Boy Scout Troop 60 from Woodbury built hibernacula for hundreds of snakes. From left to right are David Flanaghan and Kevin Cardinal of Troop 60; Tory Christensen, Great River Greening landscape ecologist, and Chuck Pilon , Troop 60, with the bucket.
With development taking their habitat, snakes need winter homes. So volunteers recently built artificial hibernation structures, called hibernacula, as part of a bigger project to turn 80 acres to grassland prairie in southeast Washington County, on the border with Cottage Grove.
Snakes help provide a balanced ecosystem by keeping small animals and rodents in check as well as serving as food for other species, said Wayne Ostlie, conservation programs director for Great River Greening, based in St. Paul.
Recently, 175 volunteers pitched in to collect prairie seeds, remove invasive species and build the hibernacula, he said.
While most of the snakes using the hibernacula will be garter snakes, the rarer Eastern fox snake, hognose snake, smooth green snake and gopher snake would use them as well.
Funding for the work comes from lottery proceeds and the South Washington Watershed District.