Unwelcome Visitors in My Yard

Bonnie Nowicki

On top of all the challenging moments in 2021, my hubby and I experienced snakes in our, supposedly, snake-proof fenced yard; not once, but three times this year. We immediately called our local snake catcher (520-629-9200) each time. Within 20 minutes, a young fireman arrived with the proper tools for removal. As relatively new (four-year) residents here in Quail Creek, it’s past time for me to do some snake research.

One of the hazards of gardening in Arizona is the occasional appearance of a snake. All snakes are beneficial, even venomous rattlesnakes. Snakes eat rodents, and they can live from 10 to 40 years. Snakes cannot tolerate extremes of weather, both hot and cold. At around 80 degrees Fahrenheit, snakes will leave the scorching sun for someplace cooler. During winter, they look for warmer, south-facing spots where it goes into a phase of physical inactivity called “brumation,” a sort of hibernation. The south side of our home is where the baby rattlesnake was curled up. All rattlesnakes (Crotalus Sistrurus) are vipers and have two well-defined pits located under their nostrils, but its rattles are their most distinguishing feature. Baby rattlers have a bulb on their tail tips, so no rattle yet.

Two of our unwelcome visitors were harmless Sonoran gopher snakes (Pituophis catenifer affinis), incorrectly called bullsnakes. Besides being wonderful rodent controllers, these reptiles have no rattle. They are pale colored with brown-black blotches on slim bodies and narrow heads. They are active during the cooler days. One was found on our back patio fireplace surround in May, and the other greeted us on our front doormat when we opened the door just a few weeks ago. Both are gone.

There are millions of households that keep snakes as pets and even more millions that do not. As avid gardeners, we must always be cautious and vigilant around dense shrubbery and rockery in our gardens. I wear gloves and long-sleeved shirts, and I frequently put on my calf-high garden boots. Take care of your surroundings, and happy gardening.