March 6, 2020

Why St. Patrick Shouldn’t Have Chased the Snakes out of Ireland

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Green drinks, green clothes, green food

St. Patrick’s Day is always a reminder of the green things many people don’t like, including the snakes he chased out of Ireland!

But, not liking snakes is not the same as not needing snakes. In this blog, we’ll explore why St. Patrick should’ve been a little sweeter to his slithering sidekicks!

Snakes Control the Rodent Population and are a Necessary Part of our Ecosystem

Snakes are in the middle of the food chain. That means they eat animals and they are eaten by animals. Disrupt both of those elements, and there is a BIG problem. Snakes are a great way to control the rodent population, as that is their primary prey. They also serve as food for large birds, like owls and falcons, both critical species in our ecosystems. Without snakes, the population of both the rodents they eat and the birds that eat them are impacted.

But, can’t you just replace snakes with cats? Nope. “If you replace them with cats, who reproduce faster than snakes, you would just create another imbalance, and that’s not good for anybody,” says Tom Schermerhorn, avid snake lover and employee at HSPPR.


Take Ireland as an example—they have both a rodent and cat overpopulation problem, which may seem like an oxymoron. However, people don’t feed stray snakes like they do stray cats. So, while the cats are being fed, they are continuing to reproduce without any need to hunt the rodents. And because there are no snakes in Ireland, they can’t help keep the rodent population in check! The result is too many cats AND too many rodents – like Tom said, not good for anybody!

Snakes Make Great Pets

Put simply, snakes are easy. “They make great pets for kids who are just learning about caretaking because they are so low-stress. They only eat once a week, which also means they do less…business,” continued Tom. “That means less cleanup, too! In fact, the little food and little poop is also complemented by the ease of care a snake requires. You can handle them a couple times a day and change up their environment to keep them stimulated every once in a while, and they are happy campers!”

Tom also noted that, like any pet, snakes do need to be handled frequently for them to get used to it and to minimize their fear. He added that they key to owning a snake successfully is an appropriate enclosure for them so they have the environment they need and can’t escape.

Snakes Have Superpowers

Whatttt? It’s true—snakes have capabilities that no other species in the animal kingdom have! They can:

– Slither – move about on land with no legs at a fast pace
– Open their jaws wider than their heads to consume prey
– Use their tongue to smell
– Use infrared heat to detect when prey is near, which helps with hunting

Have we sold you on snakes yet? If so, keep an eye out for adoptable reptiles at our shelter—we do get snakes, reptiles and other interesting pets that can belong to you!