We’ve been seeing more snakes lately due to the mild temperatures. Snakes usually avoid temperature extremes and prefer to hunt in mild conditions. They use their forked tongues and in the case of rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, and copperheads, heat-sensitive facial pits to determine what is in their environment and to find their prey. Some of the small, pencil-sized snakes (Rough Earth Snakes) eat earthworms and crickets. While not venomous, they can cause heart-stopping panic when you are working in your landscape or garden and put your hand on one!
What do we do about snakes? Let me pass on what my former Scoutmaster, Watt Campbell, told me years ago: The first rule of snake safety is to leave them alone! Other than Mr. Campbell’s rule, what do we need to know about snakes? For the most part, the snakes we have around here are non-venomous, harmless and beneficial to people. For those that are venomous, we can easily tell them apart from their non-venomous brethren. To keep snakes out of the house (and having the cats play with them) we need to seal all the holes in the foundation of our houses. We need to reduce cover in the yard as well as the snakes’ food supplies. If they don’t have a place to live and eat, then snakes don’t like hanging around your property.
There are two types of snake “repellents”: granular and electronic. As for the granules, the products that were tested did not appear to alter the normal, investigatory behavior of snakes. Unfortunately, most animals do not experience smells in the same way that people do. Several potential home remedies were evaluated to determine if they would repel black rat snakes. The test treatments included gourd vines, moth balls, sulfur, cedar oil, a tacky bird repellent, lime, cayenne pepper spray, sisal rope, coal tar and creosote, liquid smoke, artificial skunk scent, and musk from a king snake (they eat other snakes). None of these remedies repelled black rat snakes. As far as the electronic snake repellents, the research that has been conducted shows that they do not work. As such, there is not enough conclusive data to recommend repellents for snakes.
Non-venomous snakes do not pose any major problems except for possibly frightening people and being a nuisance.