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Bird Feeders Invite Rodents Which Invite Snakes

By Chris Williams on May 15, 2012.

Q. My neighbor complained to my husband that the reason he has so many snakes in his yard is because we feed birds. Do snakes eat birds?

A. What he says makes some sense, but he skipped a step. Snakes eat rodents. Rodents eat spilled seed from bird feeders. So, feeding birds often means an increase in the natural rodent population which means an increase in snakes.

bird-feederThe populations of mice and voles cycle up and down from year to year, depending on many factors, including available food. Snake populations tend to cycle along with the rodent populations. If you have a problem with mice or voles, you should be able to see their burrow holes. Most of the holes will be in close proximity to the food source at the feeders. You might have to look under nearby bushes or ground covers.

So, if the snakes are eating the rodents that are attracted to the feeders, what’s the problem? Maybe nothing. Snakes are considered beneficial and shouldn’t be killed. If you’re happy feeding the birds and don’t mind the presence of rodents or snakes, and as long as your resident snakes are nonpoisonous and they are managing to keep the rodents in check—then you can let nature take its course.

But having too many rodents in your yard is not healthy; rodents carry diseases such as hantavirus and they are reservoirs for Lyme disease. And, if you have a lot of mice living in your yard, there’s more of a chance that some of them are going to find their way into your home, especially if the bird seed supply is cut off. There’s a chance that snakes will find their way inside, too. While many people will put up with snakes in their yard, they definitely don’t want them in their home. You might want to contact a pest control company like Colonial to eliminate the mice from your property.

This doesn’t mean you have to give up feeding the birds; just be careful about it. Use bird feeders that have catch trays to hold spilled seed. Clean up seed that falls to the ground frequently. Also remove materials that attract rodents for nesting. Piles of bricks, wood, stones, debris, topsoil, mulch, or loose trash should be removed, especially if near feeders. Mow brush, tall grass, or weeds near feeders. Close up old rodent burrows so they don’t become snake dens.

Even if you do have a healthy snake population in your yard, it’s hard to say whether those same snakes are also visiting your neighbor’s yard…or whether he has his own population of snakes that he’s blaming on you.

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