Updated Oct 18, 2022
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As a homeowner, you probably prefer to enjoy your backyard without worrying about snakes. However, the most enjoyable things about it—shade, thriving gardens, natural water—are also extremely attractive to these scaly reptiles.
While your gut reaction when finding a snake in your garden may be horror or disgust, it’s essential to recognize that snakes are more afraid of us than we are of them. Most snake species are nonaggressive and interested in staying far away from humans. Many snake species, like garden snakes, ribbon snakes, and water snakes, are not venomous and can benefit you by eating lawn-destroying insects and rodents.
If you are uncomfortable with snakes in your yard or are concerned about having a venomous species, we strongly recommend speaking with a professional pest control company. It’s always best to know what type of snake you are dealing with before you try to get rid of them because you don’t want to go after a dangerous snake species on your own.
If you have a snake in your garden or yard, we recommend always starting by identifying the snake species. You must be confident that the snake in your yard is not venomous before trying to remove it yourself. If you have doubts, stop and call animal control or your local pest control specialist for help getting the snake out of your yard.
Most snakes will not appreciate being sprayed with water. If you are sure that the snake you’re dealing with is not venomous, you can gently spray water at it with a garden hose from a distance to motivate the snake to move along.
There are many snake repellents available on the market. Many of them work by throwing off the snake’s sense of smell, making your yard a less desirable place to nest. Most of these products are safe for use around pets, but we recommend double-checking this.
If you are sure the snake is harmless, you can go about catching the snake and then release it far away from your home. Glue traps use bait to lure the snake in; then it’ll get stuck to the sticky adhesive. Later, you can remove the snake from the glue trap, typically using simple cooking oils that will break down the adhesive. Remember that this approach requires you to get very close to the snake, which isn’t always safe.
Standing pools of water, especially hidden ones by a storage area, garden, or hose, are desirable nesting places for snakes. Remove these water sources to discourage snakes and other pests from sticking around.
Snakes are patient creatures that rely on stealth to hunt and hideout. Keep your lawn short of eliminating areas that snakes could be hiding, and eliminate your fears about coming across one unexpectedly.
Do a thorough cleaning of your yard and eliminate common snake hiding spots. Snakes typically look for warm, hidden shelters like firewood storage, dense brush, tall grass, open spaces under the shed or house, and piled hoses.
If you have an animal control or pest control professional come the same day, consider trapping the snake with a garbage can so it can’t disappear before the professional comes. However, if you are unsure about the species and if it’s dangerous, we recommend waiting for the professional.
Snakes are known to use abandoned animal burrows for nesting. Inspect your yard, look for abandoned holes and burrows, and fill them with dirt or gravel to prevent snakes and other pests from making them their new home.
Snakes can be dangerous, and most of us don’t want to deal with trapping and removing them, even if they are a harmless species. We strongly recommend contacting a professional pest control to handle your snake problem. They can also examine your property for common snake hiding places and attractants and reduce these to discourage snakes from coming back.
Snakes can be difficult to identify because they are quick and excellent at hiding. However, it’s critical to know what kind of snake you’re dealing with before working on getting rid of them. Please note that the following snakes are common snakes you may encounter in your yard, and none of them are venomous or particularly threatening to humans.
Garter snake is a common name for small to medium-sized snakes that are harmless to humans. Most are found throughout North America, especially in drier climates in the southwest. Garter snakes usually have three stripes running down their bodies, with heads proportionally large next to their bodies. They can grow up to 54 inches long, and their color and pattern vary significantly from species to species.
Rat snakes are medium to large snakes part of the snake family Colubridae. They kill their prey through constriction, making them no threat to humans. Rat snakes come in various colors and patterns but usually have a dark body with a lighter chin and underbelly. Typically, their heads are noticeably larger than their bodies. Keep in mind that rat snakes are very versatile and can swim and climb, so you may see them in ponds, lakes, bodies of water, and even trees.
Kingsnakes are another backyard snake commonly mistaken for a venomous species, like coral snakes, due to the color bands on their backs. However, kingsnakes have rounder pupils and a spoon-shaped head. Typically, you’ll find kingsnakes with yellow, red, or black markings. Kingsnakes are more aggressive than rat and garter snakes. However, their bites are relatively harmless. They also eat venomous snakes, like rattlesnakes and copperheads.
So, how can I tell if the snake in my yard is venomous or poisonous? It can be challenging to know if you’re not an expert because snakes vary widely in appearance, and you typically need to get close to identify them, which we don’t recommend. However, here are a few quick features to look for when determining if you have a venomous snake in your backyard.
|Snake Type||Pupils||Head Shape||Color||Other features|
|Venomous snakes||Thinner, vertical, usually surrounded by yellow or green eyes||Triangular and bulbous head with skinny neck to hold venom sacks under the jaw, some non-venomous snakes mimic this head shape to intimidate predators,||Varies, not a reliable method of identification||Some rattlesnakes shake the rattles on their tails which creates a loud clicking noise, Cottonmouths are the only semi-aquatic venomous snake in the USA, they hold their head above water while swimming unlike non-venomous snakes|
|Non-venomous snakes||Rounded pupils||Rounded or spoon-shaped head||Varies, typically not brightly colored||Varies widely|
Snakes are typically unwanted visitors to our yards and homes. Like all pests, they are usually only interested in staying on our property if they find access to food, water, and shelter. Consider the following snake prey and what may be attracting snakes to your yard.
Common snake foods:
Common snake shelters:
Another reason you may have snakes is if your area has few natural snake predators, such as foxes or raccoons.
The most common way people discover that they have snakes is by spotting a snake in their yard or home. However, if you begin seeing the following snake signs, you may have a snake infestation, and there may be more snakes nearby than you think.
Common signs that you have snakes:
A snake inside your home is a serious problem. Not only are you probably less than thrilled about this situation, but a snake may become agitated and lash out at you if they feel threatened or trapped in your home. If you have a snake in your house, immediately call an exterminator or wildlife control specialist to handle the situation.
A snake in your home may also be a sign of a serious rodent problem, so we recommend having a pest control professional check out your home to look for underlying pest problems.
If you are sure the snake is harmless, you can try removing the snake from your pool with a long pole or hook. Otherwise, we recommend calling a professional immediately to have the snake removed.
For snake prevention, consider creating a perimeter around your pool with vinegar or setting up a tightly-woven mesh snake-proof fence to prevent snakes from entering your pool again.
Although snakes can be beneficial in killing other dangerous pests, like rodents, there are many reasons why most people would be unhappy having a snake on their property. Consider the following long-term methods to prevent snakes from hanging around your home and yard if this is you.
|Method||Why it works|
|Feed your pets inside||Leaving pet food or food scraps outside can attract pests, like rodents and insects, which are common snake food sources.|
|Trim your branches||Certain species of snakes, like rat snakes, are excellent climbers and may make a home in trees in your yard. Keep your trees trimmed to prevent this.|
|Install gravel or uneven ground coverings||Snakes prefer smooth surfaces, such as grass-covered spaces, for easy travel and slithering. Gravel or uneven ground covering may discourage them from traveling through your yard.|
|Get rid of your birdbath or bird feeder||While birds can be lovely to look at, many birdbaths or birdfeeders will attract rodents, which may attract snakes.|
|Remove water features||Many snakes look for water elements to swim in or create nests near. If you live in a snake-prone area, consider skipping out on water features.|
|Use natural predators against snakes||Foxes are natural predators to snakes, so try purchasing fox urine and using this as a natural snake repellent around your property. Owls are also natural predators to snakes and can be attracted to your property using an owl box.|
|Install a tightly woven mesh fence||Snakes, rodents, and other animals will not be able to enter through a tightly woven mesh fence.|
|Use smoke to your advantage||Snakes have heightened senses of smell, and they especially hate the smell of smoke. If you have a fire pit, try letting it smoke for a couple of days to discourage snakes from entering your property.|
The best way to protect your home from snakes is by preventing insect or rodent infestations which may be attractive sources of food to snakes. In addition to this, make sure that all accessible entry points to snakes are taken care of.
Consider the following possible entryways:
If a snake bites you, you should immediately call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room, even if you believe the snake is not venomous. All snake bites should be examined and treated urgently by medical professionals.
Having snakes in your yard can be an excellent sign of a healthy environment. Like all animals, snakes are a part of the food chain, and they help control pest populations, like rodents and insects. Snakes are also food for bigger predators, like raccoons and owls. Harmless snakes, like kingsnakes, may even eat venomous snakes, making your yard a safer place.
Before treating snakes, we recommend seeking professional help to identify your snakes and assess the threat. If they are good snakes to have around, you may not need to do anything.
If you are unsure about what steps to take or are concerned about identifying the snake correctly, we strongly recommend hiring a professional pest control company like Terminix. Many pest control companies offer free inspections and will gladly come out to your property to assess the situation, check if you have a snake infestation, and provide different treatment options.
Terminix offers many wildlife treatment options, including physical removal, snake trapping, exclusion to prevent snakes from entering your property. The company will also identify any problem areas or weaknesses in the perimeter of your property which may be where snakes are entering. A Terminix professional can also assess your home for other pest problems, like rodents or grasshoppers, which are attractive food sources to snakes.
Read our Terminix Review to learn more.
Identifying a snake’s species without training can be challenging, so snake removal and treatment are usually best left to the professionals.
Snakes are sensitive to strong scents, like smoke, cinnamon, vinegar, and cloves. Certain plants like lemongrass, onion, garlic, and marigolds are also known to repel snakes from gardens. You’ll also want to assess your property for what is attracting snakes in the first place. Consider food sources like rodents, insects, and pet food which may attract snakes to your home. Great hiding places like pools of water, tall grass, thick brush, broken gutters, and open storage may also draw snakes to your yard.
It’s a common misconception that mothballs keep snakes away from your home. Mothballs are not known to affect snakes, but they can be toxic to your water system, pets, and human health, so it’s best to skip mothballs and focus on other snake repellents.
Long-term changes and preventive measures are the best snake repellent. Changing your yard’s environment to make it less snake-friendly is an excellent choice. Other natural repellents like onion, garlic, marigold, and lemongrass are great ways to discourage snakes from hanging around your property. Snakes also dislike strong scents, such as cloves, white vinegar, cinnamon essential oil, and smoke, which may be used to repel snakes.
Salt is effective against some pests, such as slugs. However, salt has not been found to irritate or affect snakes.
It might. If you have a snake in your home and can safely close it off with access to only the exit, it may decide to leave on its own. However, many snakes are content to remain in a warm, comfortable environment like your home. Others may become agitated in your home and lash out. Suppose you have a snake inside your home. In that case, we recommend immediately calling animal control or a professional pest control company to remove the snake and check for entry points where the snake may have broken in.
Some snakes are nocturnal, but others are happy to hunt and move during the day. Snakes can be both nocturnal and diurnal, meaning that they prefer to hunt and be active at night, but they may need to hunt during the day when it’s too cold for them to move well at night. A snake’s movements depend primarily on the temperature outside because they are cold-blooded. For example, snakes are more likely to be out at night or very early in the morning during the summer because it’s still warm at night, and they may need a cool shelter during the day to be comfortable. During the fall, a snake may be forced to hunt during the day due to dropping temperatures.
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