Photo of the Week – May 1, 2015

Last year, I moved into a nice old house (100 years old this year) with a big lot and plenty of potential.  The kids have been enjoying the yard, the loft above the garage, and some of the new furniture and accessories (including a bison skull named Lefty hanging on the living room wall).  One of the unexpected perks of the new house is some junk wood along our neighbor’s fence.  I found the wood late last fall as I was trimming shrubs.  It was buried beneath what appeared to be several year’s worth of leaves.  My first thought upon seeing it was that it might be a good place to find snakes, but it was late enough in the year that they weren’t around then.  I left the wood in place, figuring we’d check it out again in the spring.



Now that spring has arrived, the wood has certainly met expectations.  The other day we found at least 10 snakes underneath it, and there might have been a few more (they kept moving…).  What would be a nightmare for many people has become almost a daily adventure for my son Daniel (“Dad!  Come look at the snakes now!”) and yesterday he took his older siblings out to join in the fun.

Counting snakes.

Counting snakes.

A big female plains garter waits patiently for us to put her wooden shelter back in place.

A big female plains garter waits patiently for us to put her wooden shelter back in place.

I’m not sure what the wood was used for (an old makeshift door of some kind?), or why it was left behind to rot beneath leaves, but I think it’ll stay where it is for a while longer.  We have a lot of work to do over the next few years to make the yard more friendly to pollinators, wildlife, and other creatures, but the old wood along the fence is a good start.

…I’m not sure I’ll tell the neighbors about it just yet.  That might be a conversation that should wait until I know them a little better.


About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.
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6 Responses to Photo of the Week – May 1, 2015

  1. Pat says:

    Great opportunity! You are such a cool Dad. :)

  2. John I.Blair says:

    How wonderful! And yes, you are a cool Dad! I never get anything but rough earth snakes in my own yard, despite nearly 30 years trying to make it a wildlife haven. Maybe I need to lay an old door in the corner and cover it with leaves. And eventually take my granddaughters for an adventure. Even if all we find is more rough earth snakes, that would be a great learning experience for them.

  3. beespeaker says:

    The local wildlife center recently had to relocate a number of snakes after their den was disturbed at a construction site.

  4. James McGee says:

    Oh, Chris … I am sure the neighbors are aware of the snakes. However, I would wait a little while before you tell the neighbors that you plan to burn new plantings in your yard. It might take the neighbors some time to come to terms with you burning. Also, the new neighbors probably would not look favorably on you keeping grazers to promote diversity in your plantings. I know you love grazing, but please think of your neighbors before you bringing this aspect of your work home with you. Bison just are not good with children. :)

  5. Ben Jones says:

    I’m afraid of snakes. These guys really brave. Also very nice photos.

  6. Pingback: Photo of the Week – October 1, 2015 | The Prairie Ecologist


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