A warm early spring brought out the snakes around the pond in record numbers. I did some research and learned quite a bit about the Eastern garter snakes that were visiting. I expect to see them in spring and sometimes in the garden in summer, but we have never seen them in fall especially when the weather turns cold.
So imagine our surprise at seeing snakes the past few weekends. I have been weeding and planting around the garden, and everywhere I was I saw a garter snake here and there and the occasional rat snake. It is a good thing I love snakes. And I know snakes are great for the garden as they show the habitat is healthy.
But why so many snakes?
We didn’t really have a clue until we saw this over the weekend. We occasionally have snakes that sit in the lip of the pond filter where it is dark, warm and safe, but we have never seen a ball of snakes in the filter. And once these 3 snakes left there were 2 more that slithered into the lip from underground.
It then dawned on me that perhaps we were looking at a snake den for garters. The larger snake is likely the female and many of the younger are recent live births. Snakes migrate back to their den in October so we think this is what we were witnessing.
A den doesn’t look like much more than a hole, but a deep hole that can hold 30 or more snakes. It can also be a rock wall, or a stump both of which we have, but we have not noticed snake activity there.
Our pond (pictured right in early March) is a perfect habitat area for a snake as it has a rocky area for a den and lots of food; tadpoles and frogs. It appears that the snakes have created a den in this area. In our warm March we saw several snakes continually moving in and out of the rocks around the waterfall (pictured above) before the pump was plugged in. We didn’t see much activity around the pond in spring and summer as snakes leave the den between later March and October. Now they are hanging around the filter area.
I think my biggest concern is the number of young a female can give birth too between August and September. They can have up to 80 little snakes which will be too much for our little pond and yard. We will have to keep an eye out this fall and next spring to make sure we are not overrun. There is a wild area behind us with woods and a pond. It is the perfect place for snakes to run wild and free.
Who knows what we shall see in spring. Perhaps more garters and rat snakes (pictured left) may emerge and go their separate ways into our garden and surrounding wild areas searching for voles. OK maybe I won’t worry too much about them then.
Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. ~George Eliot
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