13 ways to stop slithering snakes

A rattlesnake in Washington County, Utah, spring 2018 | Photo by and courtesy of Julie Applegate, St. George News

FEATURE — With a drier and hotter start to summer this year, more snakes are following their prey into areas that are irrigated and provide good cover and food. Unfortunately, this describes many people’s yards and, for a lot of people, the sight of a snake strikes fear.

To further the problem, many companies take advantage of people’s fear of snakes by selling products or services that are ineffective and in some cases may increase the danger to people and pets.

Gopher snake, Logan, Utah, date not specified. | Photo by Jay Black, courtesy of Utah State University Extension, St. George News

Most people’s fear of snakes stems from the worry that they are venomous. Most won’t want to be close enough to tell, but venomous snakes have a pupil that resembles a cat’s. It has an oblong shape with peaked ends that look like a slit in the center of the eye. Nonvenomous snakes usually have round pupils. The snakes most people are likely to see in their yards will be nonvenomous, such as the garter or gopher snake.

If you encounter a snake in or around your home, keep calm and follow these tips

1.  Mow grass often and keep it fairly short. Snakes are less likely to reside and move through short grass because it increases their exposure to predators such as owls and  hawks. Shorter grass also makes snakes easier to spot.

2.  Avoid overwatering your lawn. Too much landscape water may attract prey species such as worms, slugs and frogs, which in turn may attract snakes seeking a meal.

3.  Keep trees and shrubs trimmed and away from your home and garage, and keep branches off the ground. Creating a 24-to-36-inch space under trees and shrubs will help keep snakes away and will make it easier to spot them if they do slither in.

4.  If you feed birds, keep the feeder away from the house or consider not feeding them. Birds are messy eaters and often leave seed scattered below the feeder. Seed on the ground attracts rodents, which may also attract snakes seeking a meal. Store bird seed in a metal can with a tight-fitting lid.

5.  Feed pets inside. Feeding them outside can attract insects and rodents, which, again, attract snakes. If feeding outside is necessary, be sure to clean up uneaten food promptly. Store pet food in a metal can with a tight-fitting lid.

Read more: Keep yourself and your dog safe from rattlesnakes

6.  Store firewood, excess lumber and other types of debris away from your home. These provide prefect places for snakes to hide.

7.  Think before you landscape. Avoid using mulch and large rocks in your landscape, as they attract snakes and their prey and can create breeding and overwintering habitat. Instead, use smaller, tight-fitting rock such as gravel or river rock. Also, avoid landscaping with water gardens and koi ponds.

8.  Seal cracks and crevices on sidewalks and foundations, and consider getting an energy audit. These can be a great way to identify places that allow air conditioning and heat to escape the home. These same cracks and crevices may be used as an entry point by snakes and other small creatures.

9.  When all else fails, consider fencing. Use 1/4 inch or smaller rigid mesh or solid sheeting and bury it a few inches into the ground. Include a bend at the top to prevent snakes from climbing up and over.

10. Do not use snake repellents or sulfur, as they are ineffective. Do not use mothballs because the active ingredient is naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene – chemicals that are toxic to insects and mammals, but are not effective against snakes. Using mothballs outside your home also violates product labels and puts your family and pets at risk. Do not use sticky traps outside. Traps placed outside capture all sorts of nontarget animals and result in a slow, agonizing death for those creatures.

A Great Basin rattlesnake slithers near water, location and date not specified | Photo courtesy of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, St. George News

11. If you have issues with snakes in your chicken coop, avoid using ceramic eggs or golf balls. Snakes that eat these artificial eggs die a slow and painful death over many weeks, and new snakes will show up to take their place. Instead, focus on improving your coop to prevent snakes from entering and follow the deterrents recommended above. If using ceramic or other artificial eggs to encourage a brooding hen to lay, glue them down to prevent snakes from eating them.

12.  Do not bring out the guns, shovels or other weapons. Discharging a firearm toward the ground can result in bullet ricochet. If needing to get a snake to move on, use a water hose to spray the snake, which will encourage it to find a new place to take up residence.

13. If you have questions or concerns about snakes, consider calling an expert:

  • Contact animal control or the Division of Wildlife Resources office closest to you. In St. George, call 435-879-8694; in Cedar City, call 435-865-6100; or call the main office in Salt Lake City at 801-538-4700.
  • Terry Messmer, Utah State University Extension wildlife specialist and author of this article, may be reached at 435-797-3975. The Washington County USU Extension office’s main number is 435-634-5706. You may also contact the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources main office in Salt Lake City at 801-538-4700.

Written by Terry Messmer, wildlife specialist, Utah State University Extension.

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

 

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9 Comments

  • Craig July 7, 2018 at 9:20 am

    Very nice

  • DRT July 7, 2018 at 11:18 am

    Google “snake shot”
    :p

  • comments July 7, 2018 at 1:30 pm

    Our dear little sweet Dump <3 could get a job working with snakes. He could go round up nuisance snakes. He wouldn't need any safety gear because of his incredible intellect a wit. No doubt he'd outsmart those snakes every time just using his bare hands. A real job that would get him away from the video games all day!

    never had a problem with snakes myself, but i'm not raising chickens either, hmm…

  • mesaman July 7, 2018 at 8:33 pm

    I have two comments on this article; 1) what about snakes that don’t slither? 2) Who is stupid enough to get close enough to look into the eyes of a serpent to see if it meets the criteria of being venomous or impotent?

    • Real Life July 7, 2018 at 9:33 pm

      I find the little orange and black ground snakes in my yard all the time. I welcome them, they eat bugs. You are right tough beyond that, I am not gonna look a snake in the eyes to find out if he is friendly or not.

    • comments July 7, 2018 at 11:01 pm

      silly people, what are there, 2 kinds of venomous snakes in this entire area? They aren’t hard to spot.

  • ladybugavenger July 8, 2018 at 10:46 am

    The only good snake is a dead snake. I’ve seen 2 in my back yard. Small ones. I screamed like a sissy girl lol. P.S. they are dead. I have a video of one being killed. It’s quite disgusting to see a decapatated snake. Its body and head still moves for minutes and longer, didnt stick around to time it. I was going to the dump and I took it there. Couldnt help but think it was going to grow back together and have 2 heads and come back alive for revenge lol

  • Billion July 8, 2018 at 5:51 pm

    There are 31 species of snakes in Utah. Only 7 are venomous, all are types of rattlers. So if no rattle, then no venom.

  • PlanetU July 8, 2018 at 9:21 pm

    I agree with DRT. I’ve used snakeshot on the evil rattlesnakes that got too close to my cat, my dogs, bit my husky in the face and she lived after an ER trip.

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