The following is a list of simple, yet effective actions that people can take to help contribute to the conservation of snakes!
- If you encounter a snake in the wild DO NOT KILL IT. Simply leave the snake alone.
- Do not catch snakes from the wild to keep them as pets. Leave wild animals in their natural habitats.
- Every year legions of snakes are killed on roads when they are run over. Keep an eye out for snakes to avoid hitting them. This is especially important rural roads that are adjacent to grasslands, forests, and wetlands.
- Do not use and encourage others not to use rat-poisons, chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and other similar chemicals around your home or cottage. These chemicals can harm snakes, and reduce their prey items.
- Make sure to properly dispose of hazardous waste materials as to not contribute to the contamination of snake habitats. This includes household chemicals for cleaning, motor oils, all pharmaceutical medicines, and camping sewage. Whenever possible try to eliminate the usage of such items to further benefit snakes.
- Do not wear insect repellents or sunscreens. DEET (which is found in most insect repellents) is thought to be toxic to reptiles. As such campers, hikers, birders, and all others who enjoy the outdoors are encouraged to wear bug jackets, light long-sleeved shirts, hats, and sunglasses to protect against insects and sunburn. This will eliminate the need to dose with various chemicals before heading out into natural environments.
- During the winter months DO NOT use road salts, but instead, use sand. When salts are used they often wash off of the roads during rain and snow melts and end up in nearby wetlands. These salts can have extremely negative impacts on amphibians, which are an important prey item for many species of snake.
- Snakes are often captured and killed for food markets and for their skins. Do not support these! Even if individuals try to justify that they didn’t kill the animal, they are supporting the demand and more snakes will have to be killed. If people encounter stores that are selling these snake products they can further help by writing in and letting these businesses know that they will not support any stores that attempt to profit from such cruelty.
- When camping do not collect fallen logs, stumps, or wood from forests, wetlands, or other areas for fire. These materials act as important shelters and hiding spots for many snakes. Compressed paper bricks are a better alternative for fireplaces and campfires. These are made from recycled paper material and sawdust that would otherwise go to waste. Organic Briquettes, which are made from recycled corn cobs, groundnuts, and rice husks can also be used for fires. Yet another alternative is to use solar cookers while camping.
- When visiting streams, do not remove rocks, or move them around (e.g moving them to build dams, or to throw them). River and stream rocks act as important areas for several snake species.
- Similarly, do not remove (or move around or displace) fallen logs, stumps, driftwood, rocks, bark shards, leaf litter or other similar items from natural areas. These materials act as important shelters, egg-laying/birthing, and basking spots for snakes.
- Water conservation is important to all animals. Help by reducing water usage. Do not leave taps running while shaving, brushing teeth, etc. Reduce shower times to further conserve water.
- To help conserve water use rain barrels around your property. The water collected in these can be re-used to water plants and gardens. Rain barrels can collect some 1,300 gallons of water annually. The water saved through rain barrels will not only benefit snakes but will also help save money by cutting back on water consumption.
- When out in natural areas that snakes frequent, be respectful. Keep an eye out for snakes on paths when biking or hiking to ensure that none are stepped on or crushed. When using All-terrain vehicles stay on designated paths to avoid running over and killing snakes that are hiding under leaf litter or other forms of natural debris. When visiting woodlands and forests make sure to stay on designated paths. Walking over leaf-litter, rocks, and logs can crush and kill snakes that are hiding under these natural forms of shelter.
- You can help preserve snake habitat by donating money to the Nature Conservancy. The Nature Conservancy’s mission is to preserve the plants, animals and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive.
- Keep others informed! Let others know about the threats that snakes are facing and what we can do to help! Share this website on your blog, Facebook, and Twitter! Write into your local newspapers and elected officials to voice your concerns for snakes. Let them know about the threats that snakes face and what we can do to help!
HABITAT MANAGEMENT & STEWARDSHIP ACTIVITIES
Habitat loss is one of the most significant threats that snakes face. This makes the practices of landowners a powerful conservation tool. The following is a list of stewardship activities that will help enrich the land and create suitable habitats for snakes.
- Landowners are encouraged to leave as much of their property as natural and as undisturbed as possible. This is especially important for south-facing slopes, sunny slopes, rock outcrops, and wetlands. Let areas grow thick with grass and natural vegetation. However, be sure that vegetation or trees do not shade previously sunny or exposed areas.
- Do not strip away or cut down trees, stumps, vegetation, and other natural features. Do not drain wetlands or bodies of water. If these features have been previously removed an effort should be made to restore them and return the landscape to its natural setting to reverse any human-induced degradation. The reintroduction of natural and native plants should also take place.
- Care should be made to restrict vehicular traffic, livestock, and recreation in the natural portions of the property that act as important areas for snakes. This is especially important in and around wetlands, ponds, other aquatic habitats, and moist woodlands/forests. It is also important to keep the upland areas that are within 300 feet of natural pools, ravines, or wetlands in pristine natural conditions.
- If you own land with marshes, swamps, or other bodies of water do not rake or remove the natural vegetation that occurs in and around the water. Such features provide cover for both snakes and their prey items.
- Do not remove the natural vegetation from around shorelines and forest edges. Leaving buffers of natural vegetation and grasses around wetlands and the surrounding terrestrial regions is extremely important. Leave these areas thick with vegetation by allowing buffers of tall grass, trees, saplings, shrubs, ferns, and other natural plants to grow. These offer cover to snakes and help protect water quality by reducing erosion and chemical runoff. Leave an uncut buffer at the edges of hay fields, pastures, and lawns. Buffers of 500 meters are preferred.
- Leave snags, fallen trees, and dead standing trees. These act as egg-laying and basking sites for many snakes.
- Do not make any alterations that will change the flow of water in any wetlands or natural pools on the property, whether these be seasonal or permanent bodies of water.
- Take measures to prevent soil erosion/siltation. The addition of silt and clay into streams and rivers can severely degrade these habitats. Silt and clay also fill in important depressions under rocks which are used by snakes as cover for themselves, and as areas to find prey. Planting cover crops, native plants or shrubs can also prevent erosion. Dense crop stands physically slow down the velocity of rainfall before it contacts the soil surface, preventing soil splashing and erosive surface runoff.
- Do not drive or run heavy machinery or vehicles through any wetlands or pools, whether in their wet or dry states.
- Do not allow livestock to access wetlands or pools. Here they can trample and degrade these habitats with their fecal waste. Provide plastic basins for livestock to drink from.
- Do not alter the water levels in wetlands or bodies of water (whether seasonal or permanent) in any way. Leave the natural water levels and let natural fluctuations occur. This means allowing natural flooding/draining to happen.
- Do not release any non-native plants or animals of any kind. Non-native species can have devastating effects on natural ecosystems. Furthermore if exotics are present (either plant or animal) eliminate their presence.
- Do not stock fish in ponds/wetlands. Let natural populations occur. Stocking can create a surplus of predators.
- Make sure all septic tanks and pipelines are not leaking into wetlands or natural pools.
- Beaver ponds are an important type of wetland. Snakes will use these as foraging sites. Do not drain beaver ponds! Do not fill in the natural pools, ponds, or wetlands even when dry. Do not dig into the bottom of the pool, even when it is dry as this will disturb the non-permeable layer of soil that allows the pool to flood.
- Allow a buffer of tall grass and natural vegetation to grow between the road and the property. This will help reduce chemical runoff from roads which can damage and degrade frog habitats. A buffer of 50 feet is preferred.
- It is important to leave natural areas in-between wetlands, forests, meadows, ravines, and other green spaces where ever possible. This will provide natural corridors in which the frogs can travel in between habitats. If various habitats do exist but have already been fragmented or cut off from each other, efforts should be made to increase natural (and native) forms of vegetation and cover to form corridors. Do not fragment areas of woods or meadows into smaller cut-off sections by clear-cutting, or stripping away thick areas of vegetation. Leave areas like grasslands and meadows lush.
- Reduce food waste and control its storage. Garbage, composts, pet food, and bird seed may attract raccoons, skunks, and other predators that may prey on snakes. Store garbage, composts, recycling, and other food sources indoors or in containers that cannot be opened by animals. Avoid feeding pets outside. Place bird feeders so they are inaccessible to raccoons and skunks and keep areas underneath bird feeders clean. Never feed raccoons or skunks. These are devastating snake predators. You can further help to minimize the populations of these predators by reducing their food supply. Inform the city about dumpsters that are not kept closed.
- Keep dogs on a leash or under your control and keep cats inside. Pets that wander can be devastating predators to snakes.
- When building houses, sheds, and other structures, design them to be smaller. Build up instead of out. This will reduce the amount of habitat that is affected by such unnatural features.