Snakes in your compost

jbest123(Zone 5 PA)February 28, 2008

Animal Planet just had a program on reptiles. I knew that baby venomous snakes could strike soon after birth. What got my attention was that snakeÂs will often use compost piles for laying there eggs because of the warmth. So I guess if you see a snake visiting your compost pile you should tread lightly.


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The presence of snakes in our outdoor compost piles was the major reason I went to composting inside the greenhouse. It is also important to note that baby venomous snakes generally cannot control whether or not they inject venom when they strike; an adult can control this. Consequently, baby snakes pose a more significant risk: they are harder to see, and more likely to inject if they strike. We have a zero tolerance policy for snakes because of the significant danger to us and others, particularly children. A fair number of them meet the end of a hoe each year. Some of the glue traps also work to catch the small snakes. In our area, right next to an outside compost pile is probably one of the best places to put the glue traps.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2008 at 8:14PM
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In some climates some snakes may "often" lay their eggs in seldom-disturbed compost piles, but in general it is an uncommon occurrence. And, they are not likely to be venomous species, and more likely to be allies like king snakes and garters.

In the interest of helping calm fears stirred up by TV, I've never seen a snake nor snake eggs in my compost. Had 'em in the hay and in the grass and in the house, but never in compost.

Here is a link that might be useful: my website

    Bookmark   February 28, 2008 at 9:50PM
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jbest123(Zone 5 PA)

Bcomplex, the vast majority of people who have lived in Pennsylvania have never seen a rattle snake or a copperhead and yet we have a very healthy population of both. There are Rattlers in the northern half and copperheads in the southern half including metropolitan areas. On the contrary the program was not trying to stir up fear of snakes. IÂm not sure now but I think the video of the snake laying eggs in the compost pile was a venomous one. A zoologist in care of the reptiles at a local zoo showed me a photo of 22 rattlers on top of a large rock sunning them selves. That rock is within sight of my favorite trout stream. I have seen rattlers and copperheads in the wild but never in that area. I do however look on the other side of a log before I step over it.


Here is a link that might be useful: PA Rattlesnake Roundup

    Bookmark   February 29, 2008 at 7:27AM
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The last year that I saw any numbers about people being bitten by rattlesnakes said that in the USA 20 people were so bitten and that of those 18 were hunting them when bitten. Fear of being bitten by snakes is way overblown since they really do not want to bite humans and will, if at all possible, leave the area you are in without making any contact with your. In fact all snakes will do that, given a chance.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2008 at 7:37AM
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jbest123(Zone 5 PA)

Not many bites but plenty of misses. IÂm just pointing out that people should be aware of the environment they are in. IÂm neutral about my feelings on the roundups I think the rattlers should be left alone but on the other hand they collect the venom for medical reasons. I live in an urban area and the snakes that I see are safe. I would rather see an occasional snake than rats or mice.

I canÂt find any data on Rattlesnake bites per yr but one article states there are 3000 copperhead bits per yr and they are usually not hunted.


Here is a link that might be useful: Snakes in Pennsylvania

    Bookmark   February 29, 2008 at 8:40AM
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Man are you guys off! I googled "rattlesnake bite statistics" and it was the very first hit, are we even trying to be informative?

"Approximately 8,000 people a year receive venomous snakebites in the U.S., 9-15 victims die. (FDA)"


Here is a link that might be useful: Desert USA article

    Bookmark   February 29, 2008 at 8:51AM
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jbest123(Zone 5 PA)

Each year, approximately 8,000 venomous snakebites occur in the United States.1,2 Between 1960 and 1990, no more than 12 fatalities from snake venom poisoning were reported annually.3,4 Most snakebites occur between April and October, when outdoor activities are popular.5

Here is a link that might be useful: Venomous Snakebites in the United States: Management Review and Update

    Bookmark   February 29, 2008 at 8:57AM
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jbest123(Zone 5 PA)

Wow Lloyd that strike you just made was a near miss. If you had read a previous thread I was specifically talking about not being able to find Rattlesnake data I hope you feel more informed now.


    Bookmark   February 29, 2008 at 9:19AM
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Hi John. Naw, I didn't read the article, I didn't really care, we don't have rattlesnakes up here.

But I gotta tell ya, the "near miss" thing made my heart skip a beat. In my business a "near miss" is a really serious thing, we don't like to say those two words together out loud. If'n you don't know what a "near miss" is, google will tell ya.


    Bookmark   February 29, 2008 at 9:29AM
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jbest123(Zone 5 PA)

A near miss means the same thing down here as in Manitoba. What is your point?


    Bookmark   February 29, 2008 at 9:48AM
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None, I had already moved on and I was bored. Sorry to confuse you.


    Bookmark   February 29, 2008 at 9:54AM
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the_virginian(Zone 7 NoVA)

I am happy when snakes of any kind visit or nest in my compost pile as they keep pests away from my house and garden. Shame on those of you who just kill snakes because they are there. If you find one, don't be lazy or mean, capture it and release it away from your home if you don't like it. Snakes do way more good than harm when it comes to rat, mice and insect control vs. biting people. If the snake is venomous have someone remove it for you if you are afraid to handle it safely to move it.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2008 at 12:16PM
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Im thinking of going to my Dad's a round up a couple garter (or is it garden) snakes. I need some slug predators.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2008 at 9:20PM
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Must be the people at Duke that supplied me with that information knew not what they spoke of. What I have seen is a wide range of numbers of people being bitten as well as a very wide range in the number of people that died as well as some very old information on treatment if someone does get bitten. The years listed are also in the 1960 to 1990 range. Maybe many of those 4,000 to 8,000 people reported to have been bitten then were bitten by something other than a rattlesnake.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2008 at 8:24AM
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I took a 5 day rafting and kayaking trip on a desert river (Owyhee from Three Forks to Rome). Every day we saw rattlesnakes. Scouting the rapids was more dangerous than running the rapids.

On the first rapid, as I was walking on the rocks at river's edge and looking at the rapid, I reached out my hand to steady myself on the rocks, when out of the corner of my eye my brain registered something. A bird's nest? In the rocks? I turned and looked just before I put my hand down on a coiled rattlesnake.

The worst was day three at Widowmaker Rapid. About 5 different snakes as we were trying to line our rafts over the falls.

No bites, but it was a lesson about snakes; they like to hang out near water.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2008 at 10:01PM
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if you have snakes in your compost, you probably have voles and mice. they're more afraid of you than you are of them...let them make their living.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2008 at 4:33PM
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I had snakes in my compost last year. Garter snakes, since we don't have any *real* snakes here. :-)

They seemed to like the warm compost in the early to mid spring, especially in the morning, and I'm sure they were scouting voles, which are all over the place. This year, there was little vole activity. Bless those snakes!

Of course, they (the snakes) blend in very well with the compost and they always elicited a startle response when I came across them. The downside is that I wouldn't disturb the compost where they were living and probably breeding. Not because of fear, but because their work is much appreciated and i didn't want to disrupt their home. Couldn't use the compost until they left. A small price to pay. :-)

    Bookmark   March 2, 2008 at 6:56PM
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the_virginian(Zone 7 NoVA)

What part of NY State are you in? The reason I ask is some parts are Timber rattler country. We have copperheads and Timber rattlers here, but they are rare and I've only seen about a score of them in the wild in my life. I was bitten as a child by a baby copperhead and while it burned a hole in my thumb, gave me fever like symptoms and some swelling of the arm and hand; I survived with a scar on my thumb and no trip to the hospital. Ididn't tell anyone as I was too scared my Dad the Dr. would be mad...dumb kid I was! I would seek medical attention now and encourage strongly anyone bitten by a venomous snake do so immediately. I got bitten because I incorrectly handled the hatchling copperhead and have since modified my snake catching technique. I never kill any of the venomous snakes and catch them and release them in the woods away from the house in the rare instance I find one. Other non-venomous snakes I like to keep around the yard for pest control.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2008 at 4:20PM
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Snakes do indeed like compost piles.

Rattlesnakes and copperheads are live-bearers rather than egg layers, however, so if a snake lays eggs in the compost pile in the United States it is harmless (unless its a coral snake..the only egg laying venomous snake in the United States).

    Bookmark   March 5, 2008 at 9:46PM
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micronthecat(7, North Carolina)

The only good snake is a dead one, end of story. My favorite weapon for snakes is a 20 gauge shotgun. DW is absolutely a dead-eye shot with that thing...


    Bookmark   March 5, 2008 at 10:06PM
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If you are killing snakes, then in my opinion, you are dead wrong. 99.9% of the snakes you will run across are non venomous, and will react by slithering away from you. I actually brought a few rat snakes, and corn snakes home when I lived on the farm - they controlled the rats. If I saw a rattler - and I did almost every week, I just walked around it as they are tremendous mousers, rats too. In my current situation, I have introduced several ring necked snakes, garter snakes, and dekay's snakes into my yard, garden, compost area. They help control the insects when they get out of control. Kill snakes just because their there? SHAME ON YOU. BTW, I do know what I am talking about, I was very into herpatology until 30 years old, have owned and bred hundreds of reptiles and amphibians successfully. They are very much an important part of the ecosystem. Some of you make me..... TiMo

    Bookmark   March 6, 2008 at 8:52AM
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Sorry -- what does TiMo mean? Just curious....

About the snakes -- I am still a newby with the composting thing, have only been doing it for less than a year. Thanks for the info, I will keep an eye out for garter snake eggs, etc once things start heating up this spring. I always get such good info from all you guys! Thanks!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2008 at 6:26PM
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micronthecat(7, North Carolina)

Sorry TiMo, but one's gotta do what one's gotta do. We have chickens and guineas. Snakes eat eggs and baby chickens and guineas. Therefore, they get blasted if we see 'em. OTOH, the chickens and guineas will eat baby snakes if they find 'em, also mice and moles/voles and have better personalities than snakes any day, LOL.


    Bookmark   March 8, 2008 at 11:22AM
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Snake personalities range like human personalities. Some are high strung and defensive and ready to attack anything that scares them; most are calm, mild-mannered and will leave you alone if you leave them alone.

In terms of percentages I think more people fall into the first personality type than snakes.

I like all kinds of people and all kinds of snakes though. I think the variation in personalities is what makes both kinds of creatures interesting.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2008 at 12:29PM
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ok in PA there are only 3 different kinds of venomous snakes.
the Northern Copperhead,Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake,and the Timber Rattlesnake. Which none of the three lay eggs.. Animal Planet is Retarded. Always trying to get someone worried... No worries about about venomous snakes in your compost..

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 11:43PM
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If you are terrified of snakes - it doesn't matter what they do or don't do - I won't go near a Dead snake - and could not touch a compost pile that I had seen a snake near! Just "listening" to you makes me put my feet up from the floor. I can pick up a mouse and kill it anytime - but I can't even touch a snake picture in a book! Thank God - I've lived on the same farm for 41 yrs and never seen a snake on our land.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 11:29PM
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polly_il(z5/6 IL)

Well, it's not a snake, but I found this skink as I was shifting a compost pile last year. The pile still had a lot of frozen areas in it; guess he was hibernating.


    Bookmark   May 14, 2008 at 2:43AM
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Oh lord, that skink picture again.

Snakes like soggy bread. That might be the appeal.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2008 at 8:59AM
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lisascenic Urban Gardener, Oakland CA

That skink is precious! All snuggled up!

    Bookmark   July 12, 2008 at 1:47AM
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This summer I tagged along with my daughter who was visiting a local farm. We inquired about the bird netting around the base of a small chicken pen. The bird netting was in a loose roll around the perimeter of the chicken enclosure. This, the owner said, prevented snakes from getting in to the chickens as they would get caught in the mesh and the more they thrashed about, the more entangled they would become in the mesh, unable to escape.

This might work, unless of course the snakes are coming up from the ground inside the compost bin itself. (Personally, I HATE snakes!)

    Bookmark   October 24, 2008 at 9:42PM
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I'd never thought of adding snake to my compost pile---would that be a brown or a green? JK!! don't have much in the order of snakes near my place, but......someone in their infinate knowledge, has started a rattle snake refuge not too far from here, so, suppose it won't be long and they'll be lurking in everyones gardens.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2008 at 5:45PM
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Once again, thankfully stated here by mma_fanatic976... Copperheads, Rattlesnakes and Cottonmouths ARE ALL LIVEBEARERS AND DONT LAY EGGS.
If you find eggs try not to move them. Mom might be near too, checking on them, but even if she seems scarey, she won't hurt you either.
This is 21st century, people need not be so speciesist. Thank you too, wayne_mo, some of my friends happen to be snakes, I sure trust them more than some folks I've met.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2008 at 2:44AM
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