Jan 082017

I realize many people are afraid of snakes; however, they play an important role in our desert ecosystem. One of the main entrees in a snake’s diet is rodents, such as our native white-throated woodrat (aka packrat). When snakes are killed, or removed from SMVE, the packrat population increases. This in turn costs homeowners and our HOA more money for packrat removal. Besides, trying to kill rattlesnakes actually puts you at greater risk than does leaving them alone. Homeowners and renters should tell their landscapers not to kill or injure snakes. Any snake removed from your property must be placed in SMVE common land, such as the wash behind your home.

When snakes are killed, or removed from SMVE, the packrat population increases.

While we do have rattlesnakes in our area, the most common being the Western Diamondback, we have other non-venomous snakes as well such as the Gopher (aka Bull) Snake and the Common Kingsnake.

Snakes are amazingly adept at climbing over our brick walls and sometimes appear in our yards or on patios in search of prey. Don’t panic! Snakes will usually move on if left alone. Do not attempt to pick up a snake. If you have a pet, keep it inside if a rattlesnake is in the yard. Learn how to recognize a rattler and distinguish it from a harmless gopher snake. Go to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum website and enter “snakes” in the Search box for useful information.

Even rattlesnakes are unlikely to strike a human unless they feel threatened. They perceive people as predators, not prey, and prefer to avoid us if given the chance.

Other tips for avoiding adverse rattlesnake interactions:

  • Never reach under a bush, into your irrigation control box, or any outdoor dark space without getting a good look first. Use a tool or pole to look under bushes.
  • Always take a flashlight or use the flashlight on your phone when walking outside in the dark; often snakes wander onto our roads for warmth at night.
  • Don’t walk in the desert barefoot or in open-toed shoes.
  • Keep your yard free of brush or rock piles and dense vegetation low to the ground.
  • Don’t leave pets unattended in your yard. If you do, consider snake avoidance training for your dog.
  • If you hear a rattle, the snake is warning you of its presence. STOP and locate the snake so you can avoid it.
  • Never pick up a dead rattlesnake with your hands. It may not be dead, and even if it is, it may still bite (reflexively) and envenomate.
  • Snakes can be active in winter if temperatures reach 70 degrees.

If you need a snake removed from your property, call or text SMVE residents Ted Forsberg at 520-203-6153 or Granny Grant at 301-641-5666 or email snake@smve.org.

We will respond as soon as possible and move the snake to a safe location away from your yard.

While we have many lizard species in our desert environment, the only venomous one is the Gila monster. These slow moving, large heavy-bodied lizards are no threat to humans unless you try to pick one up with your hands or your pet harasses it. If one gets into your yard, the best strategy is to leave it alone as it will move on in search of food or a mate. Gila monsters prey on newborn rodents, rabbits, and hares, ground nesting birds and lizards, as well as eggs from birds, lizards, and snakes. They live in burrows and according to some estimates spend 98 percent of their time in their burrow.

In 1952 the Gila monster became the first venomous animal in North America to be afforded legal protection; it is therefore illegal to collect, kill, or sell them in Arizona.

If you cannot reach either of us and are a Rural /Metro Fire subscriber, call and they will remove the snake for free, but insist that the snake is not harmed and is relocated on SMVE land.