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How To Get Rid of Snakes and Keep Them Away

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Garter snake in grass

Author Image Written by Brenda Woods Updated 06/28/2024

Of all the snake species in North America, less than 10% are venomous, and most are actually beneficial to the local environment. However, this doesn’t mean you necessarily want to have snakes in your yard or your home. In this article, we’ll provide some guidelines for identifying snakes and some strategies for getting rid of non-venomous snakes. If you spot a venomous snake on your property, always call animal control immediately.

Not all pest control companies deal with snakes directly, since this requires a trained wildlife handler, but they can exterminate other pest infestations that serve as food sources for snakes. We’ll recommend some top-rated pest control companies that do remove snakes and keep them from coming back.


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 see a snake, keep your distance and attempt to identify it. 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 one of many 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. To help with identification, look at the shape of the head, the eyes, and any eye-catching markings or colors on the body. Many common snakes are harmless and can actually rid your yard of rodents and other pests. Garter snakes, rat snakes, and king snakes are non-venomous and don’t present a serious threat to humans.

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.
The U.S. is home to a number of different species of rat snake. 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.
There are several varieties of the common backyard snake, the kingsnake. These types of snakes are often confused with venomous types, such as coral snakes, due to the bands of color down their backs. Depending on the species, kingsnakes may have red, yellow, black, brown, gray, or even lavender markings. Most will have a spoon-shaped head and round pupils.

How To Tell if Snakes Are Venomous

If you have any doubt about what kind of snake you’re dealing with, don’t approach it. According to the agriculture extension at Mississippi State University, most snake bites happen when a person tries to move or kill the snake. Make your observations from a safe distance. There are some quick ways to determine if you could be dealing with a venomous snake in your yard. Note that these guidelines are not true of every species of snake, but they can help give you a clue as to what you’re dealing with.

Snake TypeHead ShapePupilsColoring

Venomous snakes

Frequently triangular, but some non-venomous snakes also feature 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 food sources like:

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

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

Common Signs You Have Snakes

Actually spotting a live snake might not be the first sign you see of a snake on your property. It may leave behind other indications of its presence.

  • Shed snakeskins
  • Snake droppings, which may contain fur or bones
  • Snake holes 1–2 inches in diameter
  • Strange smells in enclosed spaces
  • Tracks in dust or dirt from slithering
Snake slough on dry leaf
Adobe

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.

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

If you intend to have a professional remove the snake the same day, you can also quickly trap it in a garbage can or bucket—again, only if you are sure it is safe to approach. While the snake is coiled and still, slowly approach it and lower the empty container over it, then place a weight on top to keep it there.

Common products such as Ortho Snake B Gon work by throwing off a snake’s sense of smell and deterring them from nesting in your garden. The internet has many other recommendations for strong-smelling substances like vinegar that can be found in your pantry and supposedly repel snakes, but there is little evidence that they work.

Inspect your lawn and home for pools of water, particularly the areas by your garden hose, under storage containers, or in gardens. When you remove a water source, snakes will often be forced to find another area to nest.

Again, if you are certain that the snake is harmless, there are available ways to catch and release the snake. Glue traps are the cheapest, but they are also the least humane. To release the snake from the adhesive, you must douse it in cooking oil, and even then the snake is difficult to remove and must often be killed. Wire mesh cage traps are a better choice.

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

Some snakes hide out in holes, and 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.

Mow your lawn frequently with the blade set low. This keeps snakes from hiding in your yard.


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 has slithered out of sight. If you’re sure the snake is non-venomous, you can try to trap it into a wastebasket or steer it toward an outside door with a broom. Alternatively, you can barricade it in a room and wait for animal control.

Snakes may find ways to get into your home if you have a rodent problem. We recommend contacting a pest control specialist the moment you see a snake in your home to address the underlying problem. Some, but not all, pest control companies will also remove snakes.


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.

This Old House Tip
Prevent snakes from entering your pool area by creating a natural perimeter with snake repellent 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 them taking up residence on your property. Here are a few long-term ways to deter snakes from making a comfortable home in your space.

MethodWhy it Works

Lay gravel or other uneven ground coverings

Snakes cannot move or hide as easily without 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 features

Areas prone to snakes may not be ideal for water features in your landscape design

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, such as:

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

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, Johns Hopkins Medical Center recommends taking the following steps:

  1. 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.
  2. Try to stay calm. If possible, lie down and roll onto your side.
  3. Remove anything restrictive such as watches or jewelry in case your limb swells.
  4. Try to arrange the part of the body with the snakebite below the heart.
  5. Clean the wound with basic soap and water if possible. Wrap it with a clean bandage while applying pressure.
  6. While waiting for help, draw a circle around the bite with a marker and note the time it happened.

Do not:

Apply ice
Create a tourniquet
Cut at the wound
Drink alcohol or caffeine
Suck out the poison
Take ibuprofen

Keeping Beneficial Snakes Around

Snakes are members of the basic food chain—they 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.

Pest Control Companies that Handle Snakes

Some pest control companies will advise you to call animal control to take care of existing snakes. Others have wildlife specialists on hand to deal with the snake directly. Terminix, a nationwide provider with more than 380 locations, does offer trapping and removal of snakes as well as snake prevention and exclusion services. Orkin, another nationwide pest control company, may also have wildlife specialists on staff, though this varies by individual branch. Regardless, we recommend both companies to provide follow-up pest control to remove food sources for snakes from your property.


Frequently Asked Questions About Snakes

What keeps snakes away from your home?

Sprays, treatments, and barriers can help keep snakes from entering your property or home in the first place. However, it is best to remove any temptations for snakes, such as:

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

Do mothballs really keep snakes away?

Unfortunately, mothballs do not have much of a repellent effect on snakes. Additionally, 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 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.


Our Rating Methodology

We back up our pest control recommendations with a detailed rating methodology that we use to objectively score each provider. We review pest control plans, navigate the provider website, speak with customer service representatives by phone and online chat (if available), request quotes, and analyze customer reviews for each provider. We then score the provider against our review standards for plans and services, reputation and customer responses, customer service offerings, workmanship guarantees, financing, and availability to arrive at a final score on a 5-point rating scale.

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