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How to Get Rid of Snakes and Keep Them Away

Understanding how to control the snake population on your property is key to a comfortable outdoor living space.

Garter snake iStock

Whenever you’re in doubt about how to properly control unwanted snakes, the This Old House Reviews Team recommends speaking with a professional pest control company like Orkin. Snakes should always be approached and dealt with after seeking professional help, especially when you’re unsure about the species you’re facing.

How to Identify Common Types of Snakes

Handling any pest issue—especially one as serious as snakes—should always begin with identifying the species. If you suspect you have a venomous snake in your yard, you should not try to manage the snake on your own under any circumstances. But depending on your region, you might be dealing with a long list of non-venomous snakes that are commonly found lurking in bushes, leaf piles, or storage areas.

Common Snake Types and How to Tell Them Apart

Snakes often slither by so quickly that it can be difficult to identify them if you don’t know what to look for. There are a few common factors to consider to make an educated guess. None of these snakes are venomous or present a serious threat to humans.

Garter Snakes

Garter snakes can be found in most regions across North America other than particularly arid areas of the southwest. They typically have three stripes running down the length of their bodies, have heads that are larger than their necks, and can grow up to 54 inches. Color and patterns vary among species.

Rat Snakes

Similar to garter snakes, these creatures vary in coloring and pattern but often feature a dark body with a lighter underbelly and chin. They also have larger heads than their necks. Rat snakes can swim and climb, so you may see them in trees or bodies of water.

Kingsnakes

There are also several varieties of the common backyard snake, the kingsnakes. These types of snakes are commonly mixed up with venomous types, such as the coral snakes, due to the bands of color down their backs. Depending on the species, kingsnakes may have red, yellow, or black markings. Most will have a spoon-shaped head and round pupils.

How to Tell if Snakes Are Venomous

Snakes vary widely in appearance, and you often need to get quite close—which we do not recommend—in order to pick out their unique features. However, there are some quick ways to determine if you could be dealing with a venomous snake in your yard.

Features

Snakes Head Shape Pupils Coloring
Snakes Head Shape Pupils Coloring
Venomous Snakes Frequently triangle; Some non-venomous snakes take on this look to intimidate predators Thin; Vertical; Surrounded by yellow or green eyes Varies widely; Red bands touch the yellow bands on coral snakes
Non-Venomous Snakes Rounded and spoon-shaped heads Rounded pupils Varies widely; Yellow and red bands are separated by black bands on scarlet kingsnakes

Why Do I Have Snakes?

Snakes are similar to other pesky visitors in your yard or home—they are often seeking food or shelter. Some snakes may hang around if they have access to eating:

  • Rats
  • Mice
  • Moles
  • Fish
  • Frogs
  • Small farm animals
  • Slugs
  • Snails
  • Grasshoppers

Snakes may also seek shelter in thick brush, dense piles of compost or leaves, or areas of water. Broken gutters, firewood containers, or ventilation can also provide places for snakes to take shelter from the heat. Your area may also have a low number of natural snake predators, such as raccoons and foxes.

Common Signs You Have Snakes

If a slippery creature slithered by you, you may be concerned you have a larger issue. Here are a few signs you may have more snakes in your yard than you know:

  • Shed snakeskins
  • Snake holes
  • Tracks in your dust or dirt from slithering
  • Strange smells in enclosed spaces
  • Snake droppings

How to Get Rid of Snakes in Your Yard

If you currently have a snake in your lawn, always begin by confirming that the snake is non-venomous before trying to remove it on your own. When in doubt, call animal control for help or your local pest control specialist for long-term management.

Spray the Hose

If you are completely certain the snake is not dangerous, gently spray a hose at a snake from a distance to help it move along.

Trap with a Garbage Can

If you intend to have a professional remove the snake the same day, you can also quickly trap it with a garbage can—again, only if you are sure it is safe to approach.

Use Snake Repellent

Common products like Ortho Snake B Gon work by throwing off a snake’s sense of smell and deter them from nesting in your garden. Many of these products from stores or in your pantry are mostly safe for pets—though you should always double check the label—and do not harm the snakes. For example, rim your pool, yard, or garden with white vinegar to deter snakes from getting this potent liquid on their skin.

Eliminate Standing Water

Inspect your lawn and home for pools of water, particularly in hidden areas such as by your hose, under a storage area, or in the garden. By removing these pools of water, many snake varieties will find another area to nest.

Set a Trap

Again, if you are certain that the snake is harmless, there are available ways to catch and release a snake. Glue traps, for example, lure snakes to their common areas, secure them to the trap and allow you to release the snake with common cooking oils.

Remove Shelter

Snakes like to hide from predators in warm, sheltered places. Remove common areas in your yard where snakes may be living, including piled hoses, firewood storage, tall grasses, dense brush, open areas under sheds, and storage.

Fill in Burrows

Snakes might also co-opt other animal burrows for themselves. Fill in holes and burrows with gravel or dirt to discourage snakes from making a home.

Keep Your Grass Short

Mow your lawn frequently with the setting low to the ground. This keeps snakes from hiding in your yard while eliminating the fear that you will see one out in the open.

How to Get Rid of Snakes in Your House

A snake in your house is a much larger issue than outdoors. Call animal control or a pest control specialist if there is a snake in your home that does not have immediate access to leave on its own, especially if it slithered out of sight. Snakes may find ways to get into your home if you have a mouse problem. We recommend contacting a pest control specialist the moment you see a snake in your home to both remove the snake safely and address the underlying problem.

How to Get Rid of Snakes by the Pool

Removing a snake from a body of water is safest with a long pole or hook, such as those used for skimming a pool’s surface. Again, this is only safe when you are sure the snake is harmless. Otherwise, call for professional help right away.

In the long run, prevent snakes from entering your pool area by creating a natural perimeter with vinegar or with a tightly woven mesh fence that can keep snakes out.

How to Keep Snakes Away

Though some snakes can be beneficial to pest control in your yard, there are plenty of reasons why you may not want any taking up residence on your property. Here are a few long-term ways to deter snakes from making a comfortable home in your space.

Methods

Method Why it Works
Method Why it Works
Lay gravel or other uneven ground coverings Snakes cannot move or hide as easily without traditionally smooth or grass-covered spaces
Remove your bird feeder or birdbath The birdseed or water attracts mice, which in turn, attracts snakes
Feed pets indoors This deters rodents and insects from gathering outside
Trim your branches This keeps snakes from climbing or making a home in the trees directly over your yard
Remove water elements Areas prone to snakes may not be ideal for water elements in your landscape design, where snakes enjoy gathering
Add a snake-proof fence Install a thin fence that keeps small creatures like mice and snakes from entering either above or just below ground

Protecting Your Home

In addition to keeping any rodent or insect issues in check, be sure to close up any easy entryways for snakes. These may include:

  • Open cellar doors
  • Broken gutters and drainage
  • Pet doors
  • Screenless windows
  • Holes in your roof or siding
  • Unsealed basement walls
  • Open crawl spaces

How to Treat a Snakebite

Even non-venomous snakes might bite to protect themselves, and all bites should be taken with the same level of urgency. Immediately call 911, even if the snakebite does not immediately hurt or does not look serious.

In the meantime, or if you do not have immediate access to help, take the following steps:

  • Always begin by making sure you are away from the snake. Do not try to kill or handle the snake, as it can bite again.
  • Try to stay calm. If possible, lie down and roll onto your side.
  • Remove anything restrictive like watches or jewelry in case your limb swells.
  • Try to arrange the part of the body with the snakebite below the heart.
  • Clean the wound with basic soap and water if possible and wrap with a clean bandage while applying pressure.

Do not:

  • Apply ice
  • Create a tourniquet
  • Suck out the poison
  • Cut at the wound
  • Drink alcohol or caffeine
  • Take ibuprofen
  • While waiting for help, try to mark where the bite occurred with a marker and note the time it happened.

Keeping Good Snakes Around

Having some snakes in your yard is a great sign that you have a healthy environment. Snakes are members of the basic food chain to help control unwanted pests and supply food for larger predators like birds. Harmless snakes may even eat venomous snakes, further ensuring a safe yard. Be sure to check with your local professionals before moving ahead with complete snake eradication.

Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s recap everything we found about how to get rid of snakes with some commonly asked questions and common concerns.

What keeps snakes away from your home?

Natural sprays, treatments, and barriers can keep snakes from entering your property or home in the first place. In the long run, it is best to remove any temptations for snakes, such as:

  • Rodents
  • Insects
  • Thick brush
  • Tall grass
  • Pooling water
  • Open storage
  • Broken drainage or gutters
  • Bird feeders or pet food

Do mothballs really keep snakes away?

There is a common myth that mothballs are a safe way to deter snakes. However, it has since been found that moth balls do not have much of an effect. The chemical in mothballs can also be toxic to the water system, cause negative symptoms in humans, and be harmful to pets.

What is the best snake repellent?

Ortho Snake B Gone is one of the most popular natural snake repellents, but general changes to your home and landscape are your best defense for long-term pest control.

Does salt keep snakes away?

Salt has not been found to be a repellent for snakes. Unlike slugs, they are not affected by the salt’s chemical makeup.

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