Garter Snakes (Photo credit: Miles Frank, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
I usually have a snake or three hiding in beneath the mulch in my garden, or warming themselves on a stone in the morning. Snakes are great garden workers: they kill pests without poisoning beneficial species, don't eat the plants, and they're usually shy.
Like other reptiles, snakes have scales instead of fur or feathers. Unlike their reptilian relatives, snakes don't have legs, though way back in evolutionary time their ancestors might have. At least that's what some research indicates.
Of the 3,000 or so species of snakes around the world, 17 live in my state of New York. The most common is the garter snake that I see in my garden and along the roads. But I also find Northern redbellies, black rat snakes (really long!), green snakes (aka "grass snakes") ans milk snakes.
This year, 2013, is the Year of the Snake. Get to know some of the snakes in your neighborhood. Where do they hide during the day? Where do they sun themselves? And do they have special sunning places that they return to day after day? Make a "snake map" of your yard.