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Over the last month my family and I have had several
unexpected encounters with reptiles around my home. About four weeks ago I was at the kitchen
sink when a Turkish (Mediterranean) house gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus) dropped from the ceiling and landed on the
faucet. It was promptly scooped up and
Then, on his weekly trip to the curb with the garbage, my
son deftly stepped over what looked like a juvenile Eastern Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis) that was
hanging out on our driveway. It had
moved on by the time I got back outside with my phone to take a picture, so
unfortunately cannot include one here.
The next week, I was resetting some pavers in my back
yard. When I flipped over one of them I
was surprised to find a brown snake (Storeria
dekayi ssp.) staring back at me.
My most recent reptile encounter was last Friday. I came home from work and found a Northern
Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis
carolinensis) stretched out with its eyes closed on the toilet paper roll
in my bathroom. I let out a small (ok
maybe not so small) yelp of surprise, but the anole didn’t move. “Is it dead?” I wondered. I stood there for a minute. Regarding the
little green lizard and regaining my composure.
Still, it didn’t move. “Surely it
isn’t dead,” I thought.
I went to get a shoebox to relocate the lounging
lizard. As I approached to roll it off
into the box it lazily opened an eye. I
quickly tilted the anole into to the box and covered it with the lid as it skittered
and scurried trying to escape. It was
awake now, and very much alive. When I
opened the box to let it go outside, we were all much happier. Or at least I was.
These recent reptile run-ins got me wondering, “Why am I
seeing so many around lately, and why are they in my house?” To answer that question I turned to my friend
and colleague, Dr. Jim Armstrong, Extension Specialist and Professor who
specializes in human-wildlife interactions.
Here is the advice he gave me.
“Well, Dr. Barlow, you seem to be living in a herpetological
wonderland. Your recent reptile rash is
most likely due to the oncoming cooler weather.
While it is difficult to read the mind of a lizard, I would guess they
are being attracted by the warmer temperatures inside your house. The snakes,
as well, are probably seeking warmer temperatures. The area under your trashcan is probably a little
warmer than the air temperature and the concrete of your driveway is warmer
than the air. As you are well aware, all
four of your uninvited guests are harmless and feed on earthworms and
insects. As we move further into the
Fall and Winter, the encounters should subside.”
Thanks Dr. Armstrong!
While I am not sure that I want to read the mind of a lizard, at least I
now have a better idea of why they are hanging out around my house. We have a few more weeks where reptiles will
be on the move, so we should all use caution when working around our homes
(like moving garbage cans, pavers, firewood or other items that have not been
moved in a while). Consider investing in
weather stripping or caulk to install around doors and windows to help keep out
unwanted wildlife visitors. Want to know
more? You can check out this Alabama
Cooperative Extension System publication Urban Wildlife Encounters https://store.aces.edu/ItemDetail.aspx?ProductID=17928&SeriesCode=&CategoryID=&Keyword=wildlife
for more information.
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