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This Is The Secret To Keeping Snakes Out Of Your Garden!
Use these 7 tips and tricks to keep your yard free from any unwanted slithering guests during snake season!
By: Catie Kovelman, Updated 03/30/2022
According to warnings issued by the California Poison Control Center, we need to be prepared to say hello to increased rattlesnake activity now that we've said goodbye to Winter. Essentially, your chances of having an encounter with a rattlesnake are about to increase, especially as the weather continues to warm up. Per the government agency, approximately 300 rattlesnake bites that result in severe injury are reported each snake season in just Southern California. That said, rattlesnakes don't only live in sunny California. In fact, you can stumble upon a rattler pretty much anywhere in the Southwestern and Southeastern United States.
Picture This: You're relaxing in your backyard on a beautiful sunny day when suddenly you hear an ominous rattle. You look down, and a venomous rattlesnake is coiled at your feet, giving you the shock of your life! While this scenario may sound like something out of a horror film, it's a reality that many Americans have had to face, especially during the Summer months when snake activity is at its highest for the year.
Additionally, rattlesnakes are only one of four venomous species of snakes that reside in our country. Every year, approximately 8,000 people are hospitalized from venomous snake bites, with some bites resulting in fatalities. In recent years, snakes have been finding their way to urban areas, putting you, your loved ones, and your pets at risk if a surprise encounter occurs. Especially in states like California where there is extreme drought, venomous and non-venomous snakes alike are slithering into urban areas in search of resources and water. Luckily, you can take these 7 steps to keep snakes out of your garden or yard and be prepared if a venomous snake bite does occur.
Install snake proof fencing.
One of the easiest ways to keep your backyard or garden free of snakes is by limiting their access. Many people find that installing snake fencing is an effective way to do this. Snake fencing is usually made from vinyl or hardware cloth, and has mesh that is too narrow for sneaks to squeeze through. Skilled fence installers will typically put the fencing up at a slope or slant that ensures snakes will fall off if they try to climb the fence to enter your yard. Snakes do have some climbing ability, but this fencing can be installed in such a way to prevent snakes from getting a good grip. If you don't have the ability or desire to install a metal or wire snake fence, you may find success with a liquid snake fence or wild animal barrier. In addition, you could also try to utilize sharp leaves already in your garden to form a natural barrier.
Eliminate food sources.
The main reason snakes are invading suburban and urban areas is they are looking for the resources they need to survive, namely food and water. If a rattlesnake slithers into your yard, it's probably because he smells prey. Their main food sources are rodents, including mice and rats. If you have a rodent problem, you may find that addressing it will also stop snakes from coming onto your property. They'll realize they won't find food at your home and will move on to find their dinner elsewhere. In addition, don't leave pet food or your pet's water bowl sitting outside for long amounts of time. Even though pet food isn't typically in a snake's diet, it may still smell enticing enough for a potentially poisonous snake to pay you a visit.
Use snake repellent.
Many snake repellants are sold commercially that all claim to keep snakes out of your yard, and many are effective. However, you can also make your own snake repellant using natural ingredients. Snakes have an extremely strong sense of smell, and there are many odors that they will go out of their way to avoid. For example, snakes hate the smell of ammonia. Spraying ammonia in areas where you’ve seen snakes or soak a rug in ammonia and leave it out where any approaching snakes will smell it. Similarly, white vinegar can discourage snakes from approaching bodies of water, such as a swimming pool, when it’s sprinkled around the water’s perimeter. Many people also find success in mixing garlic and onions with rock salt and sprinkling the mixture around their home and garden, as the smells given off by garlic and onion will naturally repel snakes.
Smoke them out.
One way to get rid of snakes is to smoke them out. As we’ve already mentioned, snakes have an extremely strong sense of smell. They are particularly sensitive to smoke, so a fire pit could be just what you need to ward away snakes from your yard. Like many animals, snakes also have a natural instinct to avoid fire. Simply dig a small fire pit in the dirt and fill it with kindling and rocks. If you can safely, cover the pit with moss and leaves and let the embers smoke for a few days at a time.
As a disclaimer, do not build a fire pit if you can’t do so safely. Avoid building fire pits during red flag warnings, or when your area is at particularly high risk for fire danger. Always take precautions to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
Change your landscaping.
Change your landscaping to naturally repel snakes and get rid of ideal hiding places for our slithering friends. Snakes are attracted to garden debris, holes, overgrowth, and rocks. Therefore, keeping your grass short and eliminating large bushes or rock displays can help deter snakes. You can also utilize plants in your landscaping that naturally repel snakes, including marigolds, lemongrass, and wormwood. Try to include things in your soil that are uncomfortable for snakes to slither over, such as eggshells, pine cones, and holly leaves.
While you are perfecting your snake proof landscaping, make sure to eliminate any hiding places that will attract snakes around your home. Although rattlesnakes can survive in diverse habitats, rattlesnakes will always look for dark, damp places to rest because that is where they feel safe, such as cracks, crevices, and holes. Carefully inspect the exterior of your home for any cracks or crevices and fix any damaged gutters or piping, as snakes could use these paths to sneak into your house. If you have any outdoor wood piles, it would be wise to remove them. Also, be wary of compost or mulch piles, as these are often unattractive and are places where snakes like to hide. Keep in mind that areas with heavy underbrush around your property or on hiking trails you may frequent could become snake havens during rattlesnake season.
Know what to do if you find a venomous snake.
If you do happen to stumble across a venomous snake in your home or garden, make sure you know how to respond appropriately before you are put in that situation. If possible, walk away and do not try to touch the snake yourself. Ideally, give the snake at least 3 feet of space (if not more) to prevent the snake from feeling threatened and biting you. As almost 90% of snake bites occur when untrained homeowners try to deal with their slithering visitor on their own, you will likely want to call animal control to come get the snake for you. Depending on where you live, a venomous snake sighting is considered an emergency and you should call 911 for immediate assistance.
Plan for the worst and hope for the best.
Of course, the hope is that you and your family members are never bitten by a venomous snake. Teach everyone what to do during an unplanned snake encounter to try to prevent snake bites. But in the event a snake bite does occur, being prepared with a game plan of what to do and where to go will only benefit the bite victim. Make sure you know where the nearest hospital to your home is located, and if they have anti-venom in the event you or a person you love needs it. Do your best to stay calm, keep the bitten area still and raised, and remove any jewelry or clothing that could restrict blood flow as the extremity swells. Do not drive yourself to the hospital, and call 911 immediately for additional assistance or if you need a ride to the hospital. Do not use ice to cool the bite area, do not use a tourniquet, and never try to cut open the wound to suck out the venom.
If you're not sure what type of snake bit you, containing the snake or getting a picture of the snake for identification can be helpful for getting you proper treatment. However, only do this if you can do so safely, or else you may be dealing with multiple snake bites at once. If you are pretty sure you or a loved one has been bitten by a rattlesnake, you do not need to identify the type of rattler as all rattlesnake bites are treated in the same way. That said, many people leave a family member behind to watch the snake from a safe distance until animal control or the fire department can come remove the snake safely before it has the chance to bite someone else.
If you have pets, you can take extra steps to protect them from rattlesnake bites. Enroll your dog or cat in rattlesnake training that can teach them to stay away from snakes. If you have a dog, you can also get them the rattlesnake vaccine, which buys your dog time to get to the veterinarian and increases their likelihood of responding well to anti-venom. The rattlesnake vaccine provides protection against multiple kinds of rattlesnake venom, including Copperheads, Western Diamondbacks, the Western rattler (North & Southern Pacific rattler, Prairie rattler, Great Basin rattler), Pygmy rattlers, Massasaugas, Sidewinders, and Timber rattlers.
For more information on how to respond to animal snake bites and common pet emergencies during Summertime, click here!