Snakes: they’re scaly, legless, and probably not an animal you want to share your backyard with.
Unfortunately, the things that make your backyard a pleasant place for you (shade, pretty landscaping, and maybe a bit of natural water) can also attract snakes.
If you’re wondering how to get rid of snakes on your property, you’re not alone. Here at Smith’s Pest Management, our team helps get rid of snakes on Bay Area properties each day, so we know how to send the pests packing humanely and safely.
In this post, we’re sharing a few of our top tips for getting rid of snakes and keeping your backyard snake-free all summer and beyond.
Let’s dive in.
How to Identify Common Types of Snakes
Here are the major snake species that invade homes and yards in California:
Gopher snakes are the most common species of snakes in Northern California. Often mistaken for rattlesnakes, gopher snakes have gray or dark brown bodies with alternating black and brown spots.
These snakes are diurnal, which means they hunt during the day and sleep at night. When threatened, the snake will do its best imitation of a rattlesnake – flattening its body and shaking its tail.
Gopher snakes are nonvenomous and not dangerous to humans. They eat small mammals and birds and their eggs.
Garter snakes are common across North America. These snakes have three stripes that run the length of their bodies. Their heads are arrowhead-shaped and larger than their necks. They can reach 54” in length.
Like gopher snakes, black snakes, and cottonmouth snakes, they eat small mammals, birds and their eggs, and insects.
Rat snakes are very similar to garter snakes. They vary in color and pattern but typically have dark bodies with light chins and underbellies. Rat snakes are skilled swimmers and climbers, and they tend to frequent areas with plenty of trees and water.
Kingsnakes are medium-sized, nonvenomous snakes that kill their prey by constricting it.
Because they have bands of color down their backs, they are frequently confused with venomous species like coral snakes. They can grow to be 36-48” in length. They survive on a diet of lizards, rodents, birds, and turtle eggs.
While nobody wants to share a garden or home with snakes, gopher snakes, garter snakes, rat snakes, and kingsnakes are all non-venomous and not a threat to humans. The rattlesnake, however, is a different story.
Pacific rattlesnakes, the most common type in Northern California, have a triangular head and can reach a length of 5.5 feet, with body colors ranging from dark gray to black, speckled with hexagonal markings.
When surprised or threatened, rattlesnakes will coil their bodies and rattle their tails fiercely. Pacific rattlesnakes are most active in the spring and summer months and hibernate from about November to February.
Differentiating Venomous and Poisonous Snakes
Because snakes vary so widely in appearance, it can be difficult to identify snakes accurately. With that in mind, here are some quick ways to determine whether you have a venomous or nonvenomous snake in your yard:
- Triangular heads (although some nonvenomous snakes adopt this appearance to intimidate predators)
- Thin, vertical pupils in yellow or green eyes
- Color varies widely
- Rounded or spoon-shaped heads
- Rounded pupils
- Color varies widely
If you think you may have a poisonous snake in your home or yard and you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, contact Smith’s Pest Management immediately.
Our experienced snake control team will remove the snake humanely, keeping you, your family, and your pets safe.
What Attracts Snakes to My House?
Snakes, like all pests, are seeking two things when they enter your space: food and shelter.
As a general rule, snakes will hang around if they can find favorite sources of prey, including:
- Small farm animals
Snakes will also seek shelter to breed, hunt, and rest.
They enjoy thick brush, dense compost or leaf piles, and moist areas, such as the space beneath birdbaths, around natural or man-made ponds, or near a leaky faucet or garden hose.
You’ll also have snakes on your property if you have a low concentration of predators, such as raccoons and foxes.
How to Get Rid of Snakes In Your House: 4 Steps
Snakes may enter your home if you have a mouse problem, or if they inadvertently become trapped. Regardless of the cause, having snakes in your home can be frightening.
1. Remain calm
If you find a snake in your house, the first step is to remain calm. Avoid disturbing or harming the snake.
2. Open doors and windows
If you can open a door or a window to give the snake an escape route, do so.
3. Call a wildlife control company
If you cannot open a door or give it another exit or you think it may be a venomous snake, call a wildlife control specialist like Smith’s immediately.
4. Create a barrier around the snake
While you wait, use boxes or boards to create a barrier around the snake, which will make it easier to capture when the pest management company arrives.
A pest management specialist will remove the snake safely and address the underlying issue that caused the snake to enter your home in the first place.
11 Ways to Get rid of Snakes In Your Yard and Garden
Snakes in the yard or garden are a common occurrence for California homeowners.
If you see a snake in your yard, confirm that the snake is nonvenomous before taking action. When in doubt, contact Smith’s for professional, safe snake removal.
If you can confirm that the snake is nonvenomous, here are a few approaches to try:
1. Spray it with a hose
Drench the snake from a distance. This will encourage it to move along, without harming it. Be aware, however, that this is only a temporary solution, and the snake may return.
2. Trap the snake
If you’ve contacted a pest removal service and intend to have the snake removed that day, you can trap it with an overturned garbage can. Again, only attempt this if you are certain the snake is nonvenomous.
3. Eliminate food sources
Snakes eat frogs, birds, rodents, insects, and even fish. If you have any of these animals on your property, eliminating them will help resolve your snake problem.
4. Get rid of standing water
Standing water sources like rain barrels, birdbaths, and ponds attract snakes. To prevent snakes from coming back, remove these sources of standing water.
5. Trap the snake
Use a store-bought snake trap to humanely trap and secure the snake. Once you’ve caught the snake, take it to a safe location far from your home to release it. Again – only attempt this if you are sure the snake is nonvenomous. Glue boards are a good option for humane snake removal. The glue board traps the snake without harming it. To release the snake from the trap, simply pour some vegetable oil over the snake’s body to neutralize the glue.
6. Fill burrows
If you have old gopher holes or other burrows on your property, fill them with gravel or dirt to prevent snakes from using them. If there are many burrows, reach out to a pest management company that specializes in burrowing pest control – such as Smith’s – to eradicate gophers, moles, and voles.
7. Remove shelter
Remove sources of shelter for snakes, including coiled hoses, firewood piles, tall grass, dense brush, and open areas under sheds and outbuildings. Keep grass cut to 1” or shorter, and ensure all snake-proof fencing is flush with the ground, angled outward, made of steel mesh or plastic sheeting, and at least 3 feet high and 4 feet deep. You can also plant snake-repellent plants, like marigolds and wormwood.
8. Use smoke
Snakes are sensitive to smells, including smoke. As such, digging a fire pit and allowing it to smoke for several days is an effective way to drive snakes off your property.
9. Consider natural predators
Cats, foxes, raccoons, turkeys, pigs, and guinea hens are natural predators of snakes. Having these animals on or around your property is an effective natural way to keep snakes at bay. You can also purchase store-bought fox urine to use as a natural snake repellent.
10. Use natural repellents
Natural repellents including sulfur, clove and cinnamon oil, and vinegar may help repel snakes. Pour these substances around the perimeter of your property, any place you have noticed snake activity.
11. Call a wildlife control company
Dealing with a snake problem can be overwhelming. Sometimes it’s easier to let a professional wildlife control company like Smith’s take care of the issue for you.
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