The persistently hot, dry weather we’ve experienced this summer has been pushing snakes into residential lawns. Although they are typically shy, avoiding people when they can, snakes depend on areas that are irrigated, provide good cover and have a food source. In extremely hot, dry weather, it’s easier to find everything they need in your yard.
I don’t mind snakes too much. They eat mice, slugs, grubs, insects and other pests. My daughter delights in finding little garter snakes, insisting on releasing the ones she discovers in the lawn into the flower bed.
However, I also understand many people don’t like them and want them nowhere near their yard. It’s lucky for those people that deterring them isn’t very difficult at all. Simply make your home less habitable for snakes and they will slither out the same way they came in.
- Mow frequently. Snakes are less likely to live in and move through shorter grass because it increases their exposure to predators.
- Don’t overwater your lawn. Overwatering your lawn can attract food for snakes — worms, slugs and frogs. The presence of food and excess water can make your yard more attractive to snakes.
- Trim trees and shrubs. Keeping trees and shrubs trimmed away from your house with a space of at least 6 inches between the ground and the first branches will help keep snakes out of your yard.
- Avoid using mulch and large rocks in your landscape. Using them can attract snakes and their prey to create breeding and overwintering habitats. Try using smaller, tight-fitting gravel or river rock instead.
- Avoid landscaping with water gardens and Koi ponds.
- Store firewood away from your home. It creates a perfect place for snakes to hide. Likewise, scrap metal, trash and other debris should be stored away from the house for the same reason.
- Search for and seal any cracks or crevices 1/4 inch in diameter and bigger. Seal entry points into your crawl space or basement by paying special attention to your foundation and sidewalks.
- Consider installing a fence. Use 1/4-inch or smaller rigid mesh or solid sheeting to construct your fence. Next, bury it 2 to 4 inches into the ground and include a bend at the top to prevent snakes from climbing up and over. The fence should be at least 24 inches high and encircle the entire yard to be effective.
- Modify an existing chain-link, picket or split-rail fence. Attach 24-inch-high hardware cloth (1/4-inch weave) or aluminum flashing to the outside bottom of the fence. Bury the bottom of the hardware cloth or flashing 2 to 4 inches into the soil. Gates should have the same snake-proofing and be kept closed to be effective.
- If you have a rodent problem get it taken care of quickly. Check out How to keep mice out my house.
- Check to make sure doors and window screens fit tightly.
- Cover vents and drains with galvanized screening.
Pets, birds and backyard chicken tips
- Keep your bird feeder away from your house. Birds frequently leave seed behind after they’ve gotten their fill at the feeder. The discarded seed on the ground then attracts rodents. The rodents can then attract snakes. If you’re really having a problem, try to clean up around the feeder on a daily basis or consider not feeding them at all.
- Feed pets indoors. Feeding pets outside attracts insects and rodents, which are food sources for snakes. If you have to feed your pet outdoors, be sure to clean up any uneaten food promptly.
- Spiff up the coop. Just as you improved your house and yard, use the tactics above to spiff up your chicken coop. If you decide to use ceramic or other artificial eggs to encourage a brooding hen to lay, glue them down to prevent snakes from eating them.
- Seal away animal food. Store dog food, birdseed, chicken feed or any other type of animal food in metal garbage cans with tight-fitting lids.
Do not use
- Do not use snake repellents or sulfur. They are ineffective.
- Do not use mothballs. The active ingredient is naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene — chemicals that are toxic to insects and mammals, but are not effective against snakes. Additionally, using mothballs outside your home also violates product labels and may be dangerous for your family and pets.
- Do not use sticky traps outside. Traps placed outside can capture non-target animals and result in a slow death.
- Do not use guns, shovels or other weapons. If you need a snake to move on quickly, simply spray it with the hose.