Image credit: Fyn Kynd Photography

Author: Trisha Miller  •  Date: June 30, 2016  •  Appears in: Community, News

Summer Means Snakes - What You Need To Know

It’s estimated that snake bites kill over 100,000 people each year. However, this only makes up a fraction of actual bites that take place annually: 5 million instances of snake bites are reported each and every year. About half of the victims happen to be bitten by a poisonous snake. Many of these attacks happen in our very own backyards. Of course, finding a snake lurking around your home can be scary and dangerous for children and pets. Before you try your hand at repelling, removing, or trapping any snakes from your yard - know the basics. Every home gardener should know how to identify common snakes and determine if they are poisonous or not. Not to mention, how to get them to immediately vacate the premises.

Common Garden Snake Characteristics

Luckily, many snakes found in gardens and yards are not poisonous - at least not to humans. Common garden snakes are frequently referred to as “garter” or “gardener” snakes. These breeds of snakes are usually quite “skinny” looking and have long stripes down their backs, usually in a faint green or yellow color. Garter snakes are usually no wider than a couple of inches across, if that, and don’t grow more than a couple feet long.

Garden snakes are inherently docile. They can emit a nasty smell when they feel threatened, but they will not usually go out of their way to attack something that doesn’t look like prey. Snakes are cold blooded which means that they need the heat of the sun in order to get moving. So, they will be most active during the day. They may hide in the shade when the heat peaks in order to cool down, but they are either on the move hunting for food or will sleep in a den awaiting their next meal. Remember, most snakes are afraid of humans and aren’t waiting to attack. They just do what comes natural in order to survive. 

What to Do When You See a Snake

Do not ever grab a snake with your bare hands. No matter how accurate you believe yourself to be, this is how many accidents happen. Snakes are built for speed and precision. A snake can strike in the blink of an eye and we might not even see it coming. So, the best thing to do is to leave the snake alone. Back away from the animal and identify it from a distance if possible.

How to Know if It’s Poisonous

Nature has a wonderful way of giving us the upper hand. Most things that don’t want to be touched will let us know through striking patterns and bold colors. However, there are no golden rules with animals. Breeds can differ quite a lot in color, patterns, shape, and size. There is no one “trick” to tell you with 100% certainty if a snake is venomous or not. Only a trained professional will be able to do so.

With that being said, there are a few characteristics that reign true with many snakes. Most poisonous snakes are larger, brighter, and more distinctive than non-venomous snakes. The head of a poisonous snake is commonly triangular as opposed to circular or oval shaped. The coloring on poisonous snakes varies, but often includes colors like bright yellow, black, red, and orange. Lastly, snakes that are a singular color are frequently non-harmful. A snake with varying pattern and intense color are a force to be reckoned with.

How to Get Rid of Snakes in Your Yard or Garden

Determine why the intruder has decided to stop by in the first place. These creatures are very deliberate about picking a place to hangout. Snakes are very attracted to rodents and other similar critters. They help to keep the overpopulation of rats and mice to a minimum. And it just so happens that such small animals love to call our gardens and backyards home.  If you start to find evidence of an infestation of rodents in or near your home, that is the problem and it needs to be dealt with immediately. Removing the rodents from the area will send the snake packing when they start to run out of a steady food source.

Small animals like rats or mice will burrow in tall grass or around debris. The best way to get rid of them without harming the animal or your garden is to keep your yard as clean as possible. Remove any materials that could be appealing for the animal to use in building a nest. If that doesn’t work there are some nonlethal repellents that can be placed around the entry point of a rodent's nest. If the issue continues to persist contact a professional such as animal control at once.

Snakes can actually be quite beneficial to a local eco-system. Unless the snake is a danger to yourself, your animals, or children, it may be best to just leave it be in order to keep animal populations under control. Snakes are intelligent creatures driven by instinct that will mostly keep their distance and respect the space of humans. As long as you know what to look for your garden will remain a safe and bountiful place all summer long.

Feature Image Credit: Fyn Kynd Photography

Trisha Miller


Trisha is a freelance writer from Boise, ID. She is a dedicated vegan who promotes an all-around healthy lifestyle. You can find her on twitter @thatdangvegan and check out her blog
Read more by Trisha Miller

Add new comment

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.