5 Common Mistakes Gardeners Make When Finding Reptiles In Their Garden

Here are some of the most common mistakes, and how to avoid them.

1. Panicking

Understandably, if you don’t interact much with snakes or lizards, you may be fearful of them.

Chances are, though, that reptile is even more terrified of you than you are of it.

If you startle it by screaming, or antagonize it by throwing things at it, it may act in defense. A frightened reptile may also try to threaten you by releasing a musky smell or puffing up to look more frightening than it really is. Just stay calm, and don’t do anything rash.

2. Killing the Reptile

Killing a potentially dangerous reptile may seem like a surefire way to keep it out of your garden once and for good. However, killing reptiles in your garden can actually do more harm than good, and it definitely shouldn’t be your go-to response.

First of all, many reptiles are actually beneficial to your garden because they eat any rodents, slugs, or pests. Some non-venomous snakes will even eat venomous snakes!

Second, killing one reptile does not prevent more from coming.

Third, trying to kill the reptile increases your chance of getting bitten. If you leave it be instead of provoking it, you will be safer from injury.

3. Incorrectly Handling the Reptile

The ways to properly handle a reptile depend on the species and breed.

If you don’t know what kind of reptile you are dealing with, trying to touch the reptile could cause injuries to yourself, the animal, or both. Here are some general and species-specific tips for handling reptiles:

  • – Wash your hands before and after, or wear gloves.
  • – Never pick a reptile up by the tail. This could harm their spine, and in some species the tail will fall off.
  • – When handling turtles, always pick them up from the bottom, with one hand on either side and your thumbs gripping the top of the shell. If it is a snapping turtle, do nottry to handle it at all, as this species is very hostile on land.
  • – When handling snakes, do not move it while it is feeding. Avoid startling it by gently touching its back, and then lift it from the mid-body, but not tightly. If it is hissing or is perched upwards, do not try to handle it. If you do not want to pick it up, you may be able to gently guide the snake away using a broom handle.

4. Failing to Identify the Species

Different species should be treated with different responses. Some reptiles aren’t a huge concern, while others can wreak havoc in your garden. Additionally, some are safe to remove on your own, while others may require professional assistance just to be safe.

Some common, low-risk reptiles you may encounter include:

  • – Eastern Garter Snakes
  • – Rat/Corn Snakes
  • – Flower Pot Snakes
  • – Southern Black Racer Snakes
  • – Painted Turtles
  • – Box Turtles

Some higher-risk reptiles you may encounter include:

  • – Pit vipers
  • – Cottonmouth snakes
  • – Coral snakes
  • – Snapping turtles

Learning the different sizes and markings on these reptiles will help you make a safe and smart decision on how to remove them from your garden, and whether you will need help.

5. Being Reactive Instead of Proactive

You shouldn’t wait to protect your garden from reptiles until after they’re already in your garden.

It is important to take preventive measures so you do not have any uninvited reptiles to begin with. Here are some ways to protect your property:

  • Trim the grass, shrubs and tree branches in your garden so that reptiles like snakes cannot hide in them.
  • – Keep rodents out. Many reptiles feed on rodents, so if there are no rodents they won’t come into your garden. To keep rodents out, move bird feeders a safe distance away (as rodents will eat the dropped food), and lock down your mulch bins.
  • – If all else fails, you can construct a fence around the area with hardware cloth, silt fencing, or aluminum flashing. It should be buried six inches into the ground. 

If you avoid these five mistakes, you will avoid many unwanted guests in your garden, and will make it a calmer, safer place for the guests you do invite!

About Author: Johnathan David leads the editorial team at Everything Reptiles as an Editor in Chief. A reptile hobbyist since childhood, he has years’ of experience in herpetoculture and has cared for Geckos (2 Gargoyles), Skinks (Blue Tongue) and a Frog (Poison dart).