Out of all of the types of wildlife that end up in your yard, snakes are one of the most potentially deadly pests you could come across. Even though the majority of snakes in the US are harmless, it’s not unreasonable for your heart to skip a beat at the sight of one of these creatures slithering through your yard.
There are a number of methods you can use to get rid of snakes in your yard, including removal by hand, smoking them out, setting up snake traps, or using a natural snake repellant. To keep snakes away from your yard for good, you can take a few measures to make your yard inaccessible and inhospitable to any snakes looking for a place to move in.
Read through this guide to learn the signs that have a snake infestation, what attracts snakes to your yard, and how to identify common venomous snakes against non-venomous snakes. We have then provided full guidance on how to get rid of snakes from your yard and how to keep them away for good.
What Are the Signs of Snakes In a Yard?
Aside from actually seeing the snakes, there are some telltale signs that you’re dealing with a snake infestation:
- Leftover snakeskins from the snakes shedding
- Snake holes
- Visible tracks in dust or dirt from the snakes’ movements
- A strange odor coming from places where snakes are likely to be hiding
- Seeing snake droppings (similar in appearance to bird droppings)
What Attracts Snakes to Your Yard?
As is often the case with most invasive pests, snakes are attracted to places where they can find food, water, and shelter. Before you take any measures to get rid of snakes, you should first identify what it is in your yard that’s potentially encouraging their presence.
High Population of Preferred Prey
Snakes will be attracted to any yards with a high population of their preferred prey. While they can survive without food for weeks to months, most snakes prefer to eat a few times per week. All species are carnivorous, with their diets including birds, rats, mice, moles, small farm animals, fish, frogs, slugs, snails, and grasshoppers; this diet varies depending on their species and location.
If your yard has a high presence of any of these creatures, it will be very inviting to hungry snakes. Also, you’ll see snakes in greater numbers if there’s a low presence of their natural predators, like raccoons or foxes.
Sources of Water
While snakes don’t need to drink water as regularly as other living creatures, several species prefer to live in wet environments and will be attracted to sources of water. If puddles form on your property every time it rains, this may be drawing snakes to your yard.
You may be homing a population of water snakes if there is a small body of water in or close to your yard; water snakes spend most of their time underwater, but they will occasionally travel onto dry land. And, on the flip side of this, some land snakes also like to swim in water to cool themselves down.
Also, having a birdbath on your property can be a big attraction to snakes. In addition to providing them with a source of water, the birdbath attracts birds, which many species of snakes like to feed on.
Cool, Dark, and Damp Areas
As snakes are cold-blooded, they prefer to hang out in areas that are cool, dark, and humid. In cooler areas, snakes find it easier to control their body temperature through thermoregulation. They use areas like these to cool down and take a break when hunting for prey. It’s for this reason that you’ll often find snakes hiding in your garage, shed, or woodpiles, and in bushes.
Long Grass and Tall Plants
Having a yard full of long grass and/or tall plants will create an inviting environment for snakes. They prefer areas such as these that provide them with coverage and camouflage, especially when they’re hunting for prey.
Leaving Food Outdoors
If you leave food outside for outdoor dogs or cats, or any feral animals around your property, this can inadvertently attract snakes. Pet food, or any food scraps left around your property, will initially draw in numbers of rodents like rats and mice. This in turn attracts snakes, as many types feed on rodents as prey.
For the same reason, another risk factor is having a compost heap too close to your property. If you throw food scraps onto your compost, it will attract wildlife like rodents, raccoons, and possums, all of which are prey for many species of snakes.
Easy Yard Access
Once a snake has identified that your yard is a suitable place to live, with sources of food, shelter, and water, they will make their way in and take up residence. If your yard isn’t well-secured, the snake won’t have any problem infiltrating it.
Identifying Common Types of Garden Snakes
It can often be difficult to identify snakes exactly, as there are so many different species across the US that vary subtly in appearance. We have gone through some of the most common types of garden snakes below, sorted by venomous and non-venomous species.
We’ve also provided some tips on how to quickly identify whether a snake is venomous or not. Take note that the majority of snakes in the US are non-venomous, but there are some potentially deadly species that you should avoid at all costs.
Types of Venomous Snakes
- Triangular-shaped head
- Yellow or green eyes with thin, black, vertical pupils
- Vary in color but typically more colorful than non-venomous snakes
Copper Head Snakes
Appearance: Copperhead snakes are identified by their coppery, tan, or brown-colored thick banding around their body – take note that some Copperhead snakes may not have a strong copper coloring to them. The bands around their bodies tend to be shaped like an hourglass.
Behavior: Copperheads tend not to be naturally very aggressive. However, if they feel threatened by you or you make contact with them, they may freeze before striking in defense.
Habitat: Copperheads are typically found in areas with forestry or rocks, in swamps, or near water sources like rivers. Due to their coloring, they are well-camouflaged in your yard in garden beds, piles of leaves, log piles, and fallen trees and branches.
Where in the US: In the eastern states, found as far west as Texas.
Appearance: Rattlesnakes can vary greatly in coloring and markings as there are so many subspecies of this snake. The main identifying feature of these snakes is the infamous rattle at the end of their tail.
Behavior: Rattlesnakes will usually rattle their tail when they feel threatened as a warning that they’re about to strike. However, they do occasionally strike without rattling their tail.
Habitat: Rattlesnakes tend to be found in areas where people work, which include beaches, deserts, prairies, and mountains. They will often spend time basking in the sun near logs or boulders, or in open areas.
Where in the US: Throughout the US.
Appearance: Coral snakes have bands of bright red, yellow, and black from head to tail. These snakes are often confused with non-venomous Milk snakes, as they have very similar coloring and markings. They can be differentiated by the arrangement of their bands; venomous Coral snakes have red bands touching yellow bands, non-venomous Milk snakes have red bands touching black bands.
Behavior: Coral snakes are typically a non-aggressive, shy species. However, their bite can be deadly and they will attack if they feel threatened, so you should still be very wary of this type of snake.
Habitat: Coral snakes tend to be found in forestry, or in sandy or marshy areas.
Where in the US: In the southern states.
Cottonmouth Snakes (Water Moccasins)
Appearance: Cottonmouth snakes, also known as Water Moccasins, have a vague wide banding around their bodies and range in coloring from deep olive green to dark brown to black. Juvenile Cottonmouths look slightly different as they have a distinctive brown or orange cross-banded pattern and a yellow tail. Adult Cottonmouths can be identified by their mouths; when they feel threatened, they open their mouths which are bright white in color. They have particularly thick bodies and tend to grow to be about 3 feet long.
Behavior: Cottonmouth snakes are known to be an aggressive species, so be very careful if you encounter this type of snake.
Habitat: Cottonmouth snakes are found in water as well as on land. They are found in wetland areas, near bodies of water like rivers or lakes.
Where in the US: In the southeastern states.
Types of Non-Venomous Snakes
- Spoon-shaped or rounded heads
- Round pupils
- Vary in color but typically less colorful than venomous snakes
Appearance: Garter snakes are typically green, brown, or black in color with yellow stripes running lengthwise along their bodies from head to tail. They are medium build and grow to an average of about 2 feet long.
Behavior: Garter snakes may demonstrate some defensive behaviors when they feel threatened, like freezing or aggressive posturing. They may also attack by biting vigorously; garter snakes have a toxin in their saliva that helps them to kill prey, and while the toxin isn’t deadly to humans, it may cause irritation or swelling around the wound site.
Habitat: Garter snakes tend to gravitate towards bodies of water, however, they can be found in nearly any habitat.
Where in the US: Throughout the US.
Appearance: Milk snakes have bands of bright red, yellow, and black, or red, cream, and black. They are often confused with deadly Coral snakes, but Milk snakes can be distinguished by their banding; their red bands border their black bands, whereas coral snakes have red bands that border yellow bands.
Behavior: Milk snakes will often respond to threat by attempting to escape. If provoked further, they may attempt to strike the threat; some milk snakes have even been found to mimic the behavior of a rattlesnake by vibrating their tails against the ground.
Habitat: Milk snakes can be found in a variety of habitats. This includes areas near forestry, open woodlands, grasslands, and prairies, on rocky hillsides, near water sources like rivers or streams, and in farmlands or suburban areas.
Where in the US: Throughout the US.
Appearance: Gopher snakes range in coloring from light to dark brown, with a lighter color on their bellies. They have large dark spots along their back and smaller spots on their sides. These snakes have been found to vary in color based on their local environment.
Behavior: Gopher snakes are a relatively aggressive species. They are often mistaken for rattlesnakes, as they mimic their behavior when threatened by vibrating their tail against the ground.
Habitat: Gopher snakes can be found in woodlands and forests, deserts, rocky areas, prairies, shrublands, and agricultural fields.
Where in the US: Throughout the US.
Common King Snake
Appearance: Common king snakes vary in coloring and markings. They may be dark brown to black in color, with yellow or white markings that may form stripes, rings, spots, or crossbars along their bodies.
Behavior: Common king snakes are non-aggressive and non-venomous, killing their prey by constriction rather than biting. If they feel threatened, they may release a foul musky odor and shake their tail like a rattlesnake. They have been known to bite if provoked, but their bite is completely non-toxic to humans.
Habitat: Common king snakes are found in forestry, grasslands, suburban areas, and in the rockier parts of fields and deserts.
Where in the US: In the southern states.
Smooth Green Snake
Appearance: Smooth green snakes have slender bodies that are light, bright green in color, and have a yellow or white belly.
Behavior: Smooth green snakes are non-aggressive and will flee if they feel threatened. They may also emit a foul musky odor in defense.
Habitat: Smooth green snakes prefer areas that have smooth, open ground, free of clutter or obstructions.
Where in the US: In the midwestern states and the Canada border regions.
Rat Snakes (Eastern Rat Snake/Black Rat Snake)
Appearance: Rat snakes have a patterning similar to a black and white checkerboard which turns a stone color towards the tail, along with a white belly.
Behavior: Rat snakes are a non-aggressive species that freeze when they feel threatened. If they’re provoked further, they release a foul-smelling musky odor in addition to coiling up and attempting to strike. They are most active at night during the warmer months.
Habitat: Rat snakes are often found in farmlands, or in areas near forests and tall fields.
Where in the US: In eastern states, east of the Appalachian mountains.
Appearance: Corn snakes are orange to brownish-yellow in color, and have markings of large, red spots outlined in black along their bodies.
Behavior: Corn snakes are one of the least aggressive species of snake and a common species of pet snake. They rarely bite humans, and even when they do, the bite is about as painful as a papercut.
Habitat: Corn snakes often spend time around farms or anywhere that stores corn or grains, as they prey on the mice and rats attracted to these places. They are most commonly found in undeveloped grass lots, overgrown fields, clearing in forests, and in areas in cities that are relatively uninhabited.
Where in the US: In the southern states.
Appearance: Northern watersnakes are dark in color, and can be tan to dark brown, or sometimes grayish. They are typically covered in dark-colored blotches along the length of their bodies and have grey, yellow, or off-white bellies. Due to their appearance, they’re commonly mistaken for venomous copperheads or cottonmouths.
Behavior: Northern watersnakes are generally non-aggressive and relatively harmless to humans. However, they will thrash and bite repeatedly in defense if they are agitated or picked up. They are also capable of releasing a foul-smelling odor in the process.
Habitat: Northern watersnakes live in any freshwater wetlands that provide them with sufficient sources of food and shelter. They tend to inhabit ponds, lakes, reservoirs, streams, rivers, marshes, and swamps.
Where in the US: Throughout the central areas of the US, New England, and the deep south.
How to Get Rid of Snakes in Yard
Take note that actively going after a snake in your yard can be very risky if you aren’t absolutely sure that you’re dealing with a non-venomous species. Even non-venomous species can leave you with a nasty bite or two if they feel threatened, so take extra care when carrying out any of these methods to avoid being injured.
The following methods can be used to get rid of snakes in a yard:
Remove Snakes By Hand
The most direct method to get rid of snakes in your yard is to simply pick them up with your hands and throw them somewhere away from your property. With that said, there are a number of obvious drawbacks to this method of snake removal.
There is a huge risk that the snake will bite or attack you depending on the species that you’re dealing with; this method is very risky, especially if you don’t know for sure whether the snake is venomous or not. Aside from the danger, most people would probably prefer not to have to handle the snake directly regardless. Also, this method would be very time-consuming and impractical if you’re dealing with a large number of snakes.
Remove Snakes Using a Tool
Removing the creatures using a tool is a much preferable manual method you can use to get rid of snakes. Take a long tool, e.g. a broom or fireplace poker, and pick the snake up around its middle. Take the snake somewhere far from your property and project it off the tool. You could trap the snake under a trash can before retrieving your removal tool to assist you with an easier pick-up.
Trap Snakes Under a Trash Can
Ease the removal of the snakes by trapping them under a trash can. This method is ideal if you’ve arranged for a professional pest control company to get rid of the snake for you on the same day. Approach the snake carefully, then place an upside-down trash can on top of it to trap it in place. Weigh the trash can down with heavy objects or rocks to prevent the snake from slipping away.
Spray Snakes With a Hose
You can get rid of snakes by spraying them with water from a hose, doing so from a safe distance. You should only use this method if you are absolutely certain that you’re dealing with a non-aggressive, non-venomous type of snake.
Scare Snakes Off
Even though so many of us are scared of snakes, they are actually quite fearful of us too. As they are deaf, you won’t be able to get rid of snakes by making loud noises. However, they are able to sense movement and vibrations; you should make fast movements, stomp on the ground, or throw large, heavy objects towards them to scare them off.
Smoke Snakes Out
Snakes have an acute sense of smell so they’re highly sensitive to odors and fumes, being particularly sensitive to smoke. Get rid of the snakes in your yard by digging a fire pit, lighting it, and letting it smoke for a few days. The best materials to use for this are moss and leaves; keep covering the embers with these materials to keep the pit smoking constantly.
Set Up Snake Traps
You can use store-bought snake traps to get rid of snakes humanely without killing them. The two most common types of snake traps available are glue traps and funnel traps.
Glue Traps: Glue traps are made from strong adhesive glue placed on a hard cardboard backing. The snake becomes stuck when it tries to slide over the trap. To release the snake from the trap, you can dissolve the glue by pouring vegetable oil over it.
Funnel Traps: Funnel traps are a funnel with a large opening at one end that leads to an enclosed box where the snake becomes trapped. They are typically made from metal wiring or collapsable mesh.
Place the traps in your yard where you know there’s snake activity and monitor them regularly. Once a snake has become trapped, release it somewhere far away from your property, or have it removed by a professional pest control company. Remember to keep monitoring the traps, as the trapped snakes will die of thirst and starvation if left for too long.
Use a Snake Repellant
Snake repellants can be used to get rid of snakes from your yard without harming them. These products work to get rid of snakes by targeting their extra-sensitive sense of smell.
You can either purchase a commercial snake repellent product, or DIY one out of materials around your home:
Naphthalene: Naphthalene is a natural snake-repelling ingredient that the majority of commercial snake repellents contain. The strong odor of the substance repels snakes without causing them any harm. Purchase a commercial snake repellent containing this ingredient and spread it throughout the areas where you want to get rid of snakes. Alternatively, you could use mothballs in the same way, as they also contain naphthalene; just take care with this method as mothballs can be toxic to children and pets if ingested.
Sulfur: Sulfur acts as a natural snake repellent as it has a strong odor and irritates the snakes’ skin when they slither over it. Spread a layer of powdered sulfur throughout your yard and around the perimeter of your property to get rid of snakes.
Clove Oil and Cinnamon Oil: Essential oils like clove and cinnamon oil repel snakes due to their strong odor. For the best effect, combine both of these oils in a spray bottle and spray the mixture directly onto the snakes.
Garlic and Onions: Garlic and onions contain a chemical called sulfonic acid that repels snakes; this is the same chemical that makes our eyes water when chopping onions. Chop up some garlic and/or onions and combine it with rock salt. Spread this substance throughout your yard.
Ammonia: The potent odor of ammonia repels snakes. Spray the ammonia around the areas where you’ve noticed snake activity. For an amplified effect, soak a rug, blanket, or some rags in ammonia then place it into an open bag. Place this bag near the area with the most snake activity.
Vinegar: As a snake-repellent, vinegar is most effective for use around bodies of water like ponds or swimming pools. Pour a dose of white vinegar around the perimeter of the bodies of water you’d like to get rid of snakes in.
How to Keep Snakes Away from Yard
After you manage to get rid of the snakes from your yard, keep the snakes away for good by following these tips:
Reduce Presence of Snake Prey
If you have a problem with snakes in your yard, it may be due to having a large population of the animals that they see as prey, such as rodents and birds. Reducing the population of these animals will keep snakes away by eliminating this attractive source of food.
To reduce the presence of rodents, keep your yard clean and free of food or trash that might attract them. This includes any birdfeeders you have in your yard as rodents like to feed on the fallen seed. Eliminate any spots that they could use to hide, such as in piles of wood or an unsecured shed. If you already have an infestation of rodents, cover up the entryways to their burrows and set up mouse traps to get rid of them. Call a professional pest control company if the infestation is particularly severe.
Encourage Presence of Snake Predators
You can keep snakes away from your yard by encouraging the presence of animals that are their natural predators, such as foxes and raccoons. You can use fox urine around your outdoor spaces as an organic snake repellant if you live in an area where foxes are indigenous. Other animals that keep snakes away include cats, pigs, Guinea hens, and turkeys.
Keep Grass and Plants Short
Remove inviting sources of shelter for the snakes by keeping your grass and plants as short as possible. Keep up with a regular mowing schedule, mowing the lawn short enough that the blades don’t bend to form arches. Try to keep any other plants in your yard as short and pruned as possible to keep snakes away.
Trim Shrubs and Bushes
Overgrown shrubs and bushes also provide ample shelter for snakes. If you want to keep snakes away but don’t want to get rid of your shrubs completely, keep them trimmed back as much as possible. Make sure that the bottoms of the shrubs are cut as high off the ground as possible.
Trim Overhanging Tree Branches
Keep snakes away from your yard by trimming back tree branches that overhang into your yard. Snakes are very skilled climbers and will be able to enter your yard by climbing up nearby trees and dropping off their overhanging branches.
Remove Long Weeds
Long weeds also provide ample shelter for snakes, so get rid of the weeds in your yard to keep snakes away. Rid your yard of crabgrass, chickweed, dandelions, and any other invasive and wide-spreading weed that your lawn or garden is growing. This can be done with the use of an appropriate herbicide or by using alternative organic methods of weed removal. Pay particular attention to the areas along any fencing you have around your yard, using a weed whacker to remove larger areas of long weeds and overgrown grass.
Water Lawn Sparingly
Stick to a frugal watering schedule by watering your lawn and plants only when they need it. More frequent watering sessions will encourage your grass to grow longer, which is a condition that you want to avoid when trying to keep snakes away. On top of this, excessive watering can attract other creatures like frogs and toads to your garden, which can in turn attract hungry snakes.
Keep Yard Level
Reduce the amount of standing water in your yard by keeping it level to eliminate potential water sources that would attract snakes. If you notice that puddles form on your lawn after it rains, you should level your yard by filling in the divots with topsoil.
Eliminate Cool and Dark Hiding Spaces
Keep snakes away from your yard and property by removing the spaces they tend to seek out and hide in. This includes any cool, dark, and damp places like cracks, crevices, or holes in your outdoor spaces and on the exterior of your property.
First, inspect the exterior of your property carefully looking for cracks or holes that you’ll need to fill in. Remember to look over your guttering, piping, and any ventilation ducts, and replace damaged screens on doors and windows.
After securing the exterior of your property, look around your yard for similar spaces. If possible, remove woodpiles from your yard and instead store wood in securely sealed wood boxes. If you have an open compost heap, replace it with a sealed compost bin. Also, remove any dense piles of mulch that are accumulating in your yard like mulched leaves, woodchip mulch, or straw mulch.
Secure Yard with Snake-Proof Fencing
Keep snakes away from your yard by either installing snake-proof fencing or snake-proofing your existing fence. The best material to use for a snake-proof fence is a tight wire mesh with openings of ¼ or less, installing this onto a fence made of tight wood slats.
If installing a new fence, install your chosen fencing at an outward angle of 30 degrees. Fit the fence with a layer of tight wire mesh, making sure that the mesh reaches a minimum of 6 inches deep into the ground and 30 inches up the fence.
If snake-proofing an existing fence, install a layer of tight wire mesh onto your current fencing. To fully proof your fence, fit the top, outside, and the edge of the fence with a slick material such as metal flashing. This will cause any invading snakes to lose their grip on the fence and fall back to the ground.
Secure Fish Ponds
Secure your fish ponds with mesh fencing to keep snakes away from your pond. Snakes that love water will invade your fish pond and feast on your fish, so a small fence around the pond will block them from getting in. You should also keep the plants and grass surrounding your pond trimmed short to remove potential snake hiding spots.
Lower Humidity in Shed or Garage
Lower the humidity in your shed or garage to discourage snakes from taking up residence there. Snakes love dark and humid environments, so a humid shed is the perfect home for them. As the majority of snakes thrive when the humidity of a space is between 40 and 50%, monitor the humidity in your shed or garage to make sure it’s well below this amount. Use a dehumidifier in these spaces to reduce humidity if necessary.
Feed Pets Indoors
Feed your pets indoors to keep snakes away from your yard. Pet food left outdoors will attract rodents, which in turn attracts snakes to feed on them. It’s also best practice to store pet food indoors if possible. If you have to store your pet food in an outdoor shed, keep it in a tightly sealed rodent-proof container. The same goes for any stored grass seed or bird feed in your shed.
Lay Gravel or Similar Uneven Ground Covering
Cover areas of your yard with gravel or a similar material to keep snakes away. Other natural materials include holly leaves, eggshells, or pine cones. Having a rough ground covering deters the snakes as they need smooth, grassy surfaces to move around comfortably. This will also make it easier for you to spot any snakes lurking in your yard.
Create a DIY Snake Repellant
Create a DIY snake repellant out of a substance that naturally repels snakes, such as sulfur, clove, cinnamon oil, or vinegar. Spread your chosen repellant in the areas that you’ve noticed snake activity, as well as around the perimeter of your property and yard.
Plants that Keep Snakes Away
You can further snake-proof your yard by planting certain plants that keep snakes away. These plants have a strong odor and bitter taste, and cause irritation to the snakes’ bodies when they come into contact with them.
Clove Basil: Clove basil is also known as the scent leaf and behaves as a potent snake repellant. You can also spread the essential oil made from this plant in the areas with high snake activity as a direct snake repellant.
Garlic and Onion: Most creatures are repelled by the scent of garlic and onion, including snakes. When the snakes slither over these plants, the odorous oily substances they exude stick to the snakes’ bodies. This substance behaves like a snake pepper spray, disorienting them and repelling them from the substance’s source.
Marigold: Not only does marigold help to keep snakes away, but it also works to repel other garden pests like moles, slugs, and chiggers.
West Indian Lemongrass: West Indian Lemongrass is a plant that belongs to the citrus family, having a strong odor that repels snakes.
Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (Snake Plant): Mother-in-law’s tongue is a plant with sharp, pointed leaves. This plant repels snakes as they dislike its appearance.
Pink Agapanthus: Pink Agapanthus is a snake-repellant plant that belongs to the onion family.
Cactus: Snakes tend to avoid areas with spiky or thorny plants, making cactus an effective plant to snake-proof a yard. The cactus species best suited for this purpose is Large Opuntia.