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Controlling Snake Problems Around Homes
During warm months, when snakes are active and when most people see them, they are attracted to cool, damp shelter. Remove cover such as boards lying on the ground, rock piles, and weedy growth near buildings. Check around cement walks or porches for cracks or holes that might provide an entrance to snakes for shelter. Repair or close these access points so they can't be used.
If you have a woodpile for a fireplace or stove, make the stack away from the house. Wood can be moved near the house as needed during colder months, when snakes aren't active. Building a rack to hold the wood pile at least 12 inches above the ground also will discourage snakes because the wood (shelter) is separated from the cool, moist soil.
Check the base of storage sheds to see if snakes might crawl beneath for cover. If so, close off access beneath the shed with packed soil or building materials such as metal or 1/4-inch or smaller hardware clothe. To form a tight barrier against snakes, building materials should be buried about six inches under the soil. Although some snakes can push through loose soil, they can't dig or go through hard soil because they have no digging adaptations such as legs or claws. Snakes will use holes made by mice or other rodents, so controlling these rodents may be needed in some situations. Often, removing snake shelter and hiding spots also removes the habitat of insects and rodents that are snake foods, further reducing the attractiveness of the area to snakes.
It's also a good idea to check around the house foundation for cracks or openings where a snake or other unwanted guests (such as mice) might enter. Close all openings larger than 1/4 inch and caulk any gaps where surface wires or pipes enter. Holes or cracks in masonry foundations (poured concrete and concrete blocks or bricks) can be sealed with mortar. Holes in wooden buildings can be repaired with fine mesh hardware cloth and/or sheet metal.
Discourage snakes by making the area unattractive to them.
For rural homes, check to ensure that septic or sump pump drain tiles are not open outside. If the tile is open at the end, cover it with 1/4-inch mesh hardware cloth. Check periodically to ensure that the wire doesn't interfere with the tile drainage function.
Snake Proof Fence
Figure 2. Though fairly expensive, a properly constructed snake-proof fence can keep snakes from entering a given area.
Figure 3. This is a side view of a snake-proof fence to exclude snakes.
Various home remedies have been suggested for repelling snakes. Several of these were evaluated on whether they would repel black rat snakes (Elaphe obsoleta). Treatments included moth balls, sulfur, gourd vines, a tacky bird repellent, lime, cayenne pepper spray, sisal rope, coal tar and creosote, artificial skunk scent, and musk from a king snake (eats other snakes). None of these remedies prevented the snakes from crossing them.
Some sticky materials have prevented snakes from climbing to wood duck nest boxes when the materials were applied in 18-inch bands around the supporting poles. This technique might be appropriate if snakes are a problem at bird nest boxes mounted on poles, but otherwise is less practical.
Removal From Inside a Building. Snakes occasionally find their way into some homes, primarily basements. They are attracted by the warmth on cold days or the coolness on hot ones. They may enter through a hole around the foundation or through an open or loose door or basement window. Should this occur, you need to get them out, then close holes so they are kept out.
A good way to remove a snake is to sweep it with a broom into a large bucket, then take it outside to a distant place to release it or, if desired, the snake can be killed with a hoe or club. If you can't find the snake to capture it but think one is present in the basement, consider using the rumpled cloth or glue trap techniques described below in the "Traps For Inside" section.
Traps for Inside
Snakes in basements or crawl spaces and under porches or mobile homes can also be captured using rodent glue boards. Captured snakes must be humanely killed (for example, quickly with a hoe or club) or removed and released unharmed by pouring common cooking oil on them. The oil breaks down the glue and the snakes can be removed with a stick or pole.
One glue board arrangement, developed by James E. Knight at New Mexico State University, will capture even large snakes up to five or six feet long. Use a 1/4-inch plywood board about 16 x 24 inches. Tack or glue two to four rodent glue traps (or use bulk glue) along one side, and drill a hole, about 3/4 inch diameter, in an opposite corner (Figure 4). The hole allows removal of the board and snake using a hook on the end of a long stick. The edges of plastic-tray type glue traps may need trimming in order to provide a flat surface.
Figure 4. A glue trap to catch snakes indoors or under porches can be made by attaching rodent glue traps to a wooden board.
Use glue boards only indoors or under structures and only where children, pets, or desirable non-target wildlife can't reach them. The glue is messy and difficult to remove from animals. Common cooking oil helps remove the glue, but it's still a mess best avoided.
Traps for Outside
Another type of trap uses long drift fences (example: 25 feet long by two feet high) that guide snakes to a funnel-entrance holding cage. Drift fence traps generally are too cumbersome around homes but, if of interest, a design is available at Extension offices in the reference handbook, Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage, snake chapters.
Removal From Around a Home. Persistent removal of snakes encountered around a home can reduce their numbers effectively. Snakes can be killed with a long handled hoe or club and, where permitted, by shooting. When desired, nonpoisonous snakes can be captured and transported a distance for release into a suitable habitat.
Be alert to the behavior of your dog or cat and other animals. Observing their behavior in the presence of a snake will help you know how they behave when a snake is detected, and thus may provide you an extra snake alert.
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