When a Snake in the Grass is Just a Snake in the Grass

Spring means snakes.

If you are quiet and observant, you can see the natural world around us speaking Spring.  The birds are chirping more energetically, the butterflies are eagerly seeking nectar and host plants, the wildflowers (weeds to some), are popping up all over.  If you are really lucky, you may see a snake!

Most people scream and jump when they see a snake.  I used to be that way, until I learned more about them. Our irrational fear of snakes can sometimes be detrimental to us and the environment.

I recently had the pleasure of attending a webinar given by Coleman Sheehy, collections manager of herpetology with the Florida Museum of Natural History.  His presentation not only gave me more knowledge to assuage any fears, but it gave me a new appreciation for the usefulness and beauty, yes, beauty of snakes.

The odds are good that a snake you see is probably NOT venomous.

Florida has 55 native snake species yet only 6 species are actually venomous.  That fact alone should make us feel much better about seeing a snake.    We also have 4 non-native snakes as well as 5 that are endemic, which means, they occur nowhere else on the planet.  A few of our native snakes are actually endangered.

Why should we care about snakes, anyways?

Snakes are carnivorous and will eat the critters that can cause us a lot of aggravation, such as mice, rats, lizards, snails, cockroaches and many other garden pests.  Without predators, the prey become pests. We need snakes to keep the balance and control the undesirables.

Snakes are beautiful, really!

Red-bellied Mud Snake (photo courtesy of Florida Museum of Natural History)

What astonished me most is how beautiful some of these snakes are!  I was not prepared to appreciate this fact.  They are almost rivaling the most beautiful butterflies. (Well, I said, almost.)  So, just as we love butterflies for their beauty and their function as pollinators, we need to develop a love of snakes.  Snakes provide beauty and function as efficient and necessary pest predators.

Don’t automatically kill it.

Unless you can identify it as truly venomous, remember that it probably isn’t.  Snakes are not aggressive and prefer to retreat from humans as much as possible.  Don’t let irrational fear cause you to discriminate against a worthy member of the natural world.

Here are some tips on Safety around Snakes.

I encourage you to check out this great Snake Identification resource put together by the Florida Museum of Natural History.  Once you know the good guys from the bad guys, you will feel more confident around them.

Florida Snake ID Guide
So, as spring unfolds, should you happen to see a snake in the grass, remember, that it probably IS just a snake in the grass.



donna corbelli castro
Posted: March 28, 2023

Category: Florida-Friendly Landscaping, Home Landscapes, Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension, Work & Life
Tags: Biological Control, Ecology, Florida Snakes, Newsletter, Newsletter2, Snake Id, Snakes, Venomous Snakes

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