How to Keep Snakes Out of Your Yard

snake in a yard

“Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?”–– Indiana Jones, one of the greatest action heroes from the early 80s, didn’t like snakes, so you don’t have to either. If the mere sight of these crawling creatures brings you a combination of fear and repulsion, and you want to learn how to keep snakes out of your yard, this article is for you.

Snakes are an essential part of the ecosystem. Having them around can even be beneficial for getting rid of pests like gophers. However, they can also cause serious injury or death to people or pets, depending on the type of snake.

If you don’t want to wait to find out if they are a real threat, we will tell you how to prevent snakes from coming near your yard, what to do in case they come in, and how to identify them.

How to prevent snakes in your yard

The most important way to prevent snakes from coming into your yard is by making your property unsuitable for them in the first place. 

Snakes are attracted to the same things we are: food, water, and shelter. You can drastically reduce the chances of them paying you a visit by eliminating these things.

Eliminate food sources

The first thing you need to do is make sure that your property has no food sources for snakes. 

Snakes are carnivorous and eat small rodents, lizards, frogs, slugs, and birds. For that, be sure not to leave behind a dirty yard or trash that will attract these animals, which will ultimately attract snakes. 

If you already have a rat problem, you can set up mouse traps to eliminate them before the snakes come hunting. 

You also want to avoid leaving pet food outside, which can attract mice or other small animals that snakes can eat. The same goes for bird feeders–– it’s best to avoid them if you don’t want any serpents around your yard.

Get rid of standing water

standing water in yard
Photo Credit: Infrogmation of New Orleans | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Snakes love water, so if your yard has water features or a place where water pools when it rains, then there’s a chance that snakes will find it and make themselves at home there.

If you don’t want this happening in your yard, ensure all your gutters are clean and functioning so that water doesn’t sit anywhere for too long.

Snakes also like ponds or pools where they can swim and hide from predators who might want them for dinner, such as eagles. So, cover up your swimming pool at night and avoid having ponds, bird baths, and any other water source, if possible. If getting rid of your pond is out of the question, keep it clean, so it doesn’t become murky.

Remove shelter

You can make your property more snake-unfriendly by removing their shelter in your landscape. Snakes like to live in cool, dark areas, so get rid of any debris that might be inviting for them, such as piles of leaves, old branches, and wood piles.

They also like to hide underneath rocks or logs, so these hiding places mustn’t be in your garden.

You should also ensure that all trash cans have tight-fitting lids on them so that there aren’t any spaces where snakes can find shelter from predators or humans. If they don’t have somewhere to hide, then they will not be able to stay in your yard for long.

Mow your lawn

mower mowing a lawn
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Snakes love tall grass and weeds because it makes them harder for predators like owls and hawks to find. 

For that, mowing your lawn frequently will facilitate snakes’ natural predators’ jobs, which means fewer snakes will be able to get cozy in your yard.

Trim bushes and trees

Suppose you have removed the piles of leaves, old branches, logs, and rocks and mowed your lawn. The snakes will have no option but to climb up.

Trim bushes and trees to eliminate any remaining hiding spots.

Help natural predators

You can also help the natural predators that prey on snakes by installing a perch pole. Perch poles are basically poles drilled into the ground in strategic locations around your yard, and the best part is you can DIY.

Birds like owls and hawks will perch on these poles, giving them a place to sit while they hunt for food. That will also help keep the snakes away.

Get snake-proof fencing

A snake-proof fence is usually made of galvanized welded wire mesh and buried at least 6 inches deep into the ground. They’re also slanted outward, so snakes will have more trouble climbing through. Please ensure that no trees or vegetation near the fence allow the snakes to climb over it.

If you already have a fence in your yard and don’t plan on getting a new one, make sure there aren’t any crevices or gaps where snakes and other critters could get through.

Beware of snake repellents

Cinnamon leaf oil
Photo Credit: Gayandusmantha | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

There are several potential natural snake repellents available that homeowners use nationwide to repel snakes. However, there isn’t much scientific evidence regarding their effectiveness; some can even be harmful. 

You can try pouring some natural essential oils or white vinegar around the areas you want snakes to be away from since these materials won’t hurt you or your loved ones. Still, there’s no guarantee they’ll work. Here are some examples:

  • Cedar oil
  • Cinnamon oil
  • Rosemary oil
  • Garlic oil
  • Pine oil

Warning: Do not use mothballs. They contain naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene. Although these chemicals are commonly used to repel snakes, they can harm humans (especially children) and are ineffective against snakes.

Tip: Sulfur is another product commonly used to repel snakes, but evidence suggests it is ineffective so it can be a waste of your money.

How to get rid of snakes

snake moving in a yard
Photo Credit: Sayjack | Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Snakes can be sneaky, and even though you may have done everything in your power to keep them out of your yard, sometimes they just find a way.

Don’t let your fear of snakes win because there are some ways in which you can get rid of them once they are already in your yard. 

Spray the snake with a hose

Spray the snake from afar with a steady stream of water; they will usually move along, seek shelter, and even feel discouraged from returning to your yard.

Get a glue trap

A glue trap is a device designed to trap animals in place. The animal gets stuck to the sticky substance and cannot get away. You can easily find these traps in different sizes at your local hardware store. 

Set up the glue trap in an area where snakes are known to roam, and don’t forget to check it every day. Once you’ve trapped the snake inside the trap, call a wildlife or animal control company to remove it. 

Use smoke

Smoke irritates snakes’ sensitive eyes and noses, so you can try using a fire pit to make them run away from your property.

Warning: Be careful not to place your fire pit or anything you use to produce fire/smoke near combustibles or electrical installations.

How to differentiate between venomous and nonvenomous snakes

The only thing more terrifying than a snake is a venomous one. Here’s a helpful guide on how to tell apart these different types of snakes:

Venomous snakesNonvenomous snakes
Triangular headsOval heads
Vertical slits for pupilsRound pupils
FangsNo fangs
Keeled scalesSmoother scales
Their tails can end in a rattle, but not alwaysTail tapers to a thin end, never with a rattle

Common venomous snakes

  • Rattlesnake: colors range from brown to black, with hexagonal scales; will rattle its tail when threatened.
  • Coral snake: red, yellow, and black bands across their bodies.
  • Copperhead snake: they have dark brown rounded markings on their bodies.
  • Cottonmouth snake: also known as water moccasins; usually brown with white mouths that open wide when threatened.

Common nonvenomous snakes

  • Gopher snake: gray or brown bodies with black or brown spots; imitates rattlesnake, but is not dangerous to humans.
  • Garter snake: black with three white stripes down their bodies.
  • Rat snake: dark bodies, skilled swimmers, and climbers.
  • Kingsnake: frequently confused with coral snakes; they have red, black, and pale bands down their backs.

FAQ about snakes

What time of the day are snakes most active?

Snakes are most active in the early morning and dusk, but during summer, they may get too hot during the day, so they are more active at night.

Do mothballs actually keep snakes away?

Mothballs do not keep snakes away, as multiple scientific studies show. In addition, the chemicals contained in it are harmful to humans and pets.

When to call a pro 

Connect with a local lawn care pro who can mow, control weeds, remove leaves, and clean gutters to make your yard inhospitable for snakes. With a little planning and work, your yard can become more snake-proof, and you’ll be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy it. 

However, don’t hesitate to contact a wildlife or pest control company specialized in snake removal if you see a venomous snake slithering in your yard. Don’t put yourself at risk of getting a snake bite unnecessarily.

Main Image Credit: Sayjack | Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Maria Isabela Reis

Maria Isabela Reis is a writer, psychologist, and plant enthusiast. She is currently doing a PhD in Social Psychology; and can't help but play with every dog she sees walking down the street.