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It’s not uncommon to find snakes hiding in wood piles, crawl spaces, or tall grass around your home. Though most snakes are harmless, they can pose risks to your health and property. An unexpected snake encounter is less frightening when you know what to do, and this comprehensive guide will help. We rounded up tips on how to get rid of snakes in your home or garden—and when to call for professional help.
Signs of Snake Infestation
The most obvious sign of a snake infestation is spotting a snake or its eggs. However, snakes often conceal themselves using camouflage or secluded hiding places, so sightings are relatively rare. Here are a few signs that snakes have taken up residence in or around your home:
- Droppings: Snake droppings resemble bird poop in color and texture, but they’ll likely be larger and may contain hair and bones from their last meal.
- Pet behavior: If you have pets, you may notice a change in their behavior. They may seem anxious or unusually focused on a particular area where a snake might be hiding.
- Rodent population: A sudden decrease in rodents and other small animals on your property could indicate a snake has been hunting nearby.
- Snake skins: Snakes shed their skin as they grow, so you may find discarded skins in your garden or near their favorite hiding spots.
- Slithering trails: You may see slither tracks in sandy or dusty areas.
- Unusual noises: You may hear a hissing sound coming from a dark place or a rustling noise in leaf debris or tall grass. Rattlesnakes make a distinct buzzing noise.
Health and Safety Risks
According to the CDC, about 7,000 to 8,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes in the United States each year. Venomous species in the U.S. include copperheads, rattlesnakes, water moccasins (also known as cottonmouths), and coral snakes.
Most species of snakes in North America—including rat snakes, kingsnakes, and garter snakes—are nonvenomous. Nonvenomous snakes are not necessarily harmless, and their bites can still require medical attention. Snakes can also carry salmonella bacteria.
Snakes will not harm your landscaping or garden, nor do they cause structural damage. However, they could pose a threat to pets and livestock by eating their eggs and young and causing snake bite injuries.
DIY Snake Removal
If you would like to deal with your snake problem yourself, here are a few do-it-yourself (DIY) methods.
Exclusion devices are appropriate for indoor infestations where a snake has moved into your crawl space, attic, cellar, or walls.
To use one-way doors and other exclusion devices, you must first identify any entry points snakes have used. Then, find a product meant for snakes and install it over the main entry point. Make sure to install one-way doors facing the correct direction so that snakes can move out but not in. Seal any other entry points.
The ideal time to install an exclusion device is during the day, when snakes are least active. Once you’ve installed the device, leave it in place for a month or longer. Snakes brumate (their version of hibernation) in winter, so if you install a one-way door or screen in the fall, leave it there until late spring.
Repellents and Deterrents
Many natural and commercial products are touted as snake repellents. However, few are backed by scientific evidence. For instance, mothballs are a commonly recommended option, but naphthalene, the active ingredient, is not toxic to reptiles. Sulfur is also ineffective against snakes.
Though many snake repellent products don’t work, snakes do avoid certain plants and smells. They dislike the feel of holly plants and the smell of marigolds, lemongrass, and plants in the allium genus—including onions and garlic. Planting these in your lawn or garden may repel snakes. You can also spray a solution of clove and cinnamon oil or pour undiluted white vinegar to keep snakes away.
Other options include motion-activated sprinklers and ultrasonic devices that stake into the ground and emit periodic pulses to deter snakes. The effectiveness of these products varies.
Professional Snake Removal
Professional snake removal can be a convenient and humane solution to a snake problem, whether you reach out to your local animal control or hire a pest control company.
When to Hire a Professional
Some snake infestations are beyond the scope of DIY methods due to the scale or the species involved. It’s best to let experts handle a large snake infestation or venomous species. Some regions have specific regulations governing snake removal and restrictions protecting certain endangered species. You might also call professional help if the snakes are located in a hard-to-reach area.
Before hiring a professional, research the best pest control options in your area. Ask friends and family for recommendations and browse online reviews for Orkin, Terminix, and other companies. Verify licenses and certifications and make sure the company you hire has specific experience with snake removal.
What to Expect from a Professional Service
Professional snake removal begins with an inspection. The technician will identify the type of snake, its entry points, and the extent of the infestation. They will then proceed with removal or exclusion methods. This could involve one-way doors, snake-proof fencing, snake traps, or hand capture.
After snakes have been removed, the technician may remove snake skins, droppings, and other signs of an infestation. They will also provide tips for keeping snakes away in the future. The cost of pest control services depends on the company, their methods, and the complexity of the job.
How to Prevent a Snake Infestation
It may be difficult to keep snakes off your property entirely, but you can keep them outside and reduce the chances of a full-blown infestation. Here’s what to do.
Seal Gaps or Openings in Your Home
Look for cracks in your foundation, gaps around windows and doors, unsealed vents, and other openings. Use caulk, mesh, or copper wire to close these entry points securely. Many snakes are good climbers, so inspect your chimney and roof, too. If you need help identifying entry points, contact a professional exterminator or schedule a home energy audit. Anywhere air can get out, a snake can get in.
Maintain a Clean and Clutter-Free Environment
Make your property less appealing to snakes by keeping grass mowed and bushes trimmed. Use small gravel or river rocks for landscaping rather than large rocks or mulch, which snakes use for nesting, breeding, and sheltering during winter. Remove woodpiles and other clutter that could be a hiding place.
Remove water sources, such as birdbaths, and take steps to control the rodent population. If you get rid of mice on your property, you eliminate a snake’s main source of food. Keep bird feeders away from your home, feed pets inside, and avoid overwatering your lawn.
It may be impossible to completely snake-proof your property, but take action if you find evidence of them in your living spaces or suspect that a dangerous species is present. You can attempt to remove snakes yourself using DIY methods such as exclusion devices, but identify the type of snake first. Most species are harmless, but venomous snakes should be handled by professionals. Large infestations are also best left to the pros.
How to Get Rid of Snakes FAQ
What are snakes afraid of?
Snakes are afraid of their natural predators, which include large birds of prey, cats, raccoons, and foxes. They’re also frightened by loud noises and sudden movement.
What can you do if you see a snake in your yard?
If you see a snake in your yard, observe it from a safe distance. Note the size, color, and markings. Keep pets and children away. If you’re unsure of the type or believe it to be venomous, don’t handle it yourself. Call animal control or a local exterminator.
What is the best way to kill snakes?
It’s best not to attempt to kill snakes. Consider humane alternatives, such as using a garden hose or broom to encourage the snake to relocate. Check the PETA and Humane Society websites for more ideas.
How We Chose the Top Pest Control Companies
Our pest control research process starts with analyzing customer reviews on third-party websites such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB), Trustpilot, and Google Reviews. We then do a deep dive into each company’s website, service plans, and available cost information. We also secret shop the companies we review, reach out to representatives, and request quotes.
From there, we compile the information we’ve gathered and compare each company using our in-depth pest control methodology and review criteria. This process uses a series of factors that are important to our readers, and we score each company depending on how well they perform in each factor. For instance, companies that offer more guarantees for their service earned more points than others, and pest control plans with a larger range of covered pests earned more points than ones with fewer.
After analyzing dozens of residential and commercial pest control businesses through this process, we were able to determine the best pest control companies on the market.