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Water snake "infestation"?

Sandusky Register Staff • May 23, 2011 at 12:19 PM

Q: I have seen numerous snakes in the pier areas. Behind the police station I saw 24 adult snakes. Is anyone trying to rid the area of the infestation? Kim from E. Monroe Street

A: Hi Kim! Spotting snakes slithering near you can be quite a surprise. I completely understand why you’re not all that fond of the creatures. What you’re likely seeing are northern water snakes, which look similar to the protected Lake Erie water snakes. Neither of the snake species are poisonous and both serve an important role in Lake Erie’s ecosystem because they eat invasive fish species that would otherwise decimate the small mouth bass population. The water snakes grow about 1 to 3 feet long and live along the shore of Lake Erie. I put in a call to Kristin Stanford, who’s known as the snake lady, for answers. She works at the Stone Laboratory near Put-in-Bay and keeps close tabs on the population of the Lake Erie water snakes, but also knows a lot about northern water snakes. She said you’re probably seeing large masses of the snakes right now because they’re coming out of hibernation after a long, cold spring and they’re mating. They’ll likely disperse by mid-June, when mating season slows down. You’re also probably seeing more snakes than ever before because their primary food source - gobies, an invasive fish species - are found in abundance these days. Stanford is not aware of any campaigns to destroy the snakes, but said the snakes are actually our buddies because they help maintain a healthy population of game fish. If you encounter them, simply go your way and they’ll go theirs. If you have further problems with the snakes getting on your boat or slithering into your house or yard, check out the website respectthesnake.com for details on how to handle the situation.

Jason's Mailbag is a daily feature on SanduskyRegister.com (although it may have a different name next week). Every weekday at noon, we will post one question-and-answer from a resident. On Mondays, we will collect the still-relevant questions from the previous week and place them in the print edition.

To ask a question, send a letter to Cheryl Welch at 314 W. Market St., or e-mail mailbag@ sanduskyregister.com. Please include your first name and a location in the e-mail, e.g. “John from Decatur Street."

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