pet news

september 30, 2015

Snakes: A vital piece of the ecosystem puzzle

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While some of us might say that the thought of snakes makes our hair on the back of our necks stand up, there are reasons to have happy thoughts when thinking of these legless creatures. Snakes play a very important role in our ecosystem. They help to keep insect, mouse and other rodent populations down. Snakes are capable of entering into tiny burrows and tight spaces to catch their prey while most other predators cannot. Keeping some of these prey populations down can also mean reducing diseases. Many rodents are hosts to ticks and other vectors that spread disease. Snakes help to curb the spread of these diseases by limiting prey numbers.

Besides the obvious reality that snakes keep prey populations down, why else are snakes important? Well, other predators prey on snakes and consider them a delicacy so they are also helping to sustain other animals' diets. The wonderful food chain! Of course, everything must be kept in balance making sure there are enough snakes but also enough predators above snakes to keep all populations in check.

Here are some fun facts about snakes so we can further appreciate them:

Snakes have internal ears but not external ones

Snakes don't have eyelids

Some sea snakes can breathe partially through their skin, allowing for longer dives underwater

Snake scales are made up of Keratin (same thing our fingernails are made from)

The smallest known snake is the thread snake which is about the size of a toothpick

About 70 percent of snakes lay eggs, the other 30 percent give birth to live young

The Sonoran Desert is home to many different kinds of snakes. A common one is the gopher snake. The gopher snake is unique in that it will sometimes mimic rattlesnakes by batting its tail against loose brush to sound like a rattler's rattle. Clever, huh?

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