SNAKES BRING QUESTIONS
September 22, 2013
that season again, when I get questions about snakes. The following
addresses concerns about snakes in and around the house.
We are overrun with snakes! I found one that had climbed up on my porch
and was sitting beside the screen door to get in. My neighbor found
one climbing on a brick chimney alongside her house. Are these likely
to be poisonous species? Do store-bought snake repellents work? Are
there other ways to keep them from coming into the yard and house? Why
are so many snakes around now?
One reason people are more likely to see snakes in autumn is because
most are born or hatch in late summer and early fall everywhere in the
country. Hatchlings are crawling around looking for their first meal.
Plus, some species, including canebrake and timber rattlesnakes, breed
in the fall and are out seeking mates.
of snakes that enter people's houses are harmless rat snakes, which
are expert climbers. On rare occasions other species may come into a
house if the front door is flush with the ground with no steps. A ground-level
garage is more likely to have a variety of snakes enter, including venomous
ones. When cool weather sets in, newborn snakes as well as adults will
be looking for a place to spend the winter. That means more snake movement.
A carport or backyard tool shed would be the equivalent of a nice safe
cave to a traveling snake.
have asked about using chemicals to keep snakes away. Sulfur and naphthalene
are ingredients in some so-called snake repellents, but I know of no
scientific documentation that such repellents work outdoors at all.
Any chemical-based product that will effectively repel all snakes from
an outside area would smell so bad that it would also repel all people.
proponents of snake repellents, aside from those making a profit from
their sale, do not always think through the process. I know of one man
who surrounded his house trailer with a snake repellent only to find
out a few minutes later that he already had a snake hiding under the
trailer's siding. If the repellent had actually worked, the snake wouldn't
have been able to get away, and the man would have had a permanent roommate.
If it didn't work, why waste the money? I personally would neither use
nor recommend that others use any snake repellent, commercial or homemade,
to deter snakes that are outdoors.
want to contain or redirect snakes, they use a drift fence - a barrier
of vertical aluminum siding (or silt fencing like that used by highway
departments and at construction sites to prevent erosion). Such a fence
is impractical for the entryway to a residence but might be effective
in a yard. Suggesting that anyone with a perceived snake problem release
a large kingsnake in the yard might not be enthusiastically received
by some (maybe many) people. Nonetheless, the kingsnake would eat pit
vipers and be immune to their venom. But it would probably leave as
soon as it had eaten all the snakes and rodents in the yard, then you'd
have to get another one in the spring. One suggestion is to remove any
old boards or ground litter (pine straw, leaves) that could serve as
snake hiding places.
the Mississippi River, seven of more than 50 native species of snakes
are venomous. Four are rattlesnakes - pygmy, massasauga, eastern diamondback,
and canebrake, aka timber rattler. Two more are the closely related
copperhead and cottonmouth, aka water moccasin. The coral snake is the
seventh. To learn which ones inhabit your region and what they look
like, visit www.srelherp.uga.edu
or consult a field guide.
do encounter a snake, use common sense. Observe it from a few feet away.
Do not try to catch it or otherwise disturb it. And one technique that
usually works well for keeping snakes out of the house is to keep the
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