Snakes are one of the most feared pests homeowners can find in their yards. The likelihood of snakes coming onto your property depends on several factors like your location, surrounding landscape, nearby water source, available food supply, and your landscaping and maintenance. While the first instinct is usually to either run or get rid of it quickly, snakes can actually be pretty beneficial to have around. Instead of killing snakes, some people prefer to try and repel them to keep them from coming into the yard in the first place, or deter them from staying there if they’ve already taken up residence. There are several snake repellent products on the market, but do any of them really work? Here are some of the most common snake repellents, the reasons why you should avoid them, and some snake prevention tips you can use around your home.
Mothballs are one of the most popular snake repellent products. The active ingredient in mothballs is either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene. Both of these products are known to be toxic to insects and mammals but are actually not effective on snakes (because they are actually reptiles). In fact, naphthalene has been proven to cause illness in humans (especially children) and pets. Additionally, using mothballs outside the home actually violates their product labels.
Sulfur is another common snake repellent ingredient and is often seen in many commercial snake repellent products on the market. Sulfur has been proven to not be effective against snakes, however, much the same as mothballs.
When snakes are terrorizing a chicken coop, many people will use ceramic or wooden eggs or even golf balls to trick snakes into eating them instead of real chicken eggs. The problem, however, is that when snakes eat these fake eggs they die a long, slow, painful death over the course of many weeks. Once they’re gone, another snake will often show up and take its place, defeating the purpose of eliminating the original snake. If you are using ceramic eggs to encourage your hens to lay, make sure to glue them down so snakes can’t eat them accidentally.
Releasing Other Snakes
Many people will catch and release predatory snakes like king snakes and racers onto their property to hunt and kill the problematic snakes they have. This practice is usually unsuccessful and in some places is even against the law. The same goes for capturing the problematic snakes on your property and releasing them elsewhere.
Some people will lay out sticky traps in hopes of catching the nuisance snake so they can kill it or relocate it. The problem with this method is that the sticky traps will often catch non-targeted animals instead of the snake, resulting in a slow, agonizing death for the animal.
Many people employ guns or shovels to kill snakes that come onto their property. This puts people at great risk for injury either from the snake going on the defensive and biting its attacker or from the homeowner or innocent bystanders being injured by ricocheting bullets, etc. Once the snake is killed, it is often replaced by another snake that takes its place. A better deterrent for snakes is to spray them with a blast from the water hose. This encourages them to find a new location without harming them or anyone else.
Instead of using ineffective snake repellent products and methods, consider going to the source of the problem to help get rid of it. Snakes will come into your yard because they are attracted to something there – whether it is a water source, food source, or a place to shelter. Eliminating what attracts them will help keep them out and encourage them to find a different location to live in. Here are some snake prevention tips you can utilize to help make your yard less inviting to them.
- Feed your pets inside. Rodents are attracted to pet food and snakes are attracted to rodents. By feeding and watering pets inside or bringing their food and water bowls inside when not in use is a good way to help prevent rodents which, in turn, helps prevent snakes.
- Clean up debris. Debris and leaf piles in your yard are a huge attractant to rodents which will then attract snakes. These piles also provide excellent sources of shelter for snakes to hide. Clean up any debris piles (sticks, brush, tree limbs, etc) and piles of leaves or mulch them to get rid of them.
- Cut the grass. Tall grass provides ideal cover for snakes to hide in. Keeping the grass cut shorter gives them less coverage and also makes them much easier to spot in your yard.
- Avoid birdhouses. Snakes will eat small birds, as well as rodents who feed on spilled birdseed. Some snakes are also excellent climbers and will use this to their advantage to feast on birds feeding on the feeders. If you do use a birdhouse, make sure it is placed on a metal pole or a wood post that is wrapped in metal sheeting. You can also try to avoid using the bird feeder until the colder months when snakes are less active and less likely to frequent the area.
- Use up firewood. Woodpiles make an excellent spot for snakes to hide in, especially over winter. Try to use up all of your firewood before the weather warms up and snakes become more active. If you don’t use it all up, try to keep it stored at least 1 foot off the ground.
- Clean up fallen fruit. Fallen fruit from trees and plants will attract a variety of pests including rodents. Snakes will then follow these rodents as a food source. Make sure to pick up and dispose of any fallen fruit on a regular basis.
- Get rid of mulch. Mulch and pine straw home to several invertebrates that are a prime food source for snakes. Snakes will also use this groundcover as shelter for themselves. Consider using an alternative to mulch or pine straw in your landscape design. The same goes for using large rocks in your landscaping. Snakes like to get under these large rocks to breed and overwinter during the colder months.
- Avoid garden ponds. Garden ponds are another landscaping feature that draw snakes in. It is a readily available source of water. It also attracts frogs and other animals that snakes will gravitate to as a food source.
- Trim trees and shrubs. Overgrown trees and shrubs provide cover and shelter for snakes. Keep tree branches and shrubs trimmed back so they are not touching the house or garage. Branches should also be trimmed so they are off the ground, ideally with a 24″ to 36″ space underneath. This not only helps eliminate places for snakes to take cover but also helps make them easier to spot if they do get under them.
- Install a perch pole. Natural predators to snakes, such as hawks and owls, will be attracted to a perch pole. This is a good way to utilize natural resources for snake prevention. Place the perch pole in an open area of your yard so the birds will have a good view of the entire area.
- Install fencing. If all else fails, consider installing fencing to keep snakes out. Fencing should be buried a few inches into the ground and should be made up of 1/4″ or smaller rigid mesh. The fencing should also have a bend at the top to keep snakes from being able to climb over it. Some companies even make wildlife specific fencing options.
The large majority of snakes you will encounter in your yard are harmless to humans. All snakes (even venomous snakes) are beneficial and play an important role in the ecosystem. Many snakes eat garden pests like slugs and snails, helping protect your plants and flowers. Some snakes eat rodents, helping control their populations and keeping them from spreading diseases to you, your family, your pets, and your livestock. There are even studies showing where rattlesnakes help keep Lyme disease in check. If you’ve tried the tips above and you still have an issue with snakes or any other pests, contact your local pest control company for a comprehensive evaluation and treatment plan.