes live in holes that they find or in trees.

Snakes might go into a brush pile to get something living there.

We had an old culvert from an abandoned road that was full of snake skins.

Usually, you will not see snakes unless you just happen upon one accidentally.  I know we have lots of rattlesnakes and other kinds.  I have only seen one rattlesnake and he was as surprised as I was.  It was like he said, "oops, I made a mistake!"

Dear hubby has several trophy skins and rattles.

Most wildlife prefer not to be seen.
 
Stacy Witscher
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Roberta - I haven't found anything to eliminate the ground squirrel problem. Cats help keep them out of certain areas, somewhat. My annual vegetable garden and my greenhouse are ground squirrel proof via hardware cloth. Once they have established tunnel systems nothing is going to get rid of them, even if you succeed in reducing the population one year, new ones will find the tunnels next year. They are smart and work in groups with a lookout. Good luck.

I've actually never seen one of our cats eat a lizard, but my dog has. It made him violently ill. And my dog goes after the snakes as well, makes me nervous.

Our native tree frogs are very small. I can't imagine that a cat would care much about them, other then to play with them, but they are good hiders. I had one in my greenhouse last year. Very cute.
 
echo minarosa
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I can't do 5 foot brush piles like that required for the PEP badge bit as the entire property is less than a quarter acre and by the time you take away structures and impervious surfaces, space is limited. But, added together, my leaf, brush, & other material piles get to about the same volume. Being in an urban neighborhood has certain limitations. Add to that certain busybodies who complain to the city about anything they don't personally like...even when there is nothing covering the perceived infraction.

The answer here? Brush piles, reptile and amphibian refugia, etc all with urban-acceptable camouflage! It's funny. A friend asked me yesterday if the neighborhood knew what was happening on property. I said no. But honestly, some is within arms reach of the front public sidewalk!

So, I'm working on is socking refugia everywhere. Lizards have been bouncing back the last few years. All containers are being stacked on top of bricks or even tiles like shown below. It also helps protect against roots going to ground and mud blockages on drainage holes. So, if neighbors ask, the latter is the reason. A few examples are below.

ARGGHH!!! When I hit submit, it came back and said comment too long. It didn't say which comment and wouldn't allow me to edit. Then it just dumped them. So...coming up and I'll try to shorten...

Stems are those hollowed out over the winter in the artificial hedgerows (mentioned in a different thread) and areas left in place for bird cover. They include various milkweeds, tall showy sedum flowering stalks, green-headed coneflower, various sunflowers, bronze fennel, dill, and a variety of native plants.

Bricks are 100+ years old from some scavenging I did in December. The edge tiles are from a big sale at a local HabitatRestore. The containers on the front porch were a result of some serious horsetrading. Got them for a song and couldn't be happier. No one liked the color and they sat idle for about two years before I swooped in. They couldn't even clearance them...they just sat. I like the color...and all the extra growing space! Add to that the amount of lizard use and it works for me!

Hollow-Stems-1.jpg
Getting piles of hollow stems ready for placement.
Getting piles of hollow stems ready for placement.
Hollow-Stems-2.jpg
Wide variety of stem types.
Wide variety of stem types.
Hollow-Stems-3.jpg
More stems.
More stems.
More-Hollow-Stems.jpg
Larger stems from sunflowers and Tithonia.
Larger stems from sunflowers and Tithonia.
SomewhatHiddenBrushPile.jpg
This brush pile is a stump I drilled for bees, a large portion of a tree trunk, and then all spaces filled with hollow stems.
This brush pile is a stump I drilled for bees, a large portion of a tree trunk, and then all spaces filled with hollow stems.
Lizard-refugia-1.jpg
Bricks are typically used under containers on soil to allow for settling.
Bricks are typically used under containers on soil or softer substrates to allow for settling.
Lizard-refugia-2.jpg
More bricks under containers...some with holes adding to habitat complexity.
More bricks under containers...some with holes adding to habitat complexity.
Lizard-refugia-3.jpg
Just now building small bed with large limestone foundation blocks. Will be chinking with additional rock slivers between but leaving hiding places..
Just now building small bed with large limestone foundation blocks. Will be chinking with additional rock slivers between but leaving hiding places..
Lizard-refugia-4.jpg
Initial placement of bed borders showing brick refugia protected by spiny yucca leaves!
Initial placement of bed borders showing brick refugia protected by spiny yucca leaves!
Lizard-refugia-5.jpg
Initial bed border of 100+ year old bricks from a local teardown. Still tweaking it a bit.
Initial bed border of 100+ year old bricks from a local teardown. Still tweaking it a bit.
Lizard-refugia-6.jpg
Bricks under two side-by-side planter boxes. I use the boxes to extend growing spaces near buried utilities.
Bricks under two side-by-side planter boxes. I use the boxes to extend growing spaces near buried utilities.
Lizard-refugia-7.jpg
Edge tiles are used under containers on more solid surfaces. Last year lizards loved these.
Edge tiles are used under containers on more solid surfaces. Last year lizards loved these.
Lizard-refugia-8.jpg
More edge tile refugia. These were a real success. Several lizards and frequent use sightings.
More edge tile refugia. These were a real success. Several lizards and frequent use sightings.
Lizard-refugia-9.jpg
You'd be surprised at what this row of containers supports in the refugia below. I was.
You'd be surprised at what this row of containers supports in the refugia below. I was.
 
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