Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes? It’s a question many people ask the moment they see one slithering through their yard. While snakes are a natural part of the ecosystem in practically every state, ophidiophobia (the fear of snakes) is common, and seeing just one may leave you scrambling to figure out how to get rid of snakes in your yard.
The best way to get rid of snakes in your yard, if you prefer something more natural, is cinnamon and clove oil. Those oils work well separately or together and are affordable. Altering your yard to make it less inviting is usually effective, and you can even chase many snakes away.
However, that only scratches the surface of what you can do. If you’re trying to figure out how to get rid of snakes in your yard, here’s what you need to know.
- Signs of Snakes in Your Yard
- Are Snakes Dangerous?
- How to Get Rid of Snakes in Your Yard
- 1. Eliminate Food Sources
- 2. Remove Shelters and Fill-in Burrows
- 3. Eliminate Moisture
- 4. Keep Your Grass Short
- 5. Add Gravel or Mulch
- 6. Mothballs
- 7. Ammonia
- 8. Powdered Sulfur
- 9. Cinnamon or Clove Oil
- 10. White Vinegar
- 11. Install Fencing
- 12. Spray the Snake with a Hose or Squirt Gun
- 13. Build an Owl House
- 14. Commercial Snake Repellent
- What Smells Do Snakes Hate?
- Do Snakes Come Back to the Same Place?
- How Do You Chase Snakes Away?
- Are Snakes Afraid of Dogs?
- How to Deal with a Snake Nest in Yard
- When to Call a Professional
- Most Effective Snake Repellent
- The Best Way to Get Rid of Snakes in Your Yard
Signs of Snakes in Your Yard
While you might see a snake cruising through your yard, that isn’t the only way to determine that snakes are coming through. You might see tracks from them slithering through dirt or notice droppings.
Droppings are usually dark brown or black and are generally in a lumpy log shape with at least one tapered end and may have a white, chalk-like urea cap. In some cases, they look quite like bird droppings, so keep that in mind when assessing your yard.
Snake holes are another indicator. The same goes for odd smells coming from small, enclosed spaces. There’s also a chance you’ll see shed snakeskins, a clear sign of a snake coming through the area.
Are Snakes Dangerous?
Snakes – like many other reptiles – are potentially dangerous. While having one cross through your yard doesn’t inherently pose a risk, snakes carry diseases and parasites that can infect people and pets. Salmonella is a common example, but it isn’t the only possibility.
Additionally, snakes are wild animals. When approached by a person or pet, regardless of your or your pet’s intentions, a snake sees a predator. That can trigger a classic fight or flight response.
If cornered or threatened, both venomous and nonvenomous snakes may attack to scare you or your pet away. That can lead to bites, which can be dangerous – if not lethal – due to venom or a resulting infection.
Even if a snake chooses to flee, a pet may decide to give chase. As a result, they could be bitten if they catch up to the snake, so keep that in mind.
Differentiating Between Venomous and Nonvenomous Snakes
Since venomous snakes pose a much greater risk than their nonvenomous brethren, knowing how to tell the difference between them is essential. Fortunately, venomous and nonvenomous snakes tend to have some characteristics that set them apart.
Generally, venomous snakes typically have triangular-shaped heads and thin, vertical pupils, often coupled with green or yellow eyes. Nonvenomous snakes usually have round or spoon-shaped heads and round pupils. However, there are some nonvenomous snakes with triangular heads, though it’s best to assume their venomous unless you’re confident about the species.
Color varies widely in venomous and nonvenomous snakes, though you may be able to identify a snake when the coloring and overall pattern are considered. For example, venomous coral snakes have red and yellow bands that touch, while the nonvenomous kingsnake has red and yellow bands separated by black bands.
But even if you’re certain a snake isn’t venomous, that doesn’t make handling them wise. Any snake may bite, and they can all carry diseases and parasites, so keep that in mind.
How to Get Rid of Snakes in Your Yard
1. Eliminate Food Sources
Like most wildlife, snakes tend to stick in areas where food is easy to access. Depending on the snake, they may look for areas with insects, rodents, or birds. By ensuring those are prevalent in your yard, snakes may continue searching for a spot with easier access to food.
Eliminating potential food sources typically means keeping specific animals away. If you have a bird feeder, consider removing it. Not only does that attract small birds, but it could draw in rodents, giving them another food source.
Also, keep trash cans secure, make vegetable gardens inaccessible, don’t leave pet food outside, and take similar steps to deter other animals from coming into your yard. You may also want to hire a pest control service to treat your yard, reducing the number of insects.
2. Remove Shelters and Fill-in Burrows
Snakes will spend more time in your yard if they believe it provides adequate shelter. First, you’ll want to use exclusion methods to keep snakes from curling up under sheds, under your home, or in similar areas. Second, remove debris and wood piles.
If there are burrows in your yard, regardless of the animal that created them, fill them. Those burrows can become a home for a snake, even if another animal once used them.
3. Eliminate Moisture
Water in your yard can do two things that can attract snakes. First, it can serve as a water source for the snake, making your yard seem like a good home. Second, it can attract wildlife or insects that the snake uses as a food source.
Generally, you’ll want to remove any bird baths or fountains as a starting point. Addressing standing water, whether on the ground or in a container, is also essential.
If you have a pond, you’ll want to make it inaccessible or take steps to discourage wildlife and snakes from heading to it. Fencing and netting may work well. You can also try circling your pond in white vinegar, but do so cautiously if there are fish in the water, as too much vinegar can through off the pH.
4. Keep Your Grass Short
Shorter grass leaves snakes exposed to predators, particularly birds of prey like hawks and owls. Since that’s the case, they usually prefer to stick to areas with some coverage.
By keeping your grass short, snakes view your yard as a risky place to be, so they may slither off elsewhere. As a bonus, you’ll also have an easier time spotting any snakes crossing your yard. If you believe there is a nest nearby, this may make finding it easier.
You might also want to address any shrubs or trees in your yard. If there’s a space at least 24 to 36 inches high underneath, the trees and shrubs can’t provide coverage either.
5. Add Gravel or Mulch
Since snakes slither across the ground, uneven, rough textures aren’t the most pleasant for them. Since that’s the case, you can apply gravel or rubber mulch to make various parts of your yard less attractive.
With gravel, you’ll want to vary the size. Additionally, avoid rounded pebbles. While smooth pebbles may shift around, preventing snakes from coming through, they’re smooth enough that they may not be irritating if they’re largely locked in place.’
As for mulch, you want to stick with the rubber variety. Rubber mulch is firmer and has a bit of bounce, making it uncomfortable for snakes to navigate. Plus, rubber mulch doesn’t necessarily attract other wildlife, at least not to the same degree as wood alternatives.
You could also try cedar mulch, as it contains oils that are toxic to snakes. However, other pests aren’t bothered by cedar, so this approach could attract wildlife that the snake considers food.
6. MothballsMothballs are touted as a solution to many pest and wildlife problems. Admittedly, there is some debate about the effectiveness of using mothballs to keep snakes away. The scent alone isn’t an effective snake repellent, and the active ingredients aren’t necessarily toxic to snakes.
However, if you have mothballs available, some say they work. Additionally, they can be effective at keeping pests that the snake would consider a food source away, which could be why there’s anecdotal evidence about their effectiveness. Remember that mothballs can pose a risk to people, pets, and other wildlife, making it a poor choice for some households.
7. AmmoniaMany people use ammonia to deal with pests, as the scent can drive some animals away. While snakes aren’t always bothered by the smell, coming into contact with ammonia can harm snakes.
In some cases, higher concentrations of ammonia can cause burns, damage eyes, and, if ingested, cause digestive issues. Ammonia is potentially lethal to snakes as a liquid and gas.
This option is usually only best if you can use ammonia in a safe manner, as the gas and liquid can hurt people and pets, too, particularly in higher concentrations. Additionally, killing snakes with ammonia is generally considered inhumane, so if you don’t want to hurt the snake, go with another option.
8. Powdered SulfurPowdered sulfur is a common ingredient in many commercial snake repellents. Also called dusting sulfur, powdered sulfur is a mild irritant. If it’s spread across your yard (or in wide bands along the edges of your property), that may be enough to get snakes to turn back.
It’s important to note that elemental or pure sulfur is odorless. That classic rotten egg odor only exists when sulfur is part of a compound, typically hydrogen sulfide. So, if you were hoping the scent would keep snakes away or were worried that the odor would make your yard unpleasant, neither is usually the case.
9. Cinnamon or Clove OilAs mentioned previously, snakes don’t like the smell of cinnamon and clove oil. They both produce strong odors and while other pungent smells don’t always get results, these can, depending on the snake species.
Additionally, cinnamon and clove oil are skin irritants that can bother snakes. Once a snake views your yard as uncomfortable, it’ll typically head elsewhere.
Usually, two application processes can work. You can add drops of either oil to a spray bottle filled with water and a little liquid dish soap. Then, spray down the areas the snakes were exploring.
Second, you can add drops of the oils to cotton balls. Often, this approach works better if you believe a snake has set up residence somewhere. If it’s safe to do so, you can position the cotton balls nearby, allowing the aroma to drive them away.
10. White Vinegar
Generally, white vinegar is mainly used to keep snakes away from water sources, such as ponds and pools. While there’s some disagreement about it repelling snakes (both in general and particularly in yards or around homes), it’s another substance that can deter a wide range of snake food sources.
Plus, white vinegar is generally harmless to people and pets. If too much gets in a pond, it can cause issues by throwing off the pH balance. Just know that white vinegar can damage grass and plants, so wide application around your yard isn’t always wise.
11. Install Fencing
Tight weave fencing with an outward extension at the top can keep snakes from coming into your yard. The main challenge is getting fencing without holes wide enough for snakes to simply climb through.
If you can’t find a tight enough weave, you may want to add a layer of bird netting to the fence, ensuring it’s secured tightly and remains as flush as possible. You’ll also want to run the bird netting across any posts. Additionally, bury the end of the fence to ensure the snake can’t slither underneath.
12. Spray the Snake with a Hose or Squirt Gun
If you know without a doubt that a snake isn’t venomous, using a hose or squirt gun to spray a snake can encourage it to move along. This approach won’t harm the snake. However, it will make it feel threatened, hopefully triggering a flee response.
Ideally, you want to use a hose or squirt gun with enough pressure that you can stay well away from the snake. If you’re in striking distance, even a nonvenomous snake may choose to attack, potentially leaving you with a nasty bite.
13. Build an Owl HouseAs mentioned previously, birds of prey like owls often feed on snakes. Depending on where you live, building an owl house could encourage one to come into the area. In turn, the snake might turn into a tasty meal for the owl or move on once it realizes the owl isn’t leaving.
Remember that birds of prey may also view some household pets as meals. Small mammals of any kind could be at risk, including smaller dogs and cats, so it may be best to go in another direction if you have pets.
14. Commercial Snake RepellentThere are several commercial snake repellents that can get snakes to leave your yard. Most of them affect a snake’s sense of smell, causing them to view the area as unpleasant or risky.
Since every commercial snake repellent is different, you’ll want to review labels to learn about potential dangers, including harm to people or pets. Additionally, you’ll need to check the application instructions, as each product may have unique recommendations regarding use.
What Smells Do Snakes Hate?
Most snakes hate a couple of scents: clove and cinnamon oil. Along with strong odors, clove and cinnamon can be skin irritants. Since snakes slither across the ground, going across those oils can be uncomfortable, which makes your yard less welcoming.
Beyond cinnamon and clove oil, there’s significant debate about whether scents keep snakes away. They’ll ignore many odors that other pests or wildlife dislike. However, that means you can use different smells to get food sources to leave, which could eliminate your snake problem.
Do Snakes Come Back to the Same Place?
Whether a snake will return to an error depends on a few factors. One of the main ones is whether there is food, water, and shelter, as snakes will return to areas where their general needs are met if there are no other risks.
While snakes aren’t viewed as territorial, they do typically stay within a given range. As a result, a snake may come back to see if your yard is habitable, even if it wasn’t previously.
However, the lack of territorial behavior means snakes won’t automatically return. If your yard isn’t considered a safe place to meet their needs, even if they pass through again, they won’t usually stick around.
How Do You Chase Snakes Away?
In most cases, the best approach for chasing a snake away is the hose or squirt gun method described above. It allows you to remain at a reasonably safe distance while positioning yourself as a threat. Plus, you aren’t harming the snake, so the strategy is humane, too.
Other options are usually far riskier, making them less than ideal. For example, poking a snake with a stick or shovel often puts you within striking distance. Plus, that level of contact could trigger an attack, which is dangerous even if the snake is nonvenomous.
Are Snakes Afraid of Dogs?
Saying that snakes are afraid of dogs might not be entirely accurate. While snakes view dogs as a potential threat, their presence alone may not get them to venture far from your yard.
That’s particularly true if your dog is only outside sometimes. In those cases, the snake may steer clear when the dog is out and return while it’s inside.
How your dog reacts to a snake can also affect the outcome. Dogs that actively go after a snake pose a greater risk, making them far more intimidating. However, dogs with that temperament are also putting themselves at risk of a bite.
How to Deal with a Snake Nest in Yard
How you deal with a snake nest may depend on your comfort level and whether the snakes are venomous.
With nonvenomous snakes, the hose or squirt gun technique works here, too. It encourages the snakes to move along, all while keeping you at a safe distance.
You could also try to trap the snakes and relocate them. While many people use glue boards, they aren’t the most humane option. Additionally, you’ll have to handle the snake a lot to get it safely removed from the glue board – a process that usually requires vegetable oil to break down the glue and some gentle handling – which leaves you open to bites.
If you want to trap:
- Use a cage version designed specifically for snakes.
- Follow the manufacturer’s directions regarding setup.
- Wear bite-proof gloves when handling the trap if you catch one and during the release process.
However, even if you’re relatively confident about your snake handling abilities, never deal with a nest of venomous snakes on your own. In that case, contact your local animal control office or wildlife department, as they may be able to take care of it. Otherwise, you can contact a professional pest service that can handle venomous snakes.
When to Call a Professional
Whether you spot a venomous snake that seems to have made your yard home or simply aren’t comfortable dealing with snakes of any kind, call a professional. Ultimately, they’ll know how to approach the situation.
Professionals that deal with snakes can effectively trap and remove them. While it comes with a price tag, they’re usually incredibly efficient, which could allow you to solve your snake problem quickly.
Most Effective Snake Repellent
Overall, clove and cinnamon oil are the most effective repellents. The scent alone can drive some snake species away, and the skin-irritating qualities affect most snakes, too. Plus, it’s usually safe to use around people, pets, and plants, though it isn’t the best option if you apply snake repellent to a food-producing garden.
On the commercial side, many people favor Ortho Snake B Gon. This product contains cinnamon and clove oil, both of which are typically viewed as effective. It’s generally safe for people, pets, and yards, though you shouldn’t use it in a food-producing garden.
The Best Way to Get Rid of Snakes in Your Yard
In many cases, the best way to get rid of snakes is a combination method. Using clove and cinnamon oil as a deterrent is an excellent way to begin. Couple that with the hose or squirt fun method if you encounter a nonvenomous snake, and most will stay away. Make sure you stick with professionals for all venomous snakes to avoid unnecessary risk.
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