For many homeowners, the sight of a snake is among the scariest of all pests. Whether a snake is venomous or not is almost beside the point, as many people suffer from ophidiophobia – the abnormal fear of snakes.
How to Get Rid of Snakes
Given that it’s difficult for homeowners to easily identify venomous from non-venomous snakes, it’s better to call for professional pest control when you encounter a snake near your home. Let’s first speak to the most common non-venomous species:
How To Identify:
- The most common snake in North America
- Adults range from 15-36 inches
- Found from Canada to Florida and throughout the eastern U.S.
- Females are often 50 percent larger than males
- Typically yellow to pale green with a stripe of tan, yellow, or orange
- Spends winter in logs, tree stumps, rock piles, and even spaces under roads and buildings
How To Identify:
- Most often seen in the southern and eastern U.S.
- Adults may reach lengths of nearly 5 feet
- Females are heavier and longer than males
- Colors range from brown to gray to olive green
How To Identify:
- Often seen in the Midwest and western states and as far south as West Texas
- Grows to between three and eight feet
- Cream to light brownish in color
- Active during daytime, but often found in underground burrows
Common Venomous Snakes
Each species below is a member of the pit viper family, meaning these snakes have heat-sensing pits between the eye and nostril on each side of the head. These pits are used to sense changes in temperature, which typically leads to prey. All pit vipers are also notable for their triangular heads, thick bodies, and ridge-like scales. Again, it’s best to call for pest control if you find one on your property.
How To Identify:
- Average adults range from three to four feet
- More than 30 known species
- Most abundant in desert areas of the Southwest but also occasionally seen in swamps of the Southeast
- Colors include brown, gray and black, cream, and yellow
- Bites are dangerous to humans and should be treated immediately
Water Moccasin (“Cottonmouth”)
How To Identify:
- Adults range from two to four feet in length
- Seen in southeastern U.S., from southern Virginia to eastern Texas
- Native to swamps, marshes, ditches, and near ponds, lakes, and streams
- Body colors range from dark brown to black to olive
- Bites are dangerous to humans
How To Identify:
- Average two to three feet in length
- Dens have been seen from northeastern states south to West Texas
- May seek out woodpiles, abandoned farm buildings, junkyards, and the like
- Bites are moderately dangerous to humans
Gather the Tools You’ll Need
a good flashlight
Step 1. Know a Snake’s Habits
Step 2. Know Where to Look
- Yard debris
- Tall grasses and shrubs
- Under storage buildings or sheds
- Piles of wood
- Tree branches or limbs that reach your roof
If you find a snakeskin indoors, your search will change as snakes are skilled at hiding in small spaces. Snakes are capable climbers, and you’ll need to examine locations in your home such as:
- Near heat sources and water pipes
- Piles of clothing and/or boxes
- Wall ledges and rafters
- Near and behind appliances
- Small cracks or openings near doors and windows
Step 3. Consider Exclusion or Elimination
Weather and Snakes
As mentioned, snakes are cold-blooded creatures and seek opportunities to conserve warmth. Some species hibernate, while others engage in brumation during winter. This simply means that their metabolism slows dramatically and they’re far less active. Snakes will attempt to eat more prior to brumation so they can survive the winter. Thinner snakes, however, may not survive the season.
Spring temperatures signal an end to both hibernation and brumation, and snakes look to sun themselves and begin mating behavior. In fact, some types will pursue a mate immediately upon the onset of warmer climates.
Snakes can be a huge fear for many people, and seeing one in your yard is likely to give anyone a fright. Luckily, snakes aren’t common pests. If you do see them on your property, it’s likely that it isn’t venomous and is simply passing through. It could even be helpful at removing rodents and other pests that can damage your plants and make their way inside your home. The main problem, however, is that they’re so successful at hiding that they can easily be stepped on by pets or children — a surefire way to be bitten.
It’s always best to leave a snake alone until you have the proper equipment and knowledge for removing them from your home or yard. Before beginning any treatment, make sure you’ve successfully inspected and identified the species of snake you’re dealing with and have found out if they’re poisonous or not. Afterwards, you can use regular preventative measures and understand how to get rid of a snake problem when you first notice any signs of one.
Snakes love to hide so that they can easily sneak up on prey and catch them. To prevent them from settling into your yard and home, there are several steps you can take to make your yard inhospitable for them and eliminate most of the hiding spots that they seek out:
- Clean Up Your Yard. Take the time to eliminate debris, trash and vegetation that builds up on your lawn. It’s best to rake regularly and never leave piles of leaves or branches sitting out. This also goes for toys, decorations and even rocks.
- Trim Your Trees and Shrubs. Don’t let your trees, bushes and shrubs become overgrown. Not only will they provide the perfect cover for snakes, but they’ll also create an ideal environment that insects like mosquitoes and roaches thrive in.
- Keep Your Grass Short. An overgrown yard can be unsightly, so it’s a constant reminder of when you need to be mowing the grass. This step is also especially important if you have pets and children, because snakes love to hide in tall grass. If they go unseen in the middle of your yard, they’re much more likely to be stepped on, and this will aggravate them and cause them to bite.
- Eliminate Moisture. In addition to the hiding spaces that backyards provide, they also tend to offer the perfect climate for snakes – cool and damp. There can be so many holes and objects in your yard that retain water, and these are all appealing to snakes. After it rains, check to see where water is pooling. Fill in any divots or holes in your yard as best as you can, and take the time to drain bird houses and flower pots that might still contain rainwater. Cleaning up your yard goes hand in hand with this step, because you’ll also be able to remove the debris that tends to soak up moisture and retain it.
- Mulch. In the areas where you already mulch around your house, you can switch to using sharper materials like rock chips and crushed up pine cones. Snakes won’t want to move over these materials, so they’ll act as a deterrent.
Treat Your Property for Rodents
Again, keep in mind that a snake here or there can actually help keep out rodents. If you aren’t experiencing an infestation with either animal, it can be best to leave them be and let nature run its course.
Keep Your Home Closed Off
- Inspect your house for cracks and crevices, and take note if the spaces around your doors and windows are bigger than they should be. Also pay special attention to drains, vents and crawl spaces – these can have openings around them or might simply need a fitted screen on top to eliminate it as an entryway.
- Seal up any small openings that you’re worried about with caulk, expandable foam, or rubber sealants like weatherstripping. This will help remove possible hiding places for snakes.
If you’ve already started seeing snakes coming around your property, the best way to prevent an infestation is to start making your property less and less appealing to them. There are a multitude of repellents you can buy at the store, and these usually come in granular or liquid spray form. They contain chemicals that emit an odor snakes hate, so they don’t try to go anywhere near them. You may also find nontoxic snake repellents on the market that are safe to use near pets and children.
DIY Essential Oil Spray
- 10 drops of the essential oil of your choice
- 1 cup of water
Multiply the essential oil recipe as needed and combine the solution into a spray bottle. The oil will separate from the water, so be sure to shake the bottle before each use.
You can even use the spray directly on snakes to cause them to flee, but it isn’t encouraged to deal with a snake in close proximity if you aren’t sure whether or not it’s venomous. If you know there are certain areas where snakes congregate around your home, you can also soak a piece of cloth, cotton ball or cotton-tipped swab with the solution and place it in the area. This will concentrate the smell and make it even worse for the snakes.
Find out what some of the best snake deterrents on the market are.
Traps aren’t an encouraged method for treatment because they may require you to come into contact with the snake when you’re releasing it. Furthermore, the chemicals used won’t lure in other animals, but curious pets can very easily get into the trap as well. Snake traps also require that you know where you can legally release the snake. Depending on the species, it could also be illegal to move it to another area without contacting professional help.
Before purchasing a snake trap, be sure you’ve identified the snake successfully and thoroughly read any instructions so that you know what to do. You may even want to contact a professional to double-check that you’re doing everything correctly and that you know where the snake can be released.
Snake fences can be made out of wood, vinyl, plastic mesh or fabric, steel mesh, or catch net fencing. Regardless of which material you decide to use, your snake fence will need to meet the following requirements:
- It must reach 6 inches into the ground.
- It must completely surround the perimeter of your property.
- If it’s made out of mesh material, it needs to be less than a quarter inch.
- The fence needs to be unclimbable. This could be ensured with the material that you use, or by making sure to slant the fence outward at a 30-degree angle.
The only thing your fence doesn’t need to be is very high, but if you’d like to double its use as a privacy fence, you might as well invest in more material.
- Before you begin any type of physical removal with a snake, make sure you’re wearing long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and a thick pair of gloves as well. Even if a snake isn’t venomous, it’s best to take all of the necessary precautions for avoiding snake bites.
- If you’re only dealing with a single snake, you can simply sweep it away to a different area. This is a simple solution if you feel the snake is getting too close to your home or if it’s sitting in an area too close to you, such as if you’re trying to garden or work inside a garage or shed.
- If there’s a larger snake on your property that looks like it could pose a problem for your family, you can purchase a snake tong to move it away outside the perimeter of your property. The tongs allow you to pick up the snake while maintaining your distance, so you’ll still be safe if the snake begins to struggle.
With the tongs, you should grab the snake about 1/3 of the way down its body – not too close to its head nor its tail. Too close to the head can be harmful to the snake, and closer to the tail will give it the room it needs to bite you. Once you have a secure grasp of it, slowly lift it up but don’t take it completely off of the ground. Instead, drag it away toward wherever you’ve decided to move it.
With this method, the snake can easily just slither back into your yard, so you’ll want to use some type of repellent as well.
When To Call a Professional
Snakes that are deemed invasive may need to be taken somewhere specific, and there are also laws protecting endangered and native snakes that determine how they’re dealt with.
Immediately notify a professional wildlife or pest control expert is if you begin noticing even one of the following signs of an infestation:
- More than one snake. They don’t live in colonies, but if you see a snake and smaller, younger ones, you’ll know that its eggs have hatched on your property.
- Snake skins
- Evidence of a nest or eggs
Even if you do feel you can successfully remove a snake on your own, always contact a professional or do the research necessary to find out what to do with a certain species. Snakes that are deemed invasive may need to be taken somewhere specific, and there are also laws protecting endangered and native snakes that determine how they’re dealt with.
If you can’t positively identify a snake on your property, call a professional if you believe it’s posing a threat to the safety of your family. Otherwise, a single snake will often move on within a day and isn’t going to cause any damage to you or your yard. If you have identified non-venomous snakes, you can usually treat it on your own if it isn’t known as dangerous or threatening. Any poisonous snakes you see should always be reported to professionals so they can deal with it in the best way possible and make sure you’re out of harm’s way.