Monday, July 7, 2008

Natural Pest Control -- Slithery Edition

The moles (voles?) have been taking a toll on our lawn this year. Strange patterns are written all over in dead grass, where their tunnels have disturbed the roots enough to kill it. Since we're organic, we won't poison them. We don't like killing things anyway, which makes them hard to control.

Yesterday I found out that help is already on its way.

"Help," in this case, is in the form of a 3 to 4 foot long black snake. I didn't get a good enough look for positive identification. It's either a black rat snake or a black racer. In my book, a snake that size is "giant," especially when I almost stepped on him, and of course my first reaction was to scream. His response was to vibrate his tail really fast, mimicking a rattler (I've since read that is pretty common among non-venomous snakes). My second reaction was to bang frantically on the back door until my husband came out. I needed him out there not to protect me, but to keep an eye on where the snake went while I ran for my camera. The slithery one is living in a hole in the flower bed next to my kitchen window, and unfortunately was most of the way home before I had a chance to snap the pic.

When we bought this house a year and a half ago, the yard was beautifully kept but, like most suburban yards, it seemed so.... sterile. We didn't even have that many squirrels last summer. Not that we need a lot of squirrels! But with our previous yard we just grew used to having all sorts of animals around (eventually I even came face to face with the coyote that was sleeping in my compost pile!) and it made the view out the back window much more interesting.

In the time we've been here, though, we've been seeing steadily more wildlife, thanks no doubt to the bird feeders and the lack of poisons. In addition to the snake, another newcomer is a chipmunk we spotted this weekend on our back porch. In addition to the chipmunk and snake, here are the other creatures we've encountered out back:
- Lots of birds, most are common ones (sparrows, robbins, finches, starlings, etc.)
- Woodpeckers: downy and flicker
- An unidentified hawk or two
- An occasional owl passer-by (never to be seen, only heard)
- Raccoon
- Squirrels
- Rabbits (although none in the back yard this year... maybe because of the snake)
- Moles (or voles... I don't know how to tell the difference)
- Mice

Some of the critters are pests, but once you make your yard inviting to urban wildlife, you don't exactly get to choose which wildlife must remain on the other side of the fence. So we take the "bad" with the good. And it's always interesting to see what nature sends around when the "bad" starts to get out of hand.

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