Keeping snakes away from your home: What works, what doesn’t

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Spring is here and snakes are on the move. Some people enjoy encounters with snakes while others would rather never see one at all, particularly near their home. A search on the internet will reveal products specifically formulated to repel snakes and there are plenty of home concoctions out there including placing mothballs around your house to keep snakes at bay. But don’t be surprised if they don’t work and you still find a snake slithering near your house.

“There’s commercial snake repellents,” said herpetologist Terry Vandeventer with the Living Reptile Museum. “The No. 1 repellent in the South is mothballs.

“They absolutely don’t work. I’ve tested them.”

In one test Vandeventer placed mothballs on the ground. He then placed a cottonmouth snake on one side and a mouse on the other.

“He crawled over the mothballs and got the mouse,” Vandeventer said. “They simply don’t work.”

So, what can you do to keep snakes away from your home? Vandeventer said keeping all snakes away from your home is really not possible, but there are many steps that can be taken to make your lawn less attractive to snakes.

“We know food attracts snakes,” Vandeventer said. “Since snakes eat rodents, we want to get rid of them. Get rid of the shelter and get rid of the food and they’ll pass right by and go to your neighbor’s ratty house.”

So, how do you limit food sources and shelter for snakes? Here are some simple steps that will make your home unattractive to snakes.

? Feed your pets inside. No, snakes don’t like cat or dog food, but rodents do. Feed your pets inside and limit the food for rodents.

? Get rid of debris and leaf piles. Piles of leaves and other lawn debris not only attract rodents, but they also provide protection for snakes, making them a great place for snakes to set up shop.

? Keep your grass cut. This may seem basic, but tall grass provides cover for snakes. Keep it cut and not only is your lawn less desirable to snakes, you can more easily spot them. Your neighbors will appreciate it, too.

? Beware of birdhouses. Everyone likes seeing birds and hearing their young chirp, but these can be an attractant for snakes. Some snakes such as the gray ratsnake are excellent climbers. The gray ratsnake is also one of the most common snakes in Mississippi. Placing a birdhouse on a fence or tree limb is the equivalent of sending a dinner invitation to a ratsnake. Instead, place birdhouses on a metal pole of a wooden post that is wrapped with metal sheeting or has a conical barrier in place.

? Limit bird feeding. Backyard bird watching is a popular activity, but birds are messy. They often knock food from the feeder to the ground which attracts rodents. Consider limiting bird-feeding to colder months when food sources are limited and snakes are less active.

? Burn your fire wood. There’s nothing like a fire on a cool winter night, but that wood pile can become a problem when the outside temperatures begin to warm. A wood pile is a good place for snakes to hide, so burn your wood before snakes become active in spring. If you keep wood year-round, place it on a rack at least a foot above the ground.

? Pick up fallen fruit. Fallen fruit is another food source for rodents and in turn can attract snakes.

? Avoid mulch. Mulch can make your lawn look more attractive and not just to you and your neighbors. Mulch can become home for invertebrates that some species of snakes eat. It can also provide cover for snakes. So, if you don’t want to encounter snakes, you may want to reconsider putting out mulch or pine straw.

? Get rid of the garden pond. Garden ponds can be aesthetically pleasing, but they can also be a problem. Garden ponds can attract frogs and other animals which are food sources for snakes. Put fish in it and you’ve just added another attractant.

The vast majority of snakes in Mississippi are harmless to humans and all, venomous or not, are beneficial. Because of that, Vandeventer said people shouldn’t let their fear of snakes dictate their activities.

“Don’t let the fear of this take away from doing everyday things and enjoying the outdoors,” Vandeventer said. “Just be mindful.”


Information from: The Clarion Ledger,