All regions of the United States have their own native species of snakes that can wreak havoc on unsuspecting homeowners. However, most homeowners don’t seem to realize that they might be accidentally attracting these snakes to their own yards without even knowing it.
Here are seven key things that might be attracting snakes to your yard:
- A high population of rodents and birds
- Presence of tall grass and plants
- Cool and damp places
- Leaving out old cat and dog food
- Composting near your home
- Sources of water
- Free access to your yard
The first thing you want to do is to figure out why the snakes are invading your yard in the first place. So, we’re going to be describing in detail what exactly attracts snakes to your yard and what you can do about each of these causes.
1. High Population of Rodents & Birds
Plenty of species of snakes can survive in the wild without having immediate access to food for weeks or months at a time. However, most snakes prefer to eat a few times per week to once every few weeks.
The specific diet of snakes will depend on the exact species and location, but many snakes feed on mice, other small rodents, and birds.
That’s exactly why a majority of snakes are likely ending up on your property. What’s most interesting is that you might not even know that your yard has become home to mice and rodents, mostly because you won’t ever see or hear them during the daylight.
Most mice like to make themselves home in empty fields and spaces, though some prefer wooded areas and shrubs. Mice usually build burrows beneath the ground where they hide from their natural predators, including snakes.
How to Fix It
One of the best ways to tell that mice have overrun your property is by scouting out your yard. If you have a mouse infestation, you’ll probably notice holes or burrows in the ground or even mouse droppings. Sometimes mice even leave visible tracks in grass that can help you find their holes.
To get rid of the snakes from your yard, you’re going to have to make an effort to get rid of the rodents like mice first. The best way to do this is to clean up your property and make sure you don’t have any old food or garbage lying around that’s attracting the rodents in the first place.
However, one of the best ways to get rid of the mice is to make your yard less desirable to them. Here’s how you can do that:
- Hire an exterminator. Even if the mice haven’t yet penetrated your home, shed, or garage, they might slowly be working toward that in the future. One of the best ways to get rid of the mice is by hiring a professional exterminator that’s skilled in pest removal.
- Using mouse traps. If the issue seems to be only a few mice, it might be a good idea to cut costs and just use baited mouse traps. The best way to use mouse traps is by setting them up near walls, as mice dislike being in completely open spaces.
- Get rid of their hiding spots. Even though mice tend to burrow, they also might hide in piles of wood or even in your shed if they can dig their way in. Try to block any visible entrances to structures and get rid of any hiding spaces that a mouse can use.
- Cover up their holes. The mice are staying in your yard because they have somewhere to call home. You can block the entryways to their holes with rocks or bricks to either force them to continuously dig new holes or just find somewhere else to live.
If mice and other rodents were truly the cause of your snake infestation, you should begin to notice a lower population of snakes once you handle the mouse issue. This can completely remove the main food source for snakes.
2. Presence of Tall Grass & Plants
Snakes will seek shelter just about anywhere they can find it, but many species of grass snakes prefer to spend their time in tall grasses and plants.
This is the perfect place for snakes to hide from predators through camouflage, sneak up on prey like mice, and even make themselves at home in your yard. Tallgrass is also the reason you might not know you have snakes in your yard until you finally get bit by one.
How to Fix It
When it comes to controlling the snake population in your yard, the most important thing you can do is to keep up-to-date with lawn care. By getting rid of their camouflage, they’ll be less interested in making your yard their home. Let’s go over exactly what that may entail!
- Keep your lawn short. Your goal when cutting your lawn should be to get rid of any hiding places that snakes can find. The blades of your grass shouldn’t be arching over enough where a tunnel is created, and it would be difficult to notice a snake slithering through.
- Make sure to weed whack. If you have fencing installed around the perimeter of your lawn, it’s pretty likely that you have long weeds and blades of grass along your fence. Make sure you’re trimming these areas with a weed whacker to keep snakes at bay and from developing habitats.
- Be careful about watering your lawn. The more you water your lawn, the more often you have to cut it. However, watering your lawn in excess also attracts animals like frogs and toads, which snakes sometimes eat when rodents aren’t available to them. Get rid of their food source, and you’ll get rid of them in no time.
- Keep bushes and shrubs trimmed. You don’t have to entirely remove the bushes and shrubs from your property, but you need to trim them enough so that there’s no connection between the shrub and the ground. This takes away some hiding spots in your yard.
As much as keeping your lawn and bushes manicured will keep snakes away, it’ll also improve the appearance of your yard and reduce the population of some types of insects. Better yet, mice will be less likely to invade your yard as well.
3. Plenty of Cool & Damp Places
Just like any species in the animal kingdom, snakes also have a preference when it comes to their ideal living environment and climate. In fact, the exact species of snake and physical environment will determine its ideal climate. When in the ideal range, a snake is able to better control its body temperature and thermoregulation.
Since snakes are cold-blooded, they actually prefer to spend the majority of their time in cooler, more humid, and darker environments. This gives them the chance to cool down and take a break when on the hunt.
This is the exact reason that you might find snakes hiding out in your bushes, woodpiles, garage, or shed. Each one of these is an easy source of shelter for a snake.
How to Fix It
To get rid of snakes that are hiding out in cool and damp areas of your yard, you need to make each of these locations even less desirable as a snake habitat. That means specifically targeting cave-like areas of your yard. Here’s how you can do that:
- Clean up any open spaces. Any area of your yard that’s cool and damp is a potential home for those unwanted snakes. That includes pool noodles, piles of rocks, and woodpiles. Make sure to clean up your yard, so snakes have nothing to hide in or under. If you need to leave these items outdoors, keep them far away from your home and at the back of your property.
- Lower the humidity in your garage or shed. Snakes might be attracted to the structures on your property if they notice that they go unused and are usually dark and humid. Since most species of snakes will thrive in conditions where humidity is between 40-50%, it might be a good idea to use a dehumidifier in your shed or garage to keep your humidity at a low level that’s less than ideal for snakes.
- Fill any foundational gaps. Any area of your yard that mimics the climate of a cave is exactly what a snake is looking for. Foundational gaps or cracks in your home, garage, or shed, are just about the perfect home for many snake species. Simple gaps in your foundation can easily be filled with a putty knife and some cement mix.
When snakes can’t find their ideal climate to survive at your home or yard, they’re much more likely to go elsewhere. Make it a point to get rid of their ideal living arrangements, and they’ll be gone before you know it.
4. Leaving Out Old Cat & Dog Food
Whether you have an outside dog, an outdoor cat, or barn/feral cats on your property, you might find yourself leaving out bowls of dog and cat food for hours or days at a time.
While this provides your pets with the food that they need to survive in the outside world, you also might be inviting snakes to your yard unintentionally.
That’s because rodents like mice and rats are attracted to the meaty ingredients and scents that come along with pet food.
When you leave the food out for longer periods of time, mice will begin to swarm and feed on this food as normal. With more mice in your yard, you’re also triggering a greater snake population.
This doesn’t just apply to pet food – but to any food that you may be throwing outside.
How to Fix It
Now, the obvious solution would be to feed your pets only indoors. While this might be an option for some people, it’s just not feasible if you have strictly outdoor animals that have never been accustomed to eating indoors.
Let’s go over some new ways to keep mice and snakes away from your pet food outside.
- Develop a feeding schedule. Though you might like your pets to be able to eat at all hours of the day, this is practically an open invite to any mice or rodents looking for a snack. Make sure to put out small bowls of food at certain times of the day and bring in the bowls after a set period of time. Just don’t leave bowls out.
- Clean up any crumbs. Even if your dogs or cats are known to lick their food bowls dry, there still might be residual crumbs sitting in the bowl. Do your best to hose down the bowls when your pet is done eating if you plan to leave the bowls outdoors.
- Keep the food bowls away from structures. As we mentioned in a previous section, mice don’t like to go more than a few feet away from a wall or a structure. That means a mouse is much less likely to venture out to your dog or cat bowls if you place the food bowls toward the middle of your yard.
- Don’t store pet food outdoors. Even in a sealed bag, pet food is simply calling mice over to your home. It doesn’t take all that much effort for a rat or a mouse to dig through the bag and feast on your dog’s food. Keep all bags of containers of pet food inside.
If at all possible, try to feed your pets inside. It might take a little time to get your dog or cat used to eating indoors, but it’ll definitely help to keep mice away and reduce your yard’s snake population.
5. Composting Near Your Home
This one gets often overlooked but it’s directly in line with leaving out old pet food. You simply can’t just throw food out your back door onto the ground, as this will invite all sorts of problems (raccoons, possums and other critters included.
If you are composting (keep doing it, you’re awesome), do it in a designated area away from your home.
Again, the main problem for us arises when mice and rodents come looking for this compost pile. They most certainly will seek it out for a free meal.
How to Fix It
Make sure you’re composing as far away from your home as you reasonably can. Of course, don’t put the compost pile on your neighbor’s yard but instead, place it at the other end of your property.
If you’re in a rural area, then you may have a little bit more land to play with where you can most definitely keep your compost pile many yards away from your home.
If you truly want to keep your compost pile near your home, then a good option may be to look into a compost bin with a very tight seal. This will allow you to compost at will while keeping many of the scents and smells of the compost itself tucked inside the bin.
You don’t have to smell the compost AND rodents (followed by snakes) will have a harder time finding it.
6. Sources of Water
Unfortunately, there are several species of snakes that seem to prefer and thrive in wet environments, including the all-too-common garter snake.
That means you might be housing snakes in your yard every time it rains, and puddles begin to form. Some snake species even like to hang out around water sources in order to stay hydrated.
If you have a small body of water on or even near your property, there’s also a pretty good chance that there’s a decent population of water snakes. Though they like to spend a lot of time in the water, they also venture out onto land occasionally
Water snakes tend to be a lot larger than the typical grass snake and can cause a lot more damage and risk to your property.
Snakes also have a field day if you have a birdbath in your yard. Not only do birdbaths give them a fresh source of water, but they also attract birds, which are a source of food for many types of snakes. This is also the case with fish ponds.
What’s even worse is that some snakes like to swim in the water to cool down, even if they aren’t considered water snakes. With that said, any source of water on your property is ideal for snakes in some way.
How to Fix It
It wouldn’t be realistic to recommend filling in your lake or your pond to keep snakes away, as they’ll probably find their way onto your property anyway with large amounts of rain.
With that said, there are a few things you can do to reduce the accumulation of water on your property and keep snakes away. Here’s how you can do that:
- Fill in lawn holes. Next time there’s a huge storm, take a mental note of where the puddles seem to form. These are areas where the grass or land is uneven and allows the build-up of water. Use dirt or soil to even out your land to reduce the formation of puddles.
- Raise your birdbaths. Though many species of snakes can climb trees with ease, raising the height of your birdbaths and keeping bids at a distance can reduce the chances of a snake finding its way into your birdbath. Raise your birdbath, if possible.
- Keep fish ponds snake-free. Fish ponds are a great source of food for snakes that love water. To keep snakes from eating your beloved fish, it might help to build a small fence around your pond that a snake won’t be able to climb over. You might also want to trim the grass and plants around the pond, so snakes don’t have anywhere to hide.
Ultimately, you obviously can’t stop water from forming on your property during heavy rainstorms. But, there are quite a few things that you can do to limit a snake’s drinking water. A snake ideally wants a home that has food, shelter, and water.
7. Free Access to Your Yard
A lot of times, snakes end up in yards because they can get into the yard. Once they notice that your property is the prime source of food, shelter, and water, they make themselves at home and begin to settle in. Unless you’re actively trying to keep snakes out of your yard, you’re likely unintentionally inviting them in.
That means you need to take the effort to block their access to your yard in every way possible.
This can usually be done with some form of specialized fencing, but it can prove to be a little difficult if your yard or property is particularly large
The extra fencing can be worth it, however, especially if it does keep snakes away from your property;
How to Fix It
The trouble with keeping snakes out of your yard is that they can easily squeeze through tiny holes in fencing and structures. That means you need to install a specific type of fencing with certain characteristics to be most effective at keeping snakes away. Here’s what you need to know about snake fences:
- Dig trenches. Since snakes can wriggle their way under most common fences that simply meet the ground, you want to install fencing that penetrates the ground a little bit. This is made possible by digging a trench, installing the fence, and then filling in the trench with dirt. You might even want to use concrete to prevent them from digging under the fence permanently.
- Make sure there are no holes. Any gaps between panels or sections of fencing should be minimal and prevent even the tiniest of snakes from slipping through. You might want to use some form of tape or sealant to close up any holes that exist in your fencing to prevent them from sneaking in.
- Keep items and plants away from fencing when possible. Snakes are a little sneaky, sometimes able to climb trees, poles, and other objects to get a little height. Make sure there’s nothing a snake could use to climb over your fence when you’re in the installation process. The last thing you want is a snake falling onto your property from above.
Keep in mind that a regular fence or a chain-link fence just won’t cut it when you really want to keep those pesky snakes out. There are specific guidelines for the ideal snake fence, so don’t cut corners or costs in an attempt to take the easy or cheap way out.
Putting It All Together
Now, there’s a pretty good chance that snakes are attracted to your yard for several of the reasons that we reviewed above.
That means there’s no one direct way of keeping them out, so you might have to implement many changes to keep them away for good. This can help you to tackle the issue from all angles and speed up the removal process.
The ultimate goal is to leave snakes uninterested in your property altogether.
Though you might just want those pesky snakes out of your yard for good and as soon as possible, it’s going to take a little time and effort on your part to figure out why they’re invading in the first place.
Once you figure out why they’ve chosen your yard as their new home, you can make the changes necessary to get rid of these snakes once and for all.
After all, there’s no one set way of getting rid of snakes!
Weatherhead, P. J., Sperry, J. H., Carfagno, G. L., & Blouin-Demers, G. (2012). Latitudinal variation in thermal ecology of North American ratsnakes and its implications for the effect of climate warming on snakes. Journal of thermal Biology, 37(4), 273-281.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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