Is a Garden Snake Dangerous?

Mythology and Medicine Aside – How Do You Keep Snakes Away From the House?

Experts agree. The absolute best way to keeps snakes away from your home is to make the area less snake-friendly. Snakes love wood piles, junk piles, tall grass, and thick ground cover plants. Not only do snakes hide in these areas, they make a fine home for rodents, grasshoppers, and frogs, a/k/a snake food. You should also trim up shrubbery that reaches the ground, as snakes hide in low bushes. Get rid of any containers that collect rainwater as well.

Every year I uncover a snake or two under the cinder block edging I used to border my raised garden beds. Snakes are cold-blooded creatures, and they warm themselves by hiding around rocks warmed by the sun. Actually, there is more cost and effort for me to replace the block edging than it is for me to learn to live with the few snakes that share my garden.

Snakes also like warm bricks and concrete. I very recently had a client that encountered a rather large snake happily napping on her front steps. Although he was coiled up, he never lashed out at her like you see in the movies. Most snakes don't exhibit that kind of behavior unless they are surprised or threatened.


An Excellent Job for Kitty

We had an outdoor cat at our first house and I never saw a snake. Although I was never presented with a “gift” garden snake, I'm sure Kitty discouraged a few from getting too close to the house.

Cats as well as Terrier dogs keep the mice away, and it is the mice that attracts those snakes.

Of course, if you have identified the snakes on your property as being venomous, your pet is at risk of getting hurt. In that case, other methods for keeping snakes away from your house are in order.


Call in the Herpetologist

snake handler A Herpetologist is someone who has studied the branch of zoology that deals with reptiles and amphibians. Many are also trained to remove snakes from your premises. They will never kill a “harmless” snake, as doing so would only make room for venomous snakes who have the same diet as non-venomous snakes.

Do-It-Yourself Snake Control

There are many products on the market designed for killing, repelling and trapping snakes. Animal control professionals claim they are not always effective, and perhaps that is why they manage to stay in business. Although I believe there are better solutions to a snake problem, they are worth a try.  Products, such as “Snake Away”, contain naphthalene and sulfur – a hazardous poison.  In addition to being harmful to people, pets and the environment, the smell is so offensive, you could learn to love snakes in a heartbeat.

Liquid Fence Snake Repellent is supposed to be “100% natural” and bio-friendly because it does not contain naphthalene. It smells more “botanical” than some of the other natural products on the market and it comes in both liquid and granular form. Liquid Fence works by confusing the snake's sense of smell and taste. If the snake can't sense the surrounding environment, he leaves the area.

There is also a device that makes ultra-high frequency noises, keeping both mice and snakes at bay. Supposedly, humans can't hear the high-pitched noise, but it may get the neighborhood dogs howling. You can buy it at stopsnakes.com

It's better to get rid of rodents and other critters

Rodents that attract snakes include – mice, rats, squirrels, moles, gophers and chipmunks. Depending on the snake, they are also known to eat crickets and grasshoppers, centipedes, ants, termites, crabs, toads, crayfish and spiders.

Stamp Your Feet

If you see a snake, try stamping your feet. (Don't stamp on the snake). Screaming does no good, since your shrieks of terror will literally fall on deaf ears. Snakes may not have ears, but they do sense vibrations and the stamping will cause them to retreat.

If you live in colder climates, hold off raking your leaves until the first frost, so you don't give a snake any sudden surprises (or give yourself heart failure). Snakes love to hide under fallen Autumn leaves.

Here is a tip from Mother Earth News:

If the snake is on the ground, lay a square-sided garbage can on its side, and use a long, stiff broom to sweep it into the opening. Then quickly stand the garbage can upright and clamp down the lid. (This strategy will work for almost any snake, including venomous species.)

NOTE: Do not provoke or attempt to catch or handle any snake that you cannot properly identify – it may be a venomous snake. If you are bitten by a venomous snake, you should immediately get medical attention at a hospital.


Prevent Snakes from Entering Your House

It's rare that a snake makes it into your home, although I have read scary stories of snakes emerging from toilets (heavens!) and numerous tales of snakes hiding out in damp cellars.

It's always a good idea to caulk any openings on the inside and outside your home (especially the basement) to prevent snakes from entering the house.

A Word About Snake Pets

Different types of snakes have different temperaments, just like dogs, cats, and people. Snake fanciers recommend one species over another for those considering caring for a pet snake. Practically all snakes are beautiful and harmless; even friendly…(at least in North America).

I remember taking my pet Indian Ringneck Parakeet to the exotic pet vet. There was a woman in the waiting room disconsolately stroking an enormous python that was draped around her neck. “Oscar seems terribly depressed”, she lamented, “He's usually so playful and cheery”. I later learned that he was simply going through a “phase”….midlife crisis, no doubt.

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