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Who Cares--And Why Should They--About Snakes and Lizards?

Who Cares--And Why Should They--About Snakes and Lizards?

Creepy. Slimy. Poisonous. Ugly. These are only a few of the words that describe many people’s negative feelings toward snakes, lizards, toads, and other reptiles and amphibians.

They just have a tough time getting people to think of them in a positive light. Even their collective name, herptiles or “herps”, comes from a Greek term meaning “creeping things”.

Herps do have their good points. While all snakes are predators, most are harmless. They’re beneficial to humans because they prey on rodents. As a matter of fact, snakes are the world's most effective natural control of the rodent population.

These animals called herps, including salamanders, frogs, lizards, snakes, and toads, are part of the balance of nature you learned about in grade school. Their health is an indicator of the health of the environment.

Don't think of the lowly toad as an unwanted guest. If you invite a toad to dinner, it will eat the things you most want to get rid of. Slugs and mosquitoes are among a toad’s favorite meals. Toads also eat insects and invertebrates.

Lizards are probably the most familiar of all reptiles. There are over 3,500 different types of lizards throughout the world, existing in all climates. Lizards are as diverse as their dwellings. They are often misunderstood because of a lack of knowledge and exposure.

The truth is, lizards, like so many other reptiles and amphibians, are beneficial to humans.

In many countries, lizards are welcome houseguests, catching and eating many annoying insects. They walk the walls and ceilings and live their lives unharmed by understanding humans.

Some lizards could become non-existent because of a lack of understanding. Beaded lizards and Gila Monsters, the only two poisonous species, are often killed out of fear. They are unlikely to bite pets or people. When they do, it’s likely to be in self-defense. Left alone, both lizards are docile creatures.

Many countries use the lizard in ceremonies. Some Indian tribes of North America used lizard tails in a recipe for love potions. Lizards are also eaten and their skin used for leather. In the tropics, the Green Iguana is killed for its flesh and eggs.

For more information about conservation practices that can improve wildlife habitat on your land, stop at the local NRCS office.

Wildlife Ways

Did you know....
Most snakes can swallow prey that is three or more times their own body diameter and the defensive skin secretions of toads do not cause warts. In fact, toads are completely harmless to human skin, but a predator that gets a mouthful can become extremely ill.


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Specification 645: Upland Wildlife Habitat Management (PDF; 384 KB)