As a homeowner, you probably prefer to enjoy your backyard without worrying about snakes. However, the most enjoyable things about it — shade, thriving gardens, and water features — are also extremely attractive to these scaly reptiles.
While your gut reaction when finding a snake in your garden may be a mix of horror and disgust, it’s essential to recognize that snakes are more afraid of us than we are of them. Most snake species are non-aggressive and want to stay far away from humans. Many non-venomous varieties like garden snakes, ribbon snakes, and water snakes are also beneficial because they eat lawn-destroying insects and rodents.
When bites from a venomous species happen, immediate medical attention is needed, but you can take some comfort in knowing that among the U.S. population of 331 million, only five to ten people die each year from a venomous snake bite. Of the 3,000 species of snakes worldwide, only 15% are dangerous to humans.
If you come across a snake in your yard and are concerned it may be a venomous species, we strongly recommend speaking with a professional pest control company before taking any direct action.
In this article, we’ll include helpful tips for dealing with snakes from some experts in the field:
- Jamie Nichols,Senior Service Center Manager of Arrow Exterminators
- Ryan Farley, CEO of LawnStarter
- Vincent Luca, Owner of On Demand Pest Control
How to Get Rid of Snakes in Your Yard
“An essential first step is to educate yourself and your family about snakes in your area,” said Farley. “Not all snakes are dangerous, and the ones that are dangerous will have different preferred habitats, behavior patterns, and risk levels. Knowing how to identify — and ideally avoid — dangerous snakes should be priority one.”
You must be confident that any snake in your yard is not venomous before you try to remove it yourself. If you have doubts, stop and call animal control or your local pest control specialist for help.
Spray With a Hose
Most snakes will not appreciate being sprayed with water. If you’re sure the snake you’re dealing with is not venomous, you can gently spray a steady stream of water from a distance to motivate the snake to move along.
Use Snake Repellent
There are many effective snake repellents available on the market, or you can make your own at home. Many work by throwing off the snake’s sense of smell, making your yard a less desirable habitat.
Most ready-made products are safe for use around pets, but we recommend double-checking this before buying. For safe DIY options, refer to the section below on home remedies for repelling snakes.
If using strong repellants, Nichols recommends turning to the professionals. “Not all repellents are safe to use around children and pets, but there are some that are safe and will be effective. Using repellents as an ongoing service month-to-month yields the best results,” said Nichols.
Set a Trap
If you’re sure the snake is harmless, you can catch it and release it far away from your home. Cages and catch inserts similar to rat traps use bait to lure the snake in, trapping it in the process. Later, you can release the snake from the trap in a safe area.
Remember that the trapping process requires you to get very close to the snake, which may not always be safe — non-venomous snakes can bite.
Remove Standing Pools of Water
Areas of standing water in your yard, especially ones hidden by a storage area, garden, or rolled-up hose, attract snakes. Remove these water sources to discourage snakes and other pests from sticking around.
Keep Grass Short
Snakes are patient creatures that rely on stealth to hunt and hide out. Keeping your lawn short helps eliminate areas where snakes could be hiding, relieving fears that you, your family, or your pets could come across one unexpectedly.
Replace Grass with Gravel or Rocks as Landscaping
Snakes aren’t fans of uneven surfaces. When you replace flat grass or ground with rocks or pebbles, you direct snakes away from the area. You also save on your water bill in the process, making it a double win.
Our experts Nichols, Farley, and Luca all agree that paying attention to potential areas where snakes could shelter is critical. Do a survey of your yard and eliminate common snake hiding spots — snakes typically look for warm, secluded places like tall grass, open spaces under sheds or houses, and coiled hoses. Nichols recommends managing dense vegetation and wood piles. “Make the yard less inviting to snakes,” said Nichols.
“Snakes often like to hide in decrepit buildings, under porches, and in other forms of makeshift shelter,” said Farley. “Blocking off access to these kinds of areas and structures is a good way to keep snakes out of them and out of your yard.”
Manage Rodent and Insect Issues
Nichols recommends reducing the number of rodents and insects around the home, particularly by removing bird feeders that can cause spilled food, attracting rodents that then attract snakes.
Fill in Holes and Burrows
Snakes are known to use abandoned animal burrows for nesting. Some snakes even make their own burrows with one- to two-inch openings. A telltale sign of snake presence is shed snake skin. Inspect your yard, look for abandoned holes and burrows, and fill in any you find with dirt or gravel to prevent snakes and other pests from making them their homes.
Hire a Professional Pest Control Company
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 company to handle your snake problem. The experts can also examine your property for hiding places and other elements that attract snakes and reduce these to discourage snakes from coming back.
Identifying Common Types of Snakes & Telling Them Apart
Snakes can be difficult to identify because they move quickly and excel at hiding. However, it’s critical to know what kind of snake you’re dealing with before working on getting rid of it. Below we’ll review some common types of snakes — garter snakes, rat snakes, and kingsnakes — you may encounter in your yard that are not venomous or otherwise threatening to humans.
Garter snakes are small to medium-sized snakes (two to four feet long) found throughout North America. The 35 species vary significantly in appearance but commonly have three stripes running down their bodies.
Their habitats include forests, woodlands, grasslands and lawns, but they are never far from a source of water since amphibians like frogs make up a major part of their diet. They can often be found near small ponds surrounded by tall grass.
Rat snakes are medium-sized (three to five feet long) and are found throughout the Southeast, East and Midwest of the United States. They kill their prey through constriction, making them no threat to humans. The various species have different colors and patterns but usually have dark bodies with lighter chins and underbellies. Their heads are generally large proportionate to their bodies. Rat snakes are very versatile and can swim and climb, so you may see them in ponds, lakes, and even trees.
Kingsnakes are another type of snake found throughout the United States, and species vary widely in size, color and pattern. Some have muted black-to-brown coloration but many have vibrant patterns in bright colors like reds and yellows. A few have black, yellow and red patterns that cause them to be confused with the highly venomous coral snake.
Kingsnakes are more aggressive than rat and garter snakes but their bites are harmless. They can also benefit you and your yard by preying on snakes that are venomous.
How can you tell if a snake in your yard is venomous?
It can be challenging to determine because snakes vary widely in appearance, and you typically need to get close to identify them, which isn’t recommended. 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 usually only interested in staying on your property if they find access to food, water, and shelter. Consider the following snake prey that may be attracting snakes to your yard:
- Frogs and toads
- Small farm animals
- Chicken eggs
Common snake shelters include:
- Thick brush
- Tall grass
- Piles of leaves or compost
- Broken gutters
- Ventilation areas on buildings
- Storage areas
- Firewood containers
- Coiled water hoses
Another reason you may have snakes is if your area has few natural snake predators such as foxes or raccoons.
Signs You May Have Snakes
The most common way people discover snakes on a property is by spotting them but there are other clues as well. The following are signs that you may have a snake infestation:
- Discarded snake skins
- Snake holes
- Snake droppings (typically large, thick, slimy, and mushy in appearance)
- Slither tracks
- A distinctive smell in enclosed areas
- Strange noise coming from a flooring area (snakes are known to hide underneath flooring to lay eggs)
- A sudden drop in the number of rodents on your property
A snake in your home poses risks to your family and pets. It can lash out if it feels threatened or trapped. 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 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.
Below we’ll discuss some common areas of the home where snakes are found. Note that limiting food sources like mice is a great way to prevent snakes in the first place, but we’ll recommend other ways to keep them from moving in and coming back.
Snakes in Basements and Utility Rooms
Snakes like these areas of the home because they’re often undisturbed. Basements are also often damp — perfect for nesting.
Tips to prevent them:
- Seal walls
- Spray or use essential oils made of any of the natural ingredients described further along in this article
Snakes Near Pools
Snakes are good swimmers and use natural pools to drink and cool off in the summer. They don’t typically like chlorinated pools because the chlorine is poisonous to them, but they can end up in the pool if chasing prey or if they fall in by accident.
Tips to prevent snakes:
- Spray vinegar around the edge of the pool
- Sprinkle crushed garlic, cinnamon, or clove oil around the pool
Snakes in Your Garage
Garages are common homes for snakes because there is easy access when doors are open, they offer plenty of hiding places, and provide more moderate temperatures when the weather is cold or hot. Garages also give shelter and food (such as stored pet food) to mice, which attract snakes.
Tips to prevent snakes:
- Keep access to the garage closed
- Maintain a clean, clutter-free garage
- Store pet food elsewhere
Snakes in Attics
Similar to basements and garages, attics are an area of the home where rodents enter and live, which will attract snakes. Attics also have boxes and loose items that serve as effective hiding places and provide moderate temperatures.
Tips to prevent snakes:
- Spray or use essential oils made of natural ingredients described further along
- Seal holes and block air vents with metal mesh to prevent snakes and the prey that attracts them
Once snakes are removed, you can follow these methods to keep them from coming back.
|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 asgrass-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.|
Home Remedies for Repelling Snakes
Keeping snakes from your yard involves physical prevention — such as removing snakes and limiting habitats — and using repellants. You can enlist your lawn care company to help you. If you don’t have one, here is our list of best lawn care companies.
Here are some safe home remedies you can use as effective snake deterrents:
- Clove and cinnamon oils: Mix these ingredients in a spray bottle (one tablespoon of each to two cups of water) and spray around your property
- Garlic and onions: Combine half a diced onion with four cloves of garlic in water and boil for five minutes. Steep the mixture overnight then transfer to a sprayer. As with the clove and cinnamon mixture, spray around your property.
- Vinegar: Pour it around bodies of water to create a border snakes won’t want to cross.
- Snake-repellent plants: Grow marigolds, lemongrass, and wormwood as natural deterrents.
- Cedarwood: Sprinkle cedar chips or sawdust in areas snakes frequent most.
In terms of repellants, natural or otherwise, “The effectiveness of these methods can vary, and some may have limited long-term results,” said Luca. “Consult with local wildlife authorities or pest control professionals to determine the most suitable options for your specific situation.”
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.
- Make sure you are safely away from the snake. Do not attempt to go after, kill, or handle the snake as it may bite you again.
- Wash the snake bite with soap and water.
- Monitor your heart rate and breathing.
- Keep the area bitten as still as possible and below the heart.
- Remain calm and, if possible, lay down on your side.
- Remove jewelry, tight clothing, rings, and watches, which may be uncomfortable if the area bitten begins swelling.
- Draw a circle around the area initially affected by the snake bite and record the time and your initial symptoms. If possible, continue to draw circles around the affected area if it grows and mark the progression of time.
- Write down anything you remember about the snake — what it looks like, the type of snake if you know it, and the snake’s size (tell the emergency room staff these details).
- Apply a tourniquet
- Attempt to suck the venom out
- Drink caffeine or alcohol
- Apply ice or submerge the snake bite in water
10 Snake Safety Tips
Below we’ll outline some habits worth adopting to reduce the risk of bites to you and your family.
1. Don’t Walk Barefoot in the Yard
Your feet and ankles are vulnerable to snake bites. Protect yourself with snake-proof shoes or boots whenever doing yard work.
2. Avoid Walking in Tall Grass
Tall grass makes snakes hard to see, putting you within striking distance. Err on the side of caution by avoiding any areas of your yard with tall grass.
3. Check Out Stumps Before Sitting on Them
Stumps may look like an ideal place to sit down, but snakes often live inside them. The snakes may not be easy to spot, leading to an unwelcome surprise when you sit down on their home.
4. Be Cautious Around Rocks and Logs
Don’t step over or turn over large rocks or logs. Instead, step on top of them or roll them toward you.
5. Don’t Step or Put Hands Inside Areas You Can’t See
Snakes love to hide out of sight. If you reach or step over a box or inside bushes and can’t see your hands or feet, you won’t see the snake either, potentially leading to a dangerous interaction.
6. Make Noise in Crowded, Cluttered Areas
As we mentioned previously, snakes most often try to avoid confrontation, but if you surprise them, they may instinctively protect themselves. Making noise will warn the snake you are nearby so it can move further away to reduce confrontation.
7. Don’t Approach a Snake
You may not know if a snake is dangerous, so it’s best to play it safe — call a pest control specialist. “If you need to physically remove a dangerous snake from your property, your best option is almost always to contact animal control,” said Farley. “They will have the tools, expertise, and immediate access to antivenom that are necessary to handle these situations safely.”
8. Use Caution Collecting Firewood
Snakes love to hide in wood. A stack of firewood is an ideal home, providing shade and plenty of hiding spots. Wear leather or anti-bite gloves to protect yourself when handling firewood.
9. Inspect Water Hose Coils Before Using Them
Snakes often hide within coiled hoses to protect themselves from predators and stay warm. Use caution before picking up a hose and, if possible, invest in a hose rack that hangs off the ground.
10. If You Hear Rattling, Step Directly Away from the Sound
That rattling sound could be a rattlesnake ready to strike. Step in the opposite direction and keep your eyes peeled for any snakes around you. “Teach children about snake safety and the importance of not approaching,” said Luca.
Are There Good Snakes to Keep Around?
Remember that, overall, snakes — even venomous ones — are a positive thing. “Snakes are beneficial to have around,” said Nichols. “ They help reduce the rodent population and insects, so they help with the balance of nature. Although some snakes are dangerous to us, they are still beneficial to the environment.”
A major reason is that they limit pest populations. “If you can find a way to safely coexist with snakes in your yard, you’ll likely have fewer issues with mice, rats, and other vermin,” said Farley.
Snakes are also food for predators like raccoons and owls. Harmless snakes like kingsnakes may even eat venomous snakes, making your yard a safer place.
There are also conservation and human health benefits of snakes. Our next section covers them in detail.
How Snakes Benefit Conservation and Human Health
Like other living creatures, snakes – including venomous ones — benefit the planet. Luca outlines how below.
Seed dispersal: “Some snake species help disperse seeds through their feces,” said Luca. “They consume fruits or prey on small animals that have consumed seeds, and by defecating in different locations, snakes assist in seed dispersal and contribute to the distribution and regeneration of plant species.”
Nutrient recycling: “When snakes consume prey, they break down organic matter and return nutrients to the soil,” said Luca. This process helps with nutrient cycling and contributes to the overall fertility of the ecosystem. Snakes play a role in maintaining the health of the soil and supporting plant growth.”
Venom research and medical advancements: “Snakes, particularly venomous ones, have played a crucial role in medical research and the development of lifesaving medications, said Luca. “Snake venom contains a complex mixture of proteins and peptides that have the potential for therapeutic applications. Scientists study snake venoms to understand their properties and explore their potential use in developing antivenoms, painkillers, blood thinners, and other medical treatments.”
Frequently Asked Questions
What keeps snakes away from my home/yard?
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.
Do mothballs keep snakes away?
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.
What is the best snake repellent?
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.
Does salt keep snakes away?
Salt is effective against some pests, such as slugs. However, salt has not been found to irritate or affect snakes.
Will a snake leave a house on its own?
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.
Are snakes nocturnal?
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.