Venomous Snakes

In lower Montgomery, upper Harris county we have 4 venomous snakes, only 3 of which you are likely to run across: Southern Copperhead, Western Cottonmouth, Texas Coral snake. Below are photos pointing out the identifying marks.

I often see coral and copperhead snakes sunning themselves on trails along the bayous in the summer.

Other resources:
Venomous Texas Snakes
What snake is that?
Texas Snakes
Venomous Snake Safety

Build a squirrel proof feeder and squirrels will evolve

From the unintended consequences dept. . .

Squirrels have bitten to death a stray dog which was barking at them in a Russian park, local media report.
Passers-by were too late to stop the attack by the black squirrels in a village in the far east, which reportedly lasted about a minute.

They are said to have scampered off at the sight of humans, some carrying pieces of flesh.

A pine cone shortage may have led the squirrels to seek other food sources, although scientists are sceptical.

The attack was reported in parkland in the centre of Lazo, a village in the Maritime Territory, and was witnessed by three local people. Read more Russian squirrel pack ‘kills dog’

More information:

The pack of mutant black squirrels that are giving Britain’s grey population a taste of their own medicine


I lived in the DFW area in the early eighties for two years and never once saw a live armadillo. We moved to Houston in ’05 and it took another two years before I saw a live one. It had gotten to be a joke that some fairies just put dead ones out in the middle of the night to find in the morning.

The eyesight on these guys is so bad that I was able to photograph one with out being noticed from about 2′ away. They seem to have little fear of humans if you don’t startle them.

There are many kinds of armadillos, which are mammals, and their closest living relatives are sloths and anteaters. In the United States we have the 9 banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus ). It is the only known mammal to give birth to four and always four identical, same sexed, quadruplets. Gestation is about 150 days. Birth usually occurs in March or April. The life span of the armadillo can be as long as 15 years. Armadillo adults weigh between 8 to 17 pounds.

While mostly nocturnal they can occasionally be found looking for food during the day, especially in colder weather.  They prefer shady areas dense in trees and brush that are close to water supplies.  They also prefer areas with loose, loamy soils.

Armadillos can move fast when needed and can also swim or walk across shallow streams.

Gardeners know them from the damage they wreck in the garden while we sleep. If you wake up to find your garden roto-tilled a few inches deep, it was likely an armadillo. They are looking for grubs and other tasty insects in your garden. 90% of the diet of an armadillo is insects, including earth worms.  Occasionally they will eat berries, vegetables, soft roots or eggs.

To keep them out of your garden you need a strong fence buried several inches below ground level, and angled at about 40′ since they can climb, or more easily mulch. Armadillos tend not to like the smell of mulch. So fresh layers of mulch do more than hold water in your soil.

If you are looking to trap an armadillo you’ll need a trap about 10″x12″x32″.  Traps are best set along pathways to armadillo burrows.  Traps open at both ends do not need bait, rotting fruit is best in traps that must be baited.

Armadillos can carry the bacteria for leprosy, so you should handle them and areas they occupy with care.



Bats are of the order Chiroptera. There are two branches: megachiroptera and microchiroptera. In Texas we have only microchiroptera bats. There are over 45 known species of bats, 33 of which reside in Texa. Of those 33 bat species residing in Texas 31 live on insects, 2 live on nectar. The nectar eating bats live along the Rio. 11 species of bats reside in Houston and all those in the Houston area are bug eaters. There are 12 species of bats in the general Houston area. 31 bat species reside in Texas. The largest Texas bat is a ‘Western Mastiff Bat’ with a wing span of 21″.

Bats are mammals and live an average of 41 years. They are the only true flying mammal. The wings have a stretchy material between the bones which is what allows them such maneuverability when flying.

There are three species of vampire bats. All of which reside in Latin America. They feed on the blood of sleeping animals. The bats noses have heat sensors to help locate victims. The vampire bats have very strong legs allowing them to leap. Fangs are in the center of the top row of teeth, like buck teeth. They punch a tiny hole in the victim and lick the blood as it comes out. The blood has an anti coagulant to stop the bleeding. They drink about a teaspoon of blood a night.

Bats are protected by state law in Texas it is illegal to harm them. Bats in Texas range from 2″ nose to tail to 6″ nose to tail.

Bats flying low to the ground should be avoided. Less than 1/2 of 1% of local bats have rabies, but those that do get weaker and weaker and fly closer to the ground the sicker they get. Sometimes babies that are just learning to fly will fly close to the ground. They are not rabid.

Bats do have sight but rely mostly on echolocation to find prey. They send out a high pitched sound and listen for the bounce of that sound.

Many local bats live in the leaves of trees. They hang upside down in the tree and look just like a leaf unless you look very closely. They especially like to roost in the dead palm leaves in our date palms here in the Houston area.
Bats can be found nesting in hollow trees, old buildings, under bridges and in caves.

You can place bat houses in your yard as well. Bat houses should be of wood and sealed to keep out water. Paint it dark brown or black and place it where it will receive at least 10 hours of sun per day. Mount bat houses ~15′ high plus or minus 5′ and away from large trees. Bats will settle in in early summer as they migrate back to Houston.

Young bats are born between late May and leave the nest in early Aug. The dept. of Game and Wildlife asks that you not trim off your dead palm leaves until late Aug. to protect young bats.

While sleeping bats body temperature drops and they shiver upon waking to warm up. They must warm up before they can fly. If you startle a sleeping bat it make take the bat a few minutes to warm up enough to fly away.

The Big Eared Bats are a threatened species. They eat bugs.

Northern Yellows roost in Spanish moss and more recently dead palm leaves.

Eastern Reds roost in leaves, loose bark and tree hollows. Some of these ones hibernate in cooler weather. They live as a family until the young leave then live solo.

Big Browns live in small colonies and a huge bug eaters locally.

Mexican Freetails are the most common in Houston. They live in large colonies. The babies sleep communally to keep warm as they are born hairless. They remain in large colonies their whole lives. The Mexican Freetails have two nightly cycles of feeding. The first is done close to the ground after which they rest. The second is done about 10,000′ up where they feed on migrating moths coming from Mexico and prevent them from destroying crops up here.

The Waugh Bridge in Houston has a year round large population of bats who leave enmass at dusk each evening. They roost in the I-Beam construction bridges. The Congress Ave bridge in Austin has an even larger population living there.

Organization for Bat Conservation
Waugh Bridge Bat Colony
Bat Conservation International

Opossums — Your garden rubbish men


I ran across a gardening article on opossums and thought I’d do a bit of research on them this week. I’ve one that wanders into my yard and hangs out under the bird feeder several times a week about 8 pm. The first time I saw him lumbering along the fence I thought it was an ocean rat. But of course I’m about 60 miles from the ocean and possums move very slowly, not at all like those salt water rats.

The LA Times claims possums are a great clean up crew. They eat snails, slugs and roaches. Opossums do not dig in your garden. That would be the squirrels or perhaps raccoons. Opossums rarely take fruit off of plants, preferring the fruit already on the ground.

They are also scavangers eating road kill or very decayed dead creatures that may be in your garden. ( eewww! )

They run when threatened. If that doesn’t work they will bare their teeth, drool and hiss and if that doesn’t scare you off they then play dead. Playing dead isn’t just play acting. They actually enter a coma like state.

They rarely have rabies, opossums body temperatures are too low for the virus to grow well in their bodies.

Opossums are the only marsupial in North America. Marsupials carry their new borns in a pouch. There are 13 teats in the pouch and the babies remain there for about two months. They then spend a month to a month and a half traveling on mom’s back. Females can have up to three litters a year.

More information:
Opossums: your garden’s evening clean up crew
Nature Works – Virginia Opossum