Repelling Snakes

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Most species of snakes, like this garter snake, are harmless and beneficial.
Most species of snakes, like this garter snake, are harmless and beneficial.
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Former wildlife rescue and rehabilitation manager Andrea Dawn Lopez takes her knowledge of how to handle situations involving animals and compiles them in this practical handbook on how to deal with wildlife-related problems and concerns.
Former wildlife rescue and rehabilitation manager Andrea Dawn Lopez takes her knowledge of how to handle situations involving animals and compiles them in this practical handbook on how to deal with wildlife-related problems and concerns.

If you’re having a problem with rodents or insects, one of the best things you can do is allow these snakes to live in your yard.

If this isn’t something you can do, it may be easier than you thought to humanely repel the snakes. If you’re noticing several snakes around your home, it could be that you have a rodent problem or an insect problem. That may be a result of leaving food scraps lying around, or too many nooks and crannies in and around your home that need to be sealed up. If you have a rodent problem you’ll need to fix that first. Otherwise, you’ll have snakes on a regular basis. As long as the food source is there, they’ll keep coming around.

Next, take a look around your home to see what type of environment you might be offering these snakes. They like warm, dark places to hide. If your yard is full of rock piles, wood piles, or trash piles, you may be providing excellent homes for snakes. Tall weeds and low brush may also provide good homes for snakes. The first step to discourage snakes is to clean up all of these piles, taking away their places to hide. Keep any tall weeds or grasses cut low. This will also eliminate hiding places and discourage them from loitering in your yard.

Take a look at the foundation of your home. Loose boards that have rotted and fallen to the side will also provide places for snakes to hide. Be sure to carefully inspect the foundation of your home and seal up any nooks and crannies that could be good homes for snakes.

If you already have snakes living under your home, garage, shed, or porch, you can repel them the same way you would any other wild animal. Try to place a light in the dark area to make it unpleasant for the snake. You can also toss ammonia-soaked rags back into the area. Sprinkle cayenne pepper or naphthalene flakes in there as well. These smells should make it too uncomfortable for the snake, causing him and others to leave. Don’t dump any of these products directly on the snake because this will just cause agony. There are also commercial snake repellents available. However, there are mixed reports on how effective these really are.

Use these repellents for about a week. Sprinkle baby powder in front of the entrance to the hiding place. This will give you a way to see if the snake is coming and going. If you don’t see any tracks after a few days, the snake is most likely gone. At that point, seal up any holes and replace any loose boards, permanently sealing off the area. While you’re doing this, you may want to put some metal flashing around the foundation of your home, extending it several inches below the ground. This will discourage any tunneling.

It’s important to repel snakes during the summer months when they’re most active. Snakes will remain dormant during the winter months, so you won’t see them at that time, or much in the fall. Repelling during the summer will help you better monitor the situation to make sure the snakes are leaving. It will also give them a chance to find new shelter somewhere else before the colder months set in. You don’t have to worry about young being left behind. The young are self-sufficient once they’re born. Snakes are also fairly mobile so it shouldn’t be too difficult for them to move on and find a new place to live.Since snakes are fairly mobile, you may not have to do much to repel one that’s in your yard. There’s a chance that snake could just be passing through. A sighting doesn’t necessarily mean that you have an entire nest of them living around your home.

If you want to monitor a specific area to see if snakes are coming and going on a regular basis, again, you can sprinkle flour or baby powder around the place you’re monitoring. If you repeatedly see tracks, it may mean that the snake or snakes are living in the area.

If you don’t discover a snake in your yard, you may discover one in your home. This is obviously a case of an unwelcome guest! Try not to panic; the snake wants to find a way out just as much as you want him out. Given a chance to escape, most snakes will take it.

Try to confine the snake to an area where there is a doorway. Open up the door and give the snake a chance to escape. If the snake is near the door, but not going out, use a broom to gently herd him toward the outside. You can also turn on a radio, or a bright light if it’s nighttime, and try to encourage the snake to leave on his own.

He’ll most likely head for the fresh air. If the snake is in a place like a bathroom, where there is no doorway to the outside, shut the door and put a towel underneath it. This will confine him to that area and prevent him from escaping and getting lost in your house. You can either call a wildlife expert for help, or try to get the snake outside yourself. Most wildlife agencies prefer that you have the snake confined to one area before they send out help. This saves time by preventing an exhaustive search.

If you feel comfortable trapping the snake yourself, you can try doing so with a tall trash can. Tip the trash can on its side. Use a broom to gently herd the snake into the trash can. Generally, a snake can strike at a distance that’s half of his own body length. A regular broom will usually give you enough room to guide the snake into the trash can at a safe distance. Once the snake is inside the trash can, stand it up and put the lid on.

Smaller snakes won’t be able to climb up the slippery sides of the trash can. Longer snakes won’t be able to get out as long as you have the lid secure. You can secure it by taping it or tying it shut. Take the trash can to a wild habitat away from your home, take off the lid, and tip the trash can on its side again. The snake will leave on his own. You shouldn’t need to handle the snake at all. If he’s not leaving, tip the trash can up so he slides out. All you need to do then is retrieve your trash can and leave. If you don’t mind the snakes-just as long as they’re not in your house-you can turn them loose outside in your garden. Try not to release any snakes near major roadways. If they try to cross the road they’ll most likely be hit and killed by a car.

If you have a snake in your house but you don’t know where he is, sprinkle baby powder or flour lines across the entrances to each room. When the snake passes over the line, not only will he leave a track but he’ll leave a trail for a short distance. This will help you determine which way he’s going and where he might be hiding. Once the snake is in a specific room or area, you can shut a door to confine him, or you can use a tall trash can and try to get him out right away.

If you’re uncomfortable with any of this, call your local division of wildlife or a rehabilitation center for assistance. If you’ve encountered a poisonous snake, do not handle him or approach him. Keep pets away from him as well. You can try opening a door and encouraging him to leave by playing a loud radio and shining a bright light near him. This may be a situation, however, where you should call for help from a professional.

Another common scenario involving snakes is finding them in swimming pools. Often, the snake is just trying to get a drink of water. Snakes can swim. However, if they’re in a pool, they often can’t get out. This means that they’ll eventually tire and drown. You can place something like a plywood plank into the pool so that the snake can get out. You can use a broom to gently herd the snake toward the plank. Once the snake has climbed on shore, he should leave the area. If the snake is harmless (i.e. ringneck or crowned snakes commonly found in Florida) you can just pick him out of the pool and release him in your yard. Be sure to wear gloves, regardless. Even if a snake is harmless, he can bite out of fear. It’s about the only defense a snake has against us!

If you’ve captured a snake on a rodent glue trap, you can release him in a wild habitat without having to handle him at all. Try not to leave the snake on the glueboard for very long. He needs food, water, and a quiet, non-stressful environment to survive. You can put the glueboard out in a remote area and pour vegetable oil on the board, coating the parts of the board where the snake’s body is stuck. Don’t use any other type of oil, especially motor oil. This is toxic to animals. Don’t pour the oil into the snake’s nostrils or eyes as he won’t be able to breath or see clearly. The oil will eventually break down the glue. The snake should be able to free himself in an hour or so.

Most snakes will bring you no harm, and can be left to live in your yard to play their part in the ecosystem. It’s important not to panic when you see snakes. Most of the time, they’re not venomous. Again, even the venomous ones will go on their way when given a chance to do so. Harmless snakes should bring you no fear, even if you see them hanging out in the trees. Species like the corn snake and the green snake are good climbers. Again, if you have a problem with insects or rodents, snakes will do their part to combat that problem. The part you need to play is allowing them to do this.

More From When Raccoons Fall through Your Ceiling:

Reprinted with permission from When Raccoons Fall through Your Ceiling by Andrea Dawn Lopez and published by University of North Texas Press, 2002.

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  • Published on Dec 3, 2018
Tagged with: Safety, snakes, wildlife