Erosion control and herps: please use fiber or blanket, not plastic

N. sipedon tangled in erosion control matting (copyright M. Backus and used by permission)

N. sipedon tangled in erosion control matting (copyright M. Backus and used by permission)

Erosion-control matting that contains welded plastic netting is bad news for snakes, which is why we are very thankful that the Vermont Department of Transportation (VTrans) has severely limited use of this product, as have state land managers. That said, the product is not illegal and many towns and private contractors still use it as it was the industry standard for many years.

Snakes that attempt to pass through the material are easily snared and tangled, sometimes in large numbers. We get reports of dead snakes tangled in the netting almost every year and wildlife rehabilitators report it is a very common source of injuries to snakes that come into their care.

The need to discontinue use of welded plastic erosion control matting became clear many years ago after dozens of Common Watersnakes became tangled in a single erosion control mat and died while emerging from their overwintering site. VTrans was very quick to control use of the product afterward.

Alternative products, such as mats with natural fiber and netless rolled erosion control blankets are easily available on the market at a similar cost. If you are having work done on your property in which erosion control netting may be used, please share this information with your contractor. It may also be helpful to bring the matter up with your town road crew, select board, or conservation commission if your town still uses the welded plastic product.

Details on alternatives can be found on page 213 of this VTrans document (

PS. Other outdoor products that contain welded plastic netting are equally dangerous to wildlife, including birds. An example of this is the netting used to protect berries from birds. Keeping the plastic netting from directly contacting the ground helps protect many species of snake (but not climbing species). Shade cloth is a much safer alternative.

Please do copy and paste this out to other lists, groups, and individuals, including select board members, town road crews, conservation commissions, etc. You can see additional photos on our Facebook page at

From Jim Andrews, Kiley Briggs, and the Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas

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