Photos Of Double Layered Net Trap

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Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4342
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Photos Of Double Layered Net Trap

Rat snakes are significant predators of purple martins, particularly in the Deep South with its warmer temperatures. However, the black rat snake is found in nearly all areas where martins nest. All purple martin landlords should have some kind of snake guard on their housing system poles.

Have you ever wondered how in the world does a rat snake ever find those martins high up in the air in their gourds or houses? A rat snake does not need fantastic eyesight or hearing like a hawk or owl. A rat snake can find his prey in the dead of night and he doesn’t need a hunter’s moon. The rat snake has an organ in the roof of its mouth called the Jacobson’s organ. The snake will flicker his tongue to “taste the air” for molecules of prey and then transfer this information to the Jacobson’s organ. If the snake detects potential prey, he will then continue to follow the scent until he reaches his prey. And if that prey is your purple martin colony, then you better have some kind of predator guard on the pole!

I have been using net traps constructed from bird netting to thwart rat snakes at my previous martin colony in north Florida and now at my current one in northwest Louisiana. I use mainly ¾ inch square netting and this size will catch most large rat snakes when they try to weave through the mesh. The snake will eventually be unable to go forward because his girth is too thick for the mesh squares and he can’t back out because his scales are caught in the netting. I have caught huge rat snakes that had only four or five inches of their thick bodies ensnared in the netting; the snake’s head and neck area would be completely caught by multiple net squares. Other rat snakes are caught in their middle area with numerous mesh squares ensnaring the snake’s body.

However, some smaller thin rat snakes may be able to weave through the ¾ inch square mesh without getting ensnared. These snakes tend to be less than three feet in length and they can still inflict significant damage to your martin colony by killing adults even if they can’t eat them, eating babies and eggs and causing martins to abandon the colony. I have in the past used a combination net trap constructed from both ½ inch and ¾ inch square netting. The ½ inch netting will often catch the smaller rat snakes under three feet in length and smaller in girth than large snakes. But it is difficult to find the ½ inch netting though you can sometimes locate it on the Internet.

The key to successfully using bird netting in many situations is proper installation on the pole. I prefer to create a fluffy ball all the way around the pole and leave NO gaps between the pole and netting so that a snake can’t go UNDER or through an area without any mesh squares. Snakes treat a net trap like they would vegetation. They tend to go through it using their heads to push through the net squares until the snakes are caught. Rat snakes have narrow heads for entering rodent burrows and squeezing in narrow crevices; their heads can easily weave through bird netting.

I tend to create a thick fluffy net trap that completely encircles the pole and presents any rat snake with NUMEROUS open net squares that the snake must try to slide through. The more the better as the snake will have to navigate by turning and twisting as he pushes himself through.

If the netting hangs down and is pressed tightly against the pole, then a rat snake may be able to climb over it without weaving through any of the mesh squares. You want the snake to respond to the netting like he would to vegetation and go through it.

To install the netting on the pole, I first create a simple wire foundation with four prongs protruding out about 10 to 12 inches in different directions from the pole. I have used different kinds of wire, including clothes hangers. I use two pieces of wire and take one and twist tightly on the pole with the two ends sticking out in different directions. Then I do the same with the other piece of wire so that a “crossbar” is created. I tend to place this wire foundation above my winch and the wire is inserted between the cable and the pole.

My net traps may be anywhere from two to four feet above the ground. I have even created net traps at the bottom of the pole so that the netting is on the ground. Height of the net trap is not that important as snakes tend to weave through a properly installed net trap like they would through vegetation.

Now how do I create this fluffed up net trap? First I use thin netting because this netting is best at catching a snake’s scales. Some netting has stiff thick strands and may not be as effective at ensnaring the snake’s small scales. I take a piece of netting that is about two feet wide and maybe eight feet long (could be shorter or longer) and start wrapping it around the four wire prongs. The netting is inserted in the prongs until a fluffy wreath is created all around the pole. I like a relatively thick net trap and may add more netting as necessary. After the “net ball” is created, I bend over the ends of the wire to hold the netting in place.

Even though the wire is twisted tightly around the pole, it still can be a little loose. Also the netting may not be closely “bound” to the pole at the top of the trap and a gap can be formed. You don’t want any gaps between the netting and pole as a rat snake may be able to slip under the netting without getting caught.

So to eliminate any gaps, I use thick zip ties to “close the top of the netting” against the pole. I weave the zip tie through the netting and then pull the tie tight. This action eliminates any gaps and helps to securely hold the wire foundation and netting to the pole. On my three inch square poles, I use three eight inch zip ties fastened together to create a larger one that will easily encircle the pole.

Now I will have one net trap composed of ¾ inch square netting on the pole. To create the second net trap composed of ½ inch square netting, I repeat the same process as with the first trap. This second trap is placed just above the bottom one and now you have a double layered net trap to catch both large and small rat snakes.

This is my method of creating a net trap and there are other approaches that probably work just as well. This method is relatively simple and has caught many gray rat snakes and corn snakes in Florida where I previously lived and black rat snakes at my current location.

Remember: net traps TRAP! That means you catch the rat snake and then you have to get the snake out of the netting! We don’t kill rat snakes and I have never had one die in any of my net traps. You must not let the snake hang in the netting for long periods of times, particularly in the hot sun; they may die under those conditions. I am not afraid of rat snakes so I remove them by grabbing their heads and then cutting the netting from their bodies with scissors. We take the rat snakes for a “ride in the country” and away from our martin colonies.


I have used the double layered net trap a few times at my old Florida martin colony and did on one occasion catch a small gray rat snake that was about two feet long. The snake was caught in his middle section.

Currently all my martin housing poles have net traps. I recently added a double layered net trap composed of ¾ inch and ½ inch netting to one of my gourd poles. I hope to do this with all my other systems soon.

Here are some photos of my double layered net trap. You can see how I attached the clothes hanger wires to the square pole to create the foundation to hold the netting. My net traps encircle the pole including the winch cable. I have not had any issues with the cable going through the netting and the racks/houses raise and lower just fine. If you look closely at the netting, you may be able to see the difference is size between the mesh in both traps.

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Here are some old photos of huge black rat snakes caught in our net traps; these photos have been posted on the Forum before.

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Steve
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season
threelilkids
Posts: 386
Joined: Wed Feb 23, 2011 4:11 pm
Location: Denham Springs, La
Martin Colony History: 2014 1 pair 3 hatched 3 fledged
2015 1 pair 5 hatched 5 fledged
2016 1 pair 5 hatched 4 fledged
2017 2 pair 8 hatched 8 fledged
2018 4 pair 15 hatched

I'm also in Louisiana and snakes are bad on birds nest. I have used this netting on protecting chickens eggs and it works so well. We caught snakes in it all the time. You don't realize how many snake there are out there cause you don't see them. I will be using this on my martin pole, it is in place on the bluebird pole. Thanks for the update and pics. Also if you are in a hurry moth balls work on keeping snakes at bay. Just put them around area you want to keep snakes out, they hate them, must be the smell :roll:
MamaBruff
Posts: 1466
Joined: Wed Mar 06, 2013 12:21 pm
Location: SW Missouri
Martin Colony History: 2013-2016 Unsuccessful at starting a PM colony. Health problems.
Rehomed all my PM stuff. Good Luck and Best Wishes to All.

Thank you for the detailed tutorial, Steve. This is a good case for "pretty is as pretty does" :wink:
~Mary B~

Lifelong PM Admirer and Nature Enthusiast.
Ruthless trapper of S&S year round.
2013-2016 Unsuccessful at starting a PM colony. Health problems.
Rehomed all my PM stuff. Good Luck and Best Wishes to All.
KathyF
Posts: 3522
Joined: Thu May 24, 2007 1:57 pm
Location: Missouri/Licking
Martin Colony History: Colony started - 2007 with one pair
As of 2018 - 84 cavities offered, max # of pairs hosted - 82.

OMG - that is ONE HUGE snake! Gives me the "willies"..... :shock:
"Sometimes", said Pooh, "the smallest things take up the most room in your heart."
2016 - 82 pair
2015 - 76 pair
2014 - 75 pair
2013 - 75 pair
2012-72 pair
http://kathyfreeze.blogspot.com
MartiStupka
Posts: 41
Joined: Thu Jun 07, 2007 7:41 am
Location: Florida/Fort Myers

I thought that my colony was protected in terms of guards to keep out creatures who harm my Martins. We have a pole guard, and my husband created something for our Lonestar House to keep out owls, hawks, etc. All was well until two seasons ago, when I discovered a yellow rat snake one night as I did my last check before going to bed and saw what appeared to be a snake in on of the compartments. I am responding to this topic because I wanted to thank you for the help you gave me when we were attempting to figure out how to protect the Martins from a yellow rat snake that managed to get to past our baffle that was supposed to keep out snakes, raccoons, etc. Didn't know about rat snakes until this experience. As soon as Home Depot opened we were purchasing bird netting, based on your recommendations. It worked and we managed to intercept 2 more snakes in the netting. My husband was ill last year, so I got help from my grandson and a friend to set up the netting. They created a beautiful net trap, but it was just too pretty, and I caught a yellow rat snake who managed to just slither over the netting. While it is not the most beautiful thing to observe, we have done something comparable to what is show in the photos attached to the post, and have not another problem with rat snakes getting to my Martins. I don't know if it will help, but I plan to try a product I found at Home Depot that I will sprinkle around the area where the pole and net barrier are, that supposedly will keep snakes out. I figure it can't hurt, and may keep the rat snake away from the pole entirely. Thanks to everyone out there for your help. My husband passed away in August, so I don't have a co-landlord who enjoys the Martins as I do. It is a comfort to have this forum available to me for questions that inevitably arise. Thanks again
Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4342
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Hey threelilkids,

My previous yard in Florida was INFESTED with gray and red (corn) rat snakes! I lived at that residence for about 20 years and I believe every mockingbird, cardinal, brown thrasher, and towhee nest was destroyed by rat snakes! I never ever saw any of these nesst raise any young because the rat snakes wiped them out.

The only reason my martins, great crested flycatchers, red-bellied woodpeckers, Eastern bluebirds, and Carolina chickadees survived was because I protected their nest boxes from rat snakes with net traps.

I lost count of the number of rat snakes I caught in net traps over the years!

So yes, many folks have no idea of how many rat snakes are "crawling" in their yards. Many rat snakes hunt at night or in the early morning darkness so you often don't see them.

I have heard about the moth ball method but have never tried it. Perhaps the odor from the moth ball interferes with the snake's Jacobson's organ.

I hope you have a wonderful martin season!

Steve

Hey Mamabruff,

I am glad the posting was helpful. I just hope folks will place some kind of snake guard on their housing poles, particularly folks who live in the Deep South.

I hope you have a wonderful martin season!

Steve

Hey Kathy,

Yes, this was a monster black rat snake and he was a little mad when I took him out of the net trap! He tried to bite me several times but I got him behind the head. He was powerful and when he wrapped around my arm, I felt like I had a small python! If he had managed to get up the pole to the martin house, he would have devastated the nests. We took him for a long ride in the country!

I hope you have a wonderful martin season!

Steve

Hey Marti,

Thanks for sharing your experiences with rat snakes! Net traps aren't very pretty but they will often stop a "belly crawler" from destroying a martin colony.

I am glad my postings about netting has been helpful to you. There are various ways to create a net trap and apparently you now have one that works. Please let us know how the product from Home Depot works.

I hope you have a wonderful martin season!

Steve
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season
Siberman
Posts: 262
Joined: Thu Mar 18, 2010 1:03 pm
Location: Titus County , TX

I keep the field rat / mouse population controlled with the "bait boxes" from Tractor Supply . They lock so you don't have to worry about pets getting to the rodent poison . Fewer rats = fewer snakes , IME .

My Mom swears by moth balls . Rat snakes and Copperheads are a common sight in our area but she doesn't seem to be bothered with them . Kinda hard to sit out on the porch , though . :lol:

If you have skunks settle under a structure , throw a handful of moth balls in there . They'll be gone in a few days .
2010: 5 pair - raptor attack .
2011 : nada .
2012 : 1 pair - 5 eggs / 5 fledged .
2013: zero
2014: Lots of visitors
2015 : several visitors . Seriously considering purchasing a drone to scare off raptors .
DakotaLady
Posts: 654
Joined: Thu Aug 07, 2008 2:06 pm
Location: Bismarck, ND

I have always looked for positive reasons to live in the frozen tundra of North Dakota. THIS...is the foremost positive reason. We do not have snakes like that. WOW. If I encountered that, you could follow my trail all the way into the house and I would need to change my pants. YIKES.

We have garden snakes and across the river there are rattlesnakes. I've not seen a rattlesnake so they must be very few in numbers. The garden snakes are nasty enough as they eat some of the baby fish in my pond and I saw one try to get one of my frogs. Other than that they are harmless.

Thanks for sharing the photos. I feel so much better knowing I do not have to worry about coming across one of those snakes. Do they have teeth? Is it painful to be bitten by one of those?

I think my mouth was open the entire time I scrolled through those photos...resembling that creature with its mouth open in every photo hmmm.
~Tangula~

2013 - 16 pair, 79 eggs, 71 fledged
2012 - 4 pair, 18 eggs, 18 fledged
Siberman
Posts: 262
Joined: Thu Mar 18, 2010 1:03 pm
Location: Titus County , TX

DakotaLady wrote:I have always looked for positive reasons to live in the frozen tundra of North Dakota. THIS...is the foremost positive reason. We do not have snakes like that. WOW. If I encountered that, you could follow my trail all the way into the house and I would need to change my pants. YIKES.


Thanks for sharing the photos. I feel so much better knowing I do not have to worry about coming across one of those snakes. Do they have teeth? Is it painful to be bitten by one of those?
He's a big one , no doubt . :lol: Texas Black Rat snakes aren't really any more aggressive than their cousins the Corn snakes ( frequently sold as pets) but they have a nasty temper when cornered . They will bite if threatened but it doesn't hurt all that much . The biggest concern would be infection from the bacteria in their mouths .
2010: 5 pair - raptor attack .
2011 : nada .
2012 : 1 pair - 5 eggs / 5 fledged .
2013: zero
2014: Lots of visitors
2015 : several visitors . Seriously considering purchasing a drone to scare off raptors .
Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4342
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Hey Tangula/Siberman,

Black rat snakes do live up north but they are uncommon in the COLD states! I don't see how any snakes could survive in the Dakotas with all your cold, snow and ice!

Rat snakes have small re-curved teeth which aids in holding prey. Yes, I have been bitten by a rat snake and the bite did draw blood. But I don't think it was that painful.

After a rat snake has been trapped in a net for a while, the snake may be just tired and not that aggressive. However, the one in the photos was most angry about being trapped and he wanted human blood! He did his best to bite me but I grabbed him behind the neck and was able to cut him out of the netting.

But snakes play an important role in the environment and they do eat rats though I have NEVER seen one doing so! Rat snakes eat a LOT of birds and that is all I have ever seen one eating.

Steve
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season
Siberman
Posts: 262
Joined: Thu Mar 18, 2010 1:03 pm
Location: Titus County , TX

I'm in the sticks so I've seen them eat rats , baby rabbits , etc . I've never seen one in a tree but I did grab a large one by the tail as he was winding his way up a pole . :shock:

Might be a conflict of interest but I like snakes except for Copperheads and nerodia water snakes ( one got in my pond and killed a 2' butterfly koi) . Despite the negative aspects , they serve a purpose. :wink:
2010: 5 pair - raptor attack .
2011 : nada .
2012 : 1 pair - 5 eggs / 5 fledged .
2013: zero
2014: Lots of visitors
2015 : several visitors . Seriously considering purchasing a drone to scare off raptors .
DakotaLady
Posts: 654
Joined: Thu Aug 07, 2008 2:06 pm
Location: Bismarck, ND

I suppose they do serve a purpose. I'm just thankful we do not have big snakes like that here. I would be worried about my koi and other pond fish not to mention my martins. Thank goodness for whoever came up with adding the netting to your poles.

It is good you cut them out and carry them off to another area unharmed. He does look mighty angry for sure.
~Tangula~

2013 - 16 pair, 79 eggs, 71 fledged
2012 - 4 pair, 18 eggs, 18 fledged
wastrox
Posts: 69
Joined: Tue Mar 24, 2015 10:16 am
Location: VA/Great Falls
Martin Colony History: A new purple martin wannabe landlord, I took over management of long neglected colonies at two public golf courses Spring of 2015. I had 20 nesting pairs at Algonkian Golf Course and 15 at Brambleton.

So Steve, if the netting is placed above the wench or in my case where the rope on the pulley system is wrapped when the house is up, then when you lower the house, do you just squish the netting? I'm not sure the house would be low enough for nest checks with the netting above it unless it can either be removed, which seems like a hassle, or pushed down temporarily and spread back out or the top part pushed back up after the house goes back up.
2015 Obsessed Newbie - brand spankin' new 6 gourd Troyer system at home and only lookers
2015 took over management in late May of sites at two golf courses with active colonies
Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4342
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Brenda,

I don't lower the racks/houses to the point where the netting is crushed. Also I don't remove the net traps when conducting nest checks.

If I can't reach a gourd/house, I use a small step ladder to access the nests.

You can place a net trap BELOW your rope cleat or a winch and that works to catch rat snakes, too. I have even place net traps at the bottom of a pole, but you have problems with grass/weeds growing up through the netting. I don't use the ground level net traps anymore.

So you could place a net trap below your rope cleat and have the trap perhaps two or even three feet off the ground. It all depends on how high you have your rope cleat or winch.

Good luck.

Steve
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season
Greg Borke MO
Posts: 63
Joined: Fri Mar 20, 2015 9:34 am
Location: Sedalia Mo

Nice work Steve I no you devolped this concept years ago with great successes.
Greg
Starting all over on a new sight 2015

2015 5 pair
2016 8 pair
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