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COLUMN: Kentucky does have beneficial snakes

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By Bryce Roberts

Many people fear snakes, but despite the fright they can cause, the majority of snakes are beneficial. Of the 33 varieties of snakes in Kentucky, only four are venomous (Northern copperhead, Western cottonmouth [water moccasin], timber rattlesnake, and pygmy rattlesnake).
Most snakes you encounter around your home are harmless. If you are scared of them, try to remember that they are useful—they keep the rodent population in check by eating mice, rats, chipmunks and even toads, insects and other pests.
Summer months increase the possibility for an encounter with a snake, as snakes leave dormancy in the spring to mate. And because people go outside more often in the warm months to enjoy leisure and sporting activities, surprise encounters can happen. When threatened, a snake may coil up and hiss, but generally, its reaction will be to get away from you.  
Snakes like damp, dark, cool places where food (usually mice) is accessible. They also will be drawn to areas that provide shelter and shade from the summer sun. The best way to get rid of snakes is to modify the habitat that is attracting them. Some recommendations include:
• Stack firewood 12 inches above the ground on a pallet
• Remove lumber or junk piles where snakes could hide
• Trim bushes and shrubs that grow against a foundation
• Keep all lots, fields, and lawns mowed and well kept
• Remove debris and trash from pond and stream banks
• De-clutter basements and attics, especially where rodents can be found
• Keep feed for livestock in covered metal containers to discourage rodents
• Remove pet food after feeding
• Use covered metal cans for trash
You can use glueboards to remove snakes. For longer snakes, you may need to nail several glueboards in succession to a piece of plywood. But remember that the best option for snake removal is to modify the environment so the snakes are not attracted to the area.
For more information, visit http://www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/for/for46/for46.htm.
District Board Meeting
The Spencer County Cooperative Extension Service District Board will meet on Wednesday, August 10, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Extension Office located at 66 Spears Drive.  Topics to be discussed include setting 2011 tax rates.
Feel free to contact me at your Spencer County Cooperative Extension Service at 477-2217 or you can email me at broberts@uky.edu.  You can visit the Spencer County Extension Services’ website at www.spencerextension.com.
Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.