Snakes In My Garden

I’ve lived in my home for over two years and today was my first snake sighting. I live in a somewhat rural area near a large body of water, so snakes are to be expected. I guess I’ve been in denial of their presence in my own backyard.

From my quick glimpse of the snake, it appeared to be a nonvenomous rough earth snake. From my research they feed on earthworms and ant larvae. So guess who is having a hay day in my garden…yep, snakes.

Not only do I have many earthworms in the beds
next to my backdoor, I also have the perfect setting for snakes to hide. Overgrown bushes, Pampas grass, plenty of ground cover, stepping stones with nooks and crannies underneath them and a compost pile further in the back of the property that’s just right for nesting.

According to the Mississippi State University’s publication titled Reducing Snake Problems Around Homes, snake problems can be controlled as follows:

 The best way to discourage snakes around a home, such as in the yard or garden, is to make the area unattractive to them. Remove their habitat, including hiding places, foraging areas, and food resources. In early spring, snakes are attracted to hot spots, such as metal cans or other heat-conducting items. Snakes are most active in warm months, when they like cool, damp, sheltered areas. Remove hiding cover for snakes near homes, including piles of boards or firewood, rock or brick piles, brushy fence rows, and weedy growth. Keeping the lawn mowed around the perimeter of your home minimizes hiding places and paths for snakes to your home. Check around cement walks or porches for cracks or holes that might let snakes in for shelter. Repair or close these places so snakes can’t use them.

Repellents are questionable at best for effectiveness at keeping snakes away from homes. No repellents are currently registered for snake control. Various home remedies have been suggested for repelling snakes, and several have been tested to determine if they repel black rat snakes. Treatments included moth balls, sulfur, gourd vines, a tacky bird repellent, lime, cayenne pepper spray, sisal rope, coal tar and creosote, artificial skunk scent, and musk from a king snake (eats other snakes). None of these worked. Some sticky materials, when applied in 18-inch bands around supporting poles, prevented snakes from climbing to wood duck nest boxes. This may keep snakes away from bird nest boxes mounted on poles, but otherwise it is not practical.

No fumigants or toxicants are federally registered for snake control. Diet, body temperature, and other biological aspects of snakes complicate the potential for developing such snake controls.

For information check out the entire publication online at http://msucares.com/pubs/publications/p2277.pdf.

Looks like I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me to make my back yard more uninviting for my slithering friend!

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