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Outdoor Learning: Those charming snakes

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By DIANE STRAUSER ALVAREZ
Master Naturalist and Camp Bayou Supporter

I see snakes several times a month in my natural yard of two acres. I grew  up with black snakes in Florida, and we never killed them because they will keep the rattlesnakes away. Or is that just a legend? The experts at the University of Florida (ifas.ufl.edu) say that the black snakes commonly seen are the Eastern Indigo (Drymarchon couperi) and the Southern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor priapus). They will eat poisonous snakes. They can even be a benefit around the neighborhood.

Another legend is that St. Patrick, who brought Christianity to Ireland in the fifth century, charmed the snakes out of Ireland. Who wants them out? I love seeing these charming snakes. I have three things in my yard that attract and provide for snakes: brush piles, leaf litter, and a rock garden. On one unusually warm day in January, I disturbed three black snakes sunning themselves on top of my rock garden. I do not know if they were black racers or black indigoes. Two of them quickly moved off toward the brush pile. They were about 4 to 5-feet long and fairly thick bodied. I noticed no white or other color. The other much thinner black snake stayed in the rock garden, though hid slightly in the grass and leaf litter near the rocks. This one then slithered into a rock crevice but showed up several days afterwards and even stayed while I walked very near it. Had  I perhaps seen both species together?

The Indigo is a rare and threatened species, and I agree with the UF experts who say, “You should consider yourself lucky if you see one of these beautiful “`black snakes.’” I wish you an Irish blessing, and may it include a lucky view of Florida wildlife.

What’s in your yard?

This column is sponsored by Camp Bayou Outdoor Learning Center located in Ruskin at 4140 24th Street SE, 3 miles south of S.R. 674 off exit 240 W. on I-75. Email: campbayou@gmail.com or call (813) 641-8545 for more information.

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