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Nature Corner 

by Cheryl Frederick
Garter snake.jpg

Photos by M. Chatfield

Meanwhile, back on the trails…

Toads and frogs may be spotted in the forest all summer long.  Once they are done with spring breeding in vernal pools and ponds adults start ranging away from the water and might be seen jumping across trails. In addition, tiny toadlets and froglets that are the young of the year from spring breeding species (wood, leopard and pickerel frogs) may also be seen by the sharp-eyed hiker. Maine is home to 34  species of nonmarine reptiles and amphibians. How many can you find while hiking SRLT properties this summer? 

On the Trails and in Your Yard, Summer is a Good Time to See Some Helpful Herps

The most common snake in Maine is the Common Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis) and while it is not unusal to see them basking in a sunny spot on the trail or curled up atop your compost pile, this rainy spring we have seen a few perched high up in the vegetation drying out (photo left).  Yes, snakes can climb, and their desire to get up and away from all that moisture presents some nice viewing opportunities for the observant SRLT trail hiker. 

Gartersnakes, like the other eight snake species in Maine are harmless, though you might not want to handle them since they exude an unpleasant musky scent as a predator defense when disturbed. You may notice them around your garden as well, and that is a good thing. They eat slugs, small rodents, and other potential garden pests. Although frogs are on the menu, surprisingly toads, who protect themselves with parotid glands producing tetrodtoxin that is poisenous if ingested, are as well.  Gartersnakes have adapted to safely eat the toads and may even borrow some of that toxicity to protect themselves from predatory birds. Like the gartersnake, the American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus) hopping around your yard (keep an eye out when mowing!) will also help with keeping ants, slugs and snails down while sheltering in the green growth of your garden.  Something that may be particularly appreciated this slug-filled season!

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