One of my cats is a confirmed snake hunter. Birds can happily search for worms or take a dip in a puddle in her midst while she keeps an eagle eye out for slithering reptiles at all times.
I often glimpse her crouched down low in the grass near my vegetable garden, waiting, hoping for a small garter snake to appear.
If you are seeking ways to lessen the snake population on your property, you might consider getting a cat. Cats are natural predators, and they will help keep snakes away from your home.
Although most snakes that are native to North America are harmless – and in fact are beneficial since they eat mice, slugs, grubs and insects – there are some species that can pose a danger to your pets and your family.
A first step is to learn more about the snakes that are indigenous to your area. There are many resources available to help you identify a snake, ranging from photos online to your local cooperative extension office. Although most snakes try their best to avoid people, they will bite if they feel threatened.
Do not handle a snake unless you are completely sure it is a harmless variety, and keep pets and children at a safe distance. You might want to take a photo of the snake to help with its identification.
Snake behavior can vary from species to species, but here are some ways to limit the number of snakes on your property.
Limit hiding places. Snakes like to take shelter in dark, secluded spaces. Piles of wood, compost, leaves, straw, mulch, rocks and cut grass are all an open invitation to snakes. When you limit these piles on your property, you limit the hiding areas for snakes.
Cut tall grass. Similarly, snakes feel safer in tall grass. Another reason they lurk there is because grassy or weedy areas also attract prey for the snake – mice, rats, crickets, grasshoppers and crickets. When you keep your property mowed and you remove debris, you will decrease your snake population.
Limit shrubs and thick-growing plants. Thick shrubs provide shelter for snakes. If your garden is full of thick plants, consider thinning them out. Plant or transplant dense shrubs away from your house.
Make some noise. Snakes prefer a quiet environment. If you have spotted snakes on your property or if you suspect some may be hiding in a certain area, you can often scare them off by running a lawn mower or weed whacker around the area before you work there. The vibrations from these machines are often enough to frighten away snakes, especially timid garter snakes.
Drain puddles. Ground-level water sources attract snakes (as well as other small animals that attract snakes). Be on the watch for areas of your property that tend to puddle. Level the area if you can and/or drain the area to avoid uninvited guests. Situate ponds well away from your house.
Patch up holes. An opening as small as the width of your finger is large enough for most snakes to squeeze through. To keep snakes out of your house or outbuilding, find and repair any holes in your foundations. Make sure screens fit tightly and use galvanized screening to cover all vents and drains that lead into your home.
Try a fence. Some specialized types of fencing are designed to keep snakes out of your garden or your chicken coop. Typically snake-proof fencing is 2- to 3-feet high, at least 6 inches below ground and made of fine wire mesh.
You can modify existing fencing by securing 24-inch high hardware cloth (quarter-inch weave) or attaching aluminum flashing to the outside bottom of the fence. The flashing should be two-feet high, and it should buried four to six inches into the ground.
The effectiveness of the fencing depends on the type of snake. Some snakes can get under or over the fence. Snakes also will travel along the length of a fence searching for any small opening. Be vigilant about repairs.
Snakes will hang out on your property if you provide them with a food source. Therefore, areas that attract birds, insects and rodents will attract snakes. Here are some other ideas:
- Store pet food and birdseed in metal containers with tight fitting lids.
- Move bird feeders to locations away from your home since rodents are attracted to the fallen seed.
- Move or discontinue use of bird baths.
- Collect your chicken eggs regularly.
For more information on snake identification and prevention, here are some helpful websites:
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