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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 October 2005, 20:25 GMT 21:25 UK
Slippery snakes see off squirrels
Fake snake
The snakes have proved successful in protecting nut crops
Plastic snakes are being used to scare off hungry squirrels in a public garden in Devon.

The six large serpents have been placed in trees in the forest garden of Dartington Hall.

The metre-long snakes with grey stripes and large red tongues are to protect chestnuts and almonds crops.

Although some members of the public are said to have been "frightened" by the snakes, Dartington Hall said it was better than trapping or shooting them.

The snakes were imported from the United States, where the dummy reptiles are often used to frighten squirrels.

Spokesman Chris Biggs said Dartington Hall, said: "We have about two acres of sweet chestnuts and fruit trees, including almonds, which are almost ready to be picked. Obviously it's rich pickings for the squirrels."

The nut loss has been significantly reduced
Chris Biggs, Dartington Hall

He claims using the slippery serpents is a more humane method of dealing with the problem.

"You can trap them, shoot them or scare them," said Mr Biggs.

"But the snakes are effective and the nut loss has been significantly reduced."

Mr Biggs admitted that although the tree snakes were not on the public footpath, they were visible and could be a bit scary at first glance.

Warning signs are going to be put up and he believes it is something people will get used to.

It is the first time Dartington Hall has tried the fake-snake method and Mr Biggs believes the squirrels will eventually realise they have been tricked.

"We're right in the middle of the fruiting season, which probably lasts about three or four weeks.

"By the end of that the squirrels will have cottoned on that these snakes aren't moving very much, but by which time we'll have gathered all the nuts."


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