Snake Prevention In The Australian Back Yard
One thing I know for sure about about Australia: it is the undisputed land of the reptile. With a total of just under 1000 species of snakes, lizards, turtles and crocodiles, it seems at first surprising to hear that there are still more being discovered! However thanks to the massive evolutionary radiations of reptile species and Australia’s innately biologist-hostile environment, recent years have seen the classification of a new central Australian taipan species, new leaf-tailed geckos, skinks, dragons, and more. Our treasure trove of reptile diversity, the highest of any country in the world, along with our stunning flowering plants, amphibians and marsupials, means Australia is only one of seventeen “megadiverse” countries in the world. While this causes herpetologists to nerd-gasm at the mere thought of Australia’s sandy desert lizard communities or the prospect of finding a brand new species (I’m thinking desert tiger snake), there’s plenty of diversity right here in South East Queensland, some of which can be found in your own back yard.
Again, I understand that myself and the small percentage of reptile enthusiasts out there are much more excited about this prospect than the rest of rational thinking, cat stroking society.Fear of snakes is a very real thing, an ingrained evolutionary response from days long gone. Snakes were, after all, around long before primates, undoubtedly preying on some of our scurrying ancestral predecessors and have continued to play a big part in hominid history as everything from food to clothing item, their venom and sinusoidal, undulating movements inspiring not just fear, but myth, legend and reverence.
With that in mind, the simple fact is many people don’t want to have a snake encounter in their backyard, and honestly, neither do snakes! If you have a healthy respect and a decent amount of property, than creating any wildlife refuge is a fantastic thing if you ask me, however the average suburban backyard may not be the option for you. Luckily, if you should so desire, there are some simple steps to making the Aussie back yard a less snakey place.
As with any wildlife, what snakes are looking for in peoples yards is good habitat. This means food, water and above all, shelter. Australia is a very resource poor continent, and our animals have adapted to be very conservative with their resource usage, meaning many reptiles can go for months without food or water, but shelter from the elements and predators is a must. If you can eliminate shelter, then food and water sources, you’re on your way to some good snake prevention. So, keep the grass short, avoid leaving piles of timber, green waste and leaf litter etc. in the yard if possible, particularly around the house itself. Low, ground covering vegetation should be kept to a minimum, and large trees with branches coming close or in contact with the house itself should be trimmed back to avoid climbers like pythons from using trees as a ladder to your roof and guttering. Rock walls with gaps and crevices should be filled where possible. Rubbish and litter, particularly sheets of corrugated iron, pipes, wooden sleepers and sheet metal make fantastic shelter for snakes and their prey items, such as rodents or lizards, and should thus be removed, raised off the ground, or kept in storage. Keep bins, composts and pet (particularly poultry or hobby bird) feeding areas clean, keep your eyes out for signs of rodents and do your best to eliminate them. Finally, and obviously, avoid leaving food waste out which can attract rodents and tie up bin bags to minimize the smell of decomposing foodstuffs.
Basically a clean, simple yard with reduced structure, shelter and potential food is the way to go. You can also splash out for either good steel fencing or small gauge wire mesh dug in to the ground around your property or plugging fence gaps to minimize the potential for snake traffic. It is, however, important to remember that snakes are native and it is practically impossible to entirely guarantee a snake proof property, particularly in this part of the world where reptiles rule, however snakes will do their absolute best to avoid people. We must seem like a rather imposing menace to such small, low-lying creatures! Snakes are afraid of people, plain and simple. Any “aggression” in snakes would much better be referred to as defensiveness in my opinion. They’re also an essential key predator in our ecosystems, controlling rodent, lizard, frog and even other snake populations, keeping the balance between food and foodstuff in natural ecosystems, while also minimizing loss of crops in our agricultural landscapes due to rats and mice, and will happily perform this service for you, and for Australia, gratis.
How very generous of them, the cute little buggers! 🙂