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Farmers Urged to Embrace Snakes as Allies for Pest Control



Farmers Urged To Embrace Snakes As Allies For Pest Control

Experts at Macquarie University are challenging the perception of snakes on farms, encouraging farmers to view them as valuable assets rather than nuisances. According to Professor Rick Shine, an evolutionary biologist and lead researcher, snakes play a crucial role in controlling vermin populations, outweighing any potential drawbacks.

A recent study published in the Zoological Society of London’s (ZSL) journal Animal Conservation highlighted the abundance of brown snakes, even though they are rarely seen above ground. The research revealed that a single square kilometer of farmland could host up to 100 snakes that spend much of their time catching mice in underground burrows. Taking into account the amount of mice each snake consumes weekly, this equates to several thousand mice per year per square kilometer.

Not only do snakes have access to mice burrows, but they also eliminate females and young mice that hide in such spaces. David Miles, a snake handler from South Australia, supports Professor Shine’s findings and believes that it is economically beneficial for farmers to utilize snakes as natural rodent control officers. Taking into account the cost of vermin control measures, Miles estimated that a single farmer could save around $2,500 per year by relying on snakes to eliminate pests on their land.

The shift in attitudes toward snakes is slowly taking place amongst farmers, with an increasing number choosing not to kill snakes found in the paddocks. However, there is still a prevalent belief among older generations who were taught that snakes should be killed on sight. This mentality often leads to individuals attempting to handle the situation independently, ultimately resulting in snakebites.

Despite occasional “close calls” with snakes, farmers like Don Pegler from Kongorong in South Australia recognize the value of snakes on their properties. They acknowledge that snakes help keep the population of mice and rats under control and are willing to coexist as long as caution is exercised. Losses of livestock due to snake encounters are relatively infrequent and considered an acceptable part of farming life.

Rachel Adams

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