I’ve had two visitors in my garden recently – one common and the other less so.
In our area, the squirrel population is completely dominated by the “grays.” That’s why I was surprised to see this unusual little red squirrel in my crabapple tree.
If I had to guess, I’d say he was checking out the nesting box to see if there was any tasty protein in there. No luck this time. The box is empty. I haven’t seen him since.
To the great chagrin of some of our neighbors and family members, we have always had snakes that like to bask on top of the shrubs at the front of the house. They are all common garter snakes, or Thamnophis sirtalis.
We welcome them in our garden because they help control pests, and they keep away the “ophidiophobes,” or the snake-phobic, most of whom we don’t like anyway. According to the RI Department of Environmental Management, there are NO venomous native snakes in Rhode Island, so their hysteria is all for naught.
I don’t know why, but I have a feeling this large garter snake is a female. I see her early every morning (unless it’s raining) always in the same spot on the same shrub to the right of our front entrance. When I walk outside with my dog, she just stays right where she is. Once in a while she’ll flick her tongue, but usually she does nothing. She is always gone by 9 am.
I am debating whether to tell the new owners of this house about our snakes. I don’t want them to be taken by surprise and overreact by killing them, but I don’t want to take the chance of scaring them in advance either.
I have read that the course of evolution has endowed humans (and many other animals) with an innate fear of snakes because we had to protect ourselves from the venomous ones. But our brains evolved, too, didn’t they? So we should be able to avoid the dangerous snakes and leave the harmless and beneficial ones alone.