Snakes are a very common fear. About 30% of Australians are scared of snakes, 10% of US adults, and 20% of US teens. And there is a good reason for this. Numerous species can cause harm through venom in Australia. But snakes are generally a very misunderstood species and through our work at DJL Exotics, we’ve come across numerous people who have expectations of snakes that are far from reality.
And yet, snakes are a vital part of the ecosystem, providing more benefit than harm. In this article, we will look at some of the benefits and address some of the issues.
Snakes aren’t Aggressive
One of the first misconceptions about snakes is that they are aggressive. The truth couldn’t be further from this. Many snakes live in fear. They are a species that are reliant on staying hidden to survive with numerous predators who are more than capable of killing them. Foxes, birds of prey, other snakes, crocodiles and other species will easily make a meal of even some of the larger snakes.
Even their prey can cause major pain for a snake, with rats and mice able to inflict massive wounds on a snake.
Snakes only have three forms of defence: hiding, running, and biting. Biting is considered a last resort because it does put them at risk. When they bite they’re exposing the rest of their body to attack, so they tend to only do this when they feel cornered, with no way to escape.
And even venomous species would prefer not to bite, or if they do, give a dry bite (a bite without venom). Venom takes a lot of energy and resources to produce, which they would prefer to restrict to prey items or for emergencies.
In captivity, bites are usually a result of a mistake on the owner’s part. Many reptile enthusiasts have noted that it is often during feeding times or if the snake is in shed and feeling particularly vulnerable. Many times, snakes will interact with their carers and there is evidence to show that they have the emotional capability to form bonds.
Snakes aren’t Slimy
Another misconception is that snakes are slimy. But snake skin is completely dry. Reptiles in general have evolved to hold in moisture, unlike mammals. That is why they can survive better in environments like the desert where there is little water.
If you touch a snake or any other reptile, you will notice how dry the skin is.
Snakes Control Major Pests
All snakes are carnivores, though the prey they hunt can be different. Though the majority of species target rodents like mice and rats. Though some species will hunt insects like cockroaches.
These are normally species that are associated with lots of diseases. Mice, for instance, are known to spread 35 diseases to humans. While there is a risk of snakes passing on diseases, there are far fewer and you’re less likely to come into contact with them. Plus these diseases aren’t limited to snakes, they’re often common with any animal.
Snakes only consume one or two meals a week, which unfortunately doesn’t eliminate pests like mice and rats from an area. But several snakes in an area can keep populations under control.
And the benefits aren’t just to health. Reducing pest populations protects food stores, garden areas, and environments from bad odours.
They are a Food Source
While we love snakes, it is important to note that they are part of the food chain and not the apex predator. They can be a major food source for numerous species including birds, large mammals, and other species.
Removing them from ecosystems can cause a significant crash in local populations of other species that people love.
How to Live Side-by-Side with Snakes
Part of the goal for DJL Exotics is to educate people about reptiles and their importance to the environments we live in. And snakes are no different. Understandably, people might not want to have snakes around them, but they do play an important role.
Therefore, we have to learn how to live side-by-side with snakes. Some of this can involve deterring them from areas we want to live in. And some other measures can be providing suitable homes for snakes in other locations.
One of the things we love about Envirobug is that they have a way to deter snakes that don’t harm them. The snake repellent they have allows you to keep snakes away from your property by emitting a vibration that makes the snake believe that there is a predator nearby. Therefore, the snake will look for somewhere else to be.
You can also deter snakes by removing food and shelter options for mice/rats. Or you can ensure there are no hiding places in your home/garden. If a snake does make its home in your garden, call a snake catcher that will release a snake in a suitable area, and don’t get one that will kill the snake or harm it.
In addition, we must create locations where snakes can thrive. You can take part in local community programmes with charities that aim to build habitats back up. Partaking in these events and programmes can offer great mental and physical health benefits as you will be spending a lot of time outside. And you will be helping the local species.
And these programmes can also benefit lots of other species. As mentioned, snakes are an important part of the ecosystem. Mice and rats are often invasive species, so a large part of many of their diets can help us reduce invasive species populations.
Final Word: The Importance of Snakes in Our Lives
Snakes are a vital part of the ecosystem. They are both predator and prey and keep pest populations down. While they are an important part of our ecosystem, you might not be happy with them in your yard. But there are options to keep them out and build them new habitats where they can thrive and help us.