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For some sad reason, many people shiver at the thought of reptiles. Some have fear of snakes, tagging all of them as dangerous. Others’ minds go to prehistoric assassins like crocodiles and alligators. My mom is screaming, stand-on-something afraid of lizards, regardless of how small they are.

Then, there are gardeners, and reptiles are more often than not good friends in the garden. Very few are interested in gobbling up the green beans, but most of them are in quiet pursuit of those herbivorous and omnivorous animals that are searching for squash plants. Reptiles can help naturally control these “pests”.

As people hoping to make peace with reptiles, it is important to get to know which ones are good to see in the garden (most) and which might cause a problem (not many). Furthermore, if we do spot those “bad” garden reptiles, maybe there are humane ways to send them on their way.

Source: Gardening Australia/Youtube

Good Garden Reptiles

Again, the main benefit of having reptiles in the garden is that nearly all of them ignore the vegetables but devour the pests—slugs, insects, voles, and mice—that might want to eat the garden.

  • Lizards, skinks, and geckos (all technically species of lizard) are great to find in and around the garden. All of these reptiles are good hunters, mostly feeding on slugs, snails, and insects. They are also a good sign that chemicals, like pesticides and herbicides, are not present. Like frogs and toads, they can’t survive with these chemicals around.
  • Non-venomous snakes, despite how many people might feel, are great allies in the garden. Smaller snakes, like garter snakes and ribbons snakes, will feed on slugs and insects, whereas larger snakes like rat snakes and king snakes will help with rodent populations and even chase off venomous snakes that might want to move in.
  • Turtles, terrapins, and tortoises can be allies because they do feed on insects and other pests like slugs and snails. However, they can have a downside in that turtles do like to eat lots of fruits and vegetables. That said, typically, the amount they would eat is fairly negligible.

Most of these reptiles are appreciative of rock piles, empty pipes, broken plant pots, and leafy vegetation, where they can find shelter from larger predators as well as a space for cooling off a bit. They also like to hang around spots like backyard wetlands and garden ponds.

Source: TheAncientScholar/Youtube

Bad Garden Reptiles

Most of our “bad” garden reptiles aren’t that bad for the garden. Rather, they may pose a problem for the people spending time in these gardens. In general, we are talking about venomous snakes, and though these snakes also help with garden pests, they may accidentally bite a human and cause an issue. Check out this article to help with dealing humanely with snakes, even the deadly ones.

  • Coral snakes are the only venomous snake in the US that is not a pit viper. It is rare and only found in deep South and southern Arizona. They tend to hide the day away under stuff or in swamps, and they are very shy and non-aggressive. Furthermore, a coral snake has the deadliest venom of the US snakes, but it more or less has to chew on something to deliver it.
  • Rattlesnakes come in great variety in the US, with at least one species in most states of the continental US (neither Hawaii nor Alaska have venomous snakes). However, they are famed for their tell-tale tails, not all rattlesnakes rattle. They also are big fans of hanging out on lawns and gardens, but that’s not to say it can’t happen.
  • Copperheads are pit vipers found from Texas to the East Coast, reaching as far north as Connecticut and Delaware. They account for most venomous bites in the US, but their venom is far less lethal than most of the other venomous species. Nevertheless, these are snakes to be familiar with as they can be aggressive and do like garden habitats and be near water. They are also well camouflaged in autumn leaves.
  • Water Moccasins are the other non-rattlesnake pit viper in the United States. They are in the hot climates of the Southeast and like to be in or around water, which means they can wiggle into garden spaces with bodies of water nearby. Water moccasins, aka cottonmouths, can be aggressive.

That’s our list of venomous snakes in the United States, which make up less than 20 percent of the snake species found here. Most states have less than five in residence, and only Arizona and Texas have more than 10.

And, the Turtle Comes in at the End of the Race

On a lighter note, turtles might also be counted as a garden nuisance if they throw a strawberry or lettuce party some night and invite friends over. More or less, though, they eat too little to make a huge difference in most gardens.

Then, there are the crocodiles and alligators: Let’s hope we don’t find those in the garden!

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