Snakes can be a helpful part of our ecosystem, but that doesn’t mean you want a group of them slithering around and hiding in your yard. While many snakes look to mind their own business, some species can be aggressive if approached, which is why dealing with this pest can be a challenge if they’ve decided to call your yard home.
Here are 7 reasons snakes don’t want to leave your yard:
- Your lawn is overgrown
- Excess moisture
- You have a rodent problem
- Your pets eat outside
- You have snake-friendly landscaping
- Your woodpile is unprotected
- Unsealed entryways or cracks
Let’s dig into some additional information about common snakes and the reasons they might be attracted to your yard. We’ll also give you some tips on how to reduce the amount of snake activity based on the likely reason they came to your yard in the first place.
Most Common Backyard Snakes
According to The University of Pittsburgh, there are over two thousand different species of snakes in the world, and some of them are more problematic and more dangerous than others.
Depending on your location, the type of snake you encounter may be different, but here are five common backyard snakes that can be found across the United States.
1. Garter Snakes
We can find Garter snakes throughout most of North America and live in a variety of different habitats that can include woodlands, fields, and–you know it–everyday homeowner’s gardens and yards.
Garter snakes are usually harmless, but they have enlarged rear fangs that contain a small amount of venom, which can assist them in killing their prey. Lucky for us, their usual dinner meals include worms, frogs, lizards, and rodents.
Garter snakes are usually harmless, but they do have enlarged rear fangs that contain a small amount of venom that can assist them in killing their prey. Lucky for us, their usual dinner meals include worms, frogs, lizards, and rodents.
If you’re interested, you can learn more about where snakes go specifically during the winter if you’re finding them during the chilly season.
2. Water Snakes
Water snakes make their homes near–you guessed it–water. If you live near a lake or pond, or any other body of water, don’t go into panic mode yet.
Water snakes aren’t venomous and will usually feed off fish, crayfish, frogs, worms, or other small creatures that can be found in shallow waters.
While generally harmless to humans, they still can bite. Water snakes can grow up to nearly five feet in size, which can startle even the toughest folks if you were to come upon one of these snakes in your backyard with no type of warning.
We had one of these in our pond (actually many of them throughout the years.) I’ve been bit by one, it’s mostly like you really stubbed your toe on a rock pretty dang hard!
Water snakes can vary in color, including gray or brown, but may also have red or black hues in their scales. These snakes have darker spots throughout the rest of their body as well, so they have an increased chance of being misidentified as copperhead snakes (more on that one to come.)
3. Gopher Snakes
Gopher snakes aren’t venomous, but their scale pattern and coloring can cause some people to confuse or misidentify them as rattlesnakes.
Gopher snakes can range in size from three to seven feet and have a base color that ranges from yellow to dark brown, with darker brown spots throughout their body. When threatened, this snake can inflate its body and shake its tail, adding to the confusion and likelihood of this snake being misidentified.
These snakes prefer drier homes like meadows, fields, and farmlands, all of which are the perfect environments for them to get their fill of rabbits, mice, and maybe even a few occasional lizards and insects.
4. Copperhead Snakes
Copperhead snakes are a part of the pit viper species, making them venomous predators. If you get bitten by this snake, you’ll need an anti-venom.
Copperheads generally have a brown or gray main body coloring with darker, circular markings throughout their body. These snakes rarely grow to be over three free long, including their tails, which are yellow when they’re young.
These snakes can be found in a mixture of environmental landscapes, including forests and woodlands, but they can also be found in swampy areas.
This difference in environments and the creatures they may encounter means copperhead snakes feed on a variety of pests, including caterpillars, mice, voles, and more.
One of the more well-known named snakes on our list, rattlesnakes are a part of the pit viper species as well, making them a venomous snake, and are mostly known for the distinctive rattle on their tails.
While these snakes prefer their habitats to be nearby rocky areas for coverage from their predators, they can also be found in areas like deserts, marshes, and prairies.
With this range in temperature and overall environment, rattlesnakes can prey upon several pests, including mice, rats, rabbits, squirrels, and other small animals.
Despite being the leading cause of snake bites in the US, rattlesnakes rarely bite unless they are provoked or threatened.
To help reduce your likelihood of a bite from a rattlesnake, keep an eye out for snakes that are shades of brown, gray, and black, with underlying tones of yellow or white. These snakes will also usually have blotches markings some say look like diamonds, along their sides and back.
You can learn more about identifying rattlesnakes, along with other snakes, in our guide on the noises that snakes make!
Why Snakes Aren’t Leaving Your Yard (And How To Fix It)
When dealing with snakes, keep in mind that many snakes, whether or not they’re “backyard snakes”, normally aren’t confrontational unless approached. So, if you notice these creatures slithering around your yard or nearby in the area, there’s likely a reason for their presence.
You can learn more about what attracts snakes to your lawn in our list about what snakes like and how to avoid them!
An Overgrown Lawn Is Providing Snakes Shelter
Snakes like to have ample ground covering to help them stay hidden from their predators, so a healthy, long lawn is the perfect covering for these reptiles to move around and go unnoticed by both their prey and predators alike.
In addition to your lawn, if you have other areas of your yard or garden that have become overgrown with weeds or if you have shrubs or other vegetation that hang low to the ground, these plants are providing additional cover for snakes to get around and hunt their food unnoticed.
How To Fix It
To help keep snakes away, or at least make them more visible, keep your grass length short by keeping your lawn maintenance on a routine schedule.
While maintaining a healthy length is important for the development and growth of your lawn, be mindful that if you skip a cut over the weekend that you may want to watch your step next time you run your mower.
For your other shrubs and vegetation that may grow lower to the ground, consider trimming these plants up a few inches so that they don’t touch your grass.
Keeping your bushes and other plants properly trimmed will help improve the overall health of the plant, but also eliminate additional hiding places for snakes!
Also, don’t worry – one snake doesn’t ALWAYS mean another.
Excess Moisture Is Keeping Snakes Around
Many snakes love damp environments, even if they aren’t known as water snakes.
With water though, it’s an attraction to many other pests as well and some creatures, like insects and frogs, may live in or nearby it. Since these pests are a part of a snake’s healthy diet, snakes are more likely to be attracted as well.
If you have a water display in your landscape, have an area in your yard that may be susceptible to flooding, or your property isn’t far off from a body of water, you may see increased snake activity in your yard because the excess water is attracting their favorite food.
How To Fix It
We can’t do too much about the river in the back of your yard, but we can help minimize other areas of water buildup in your yard.
To help reduce or eliminate excess water in your yard or on your property, we recommend our readers inspect both their interior and exterior drainage systems to ensure that they’re in proper working order.
For example, are there any leaky pipes or blocked drainage systems? If so, see if you can remedy the issue by repairing or replacing leaky pipes. Other areas to check will include cleaning blocked rain gutters and improving any water drainage systems that may be in your home or on your property.
If you have a pond as a part of your landscaping, fountain, or another running source of water in the display, consider if it’s truly a necessity.
Don’t get us wrong, we all love the soothing sound of a bubbling brook or a running waterfall, but this extra water could be the reason for snakes and other pests being attracted to your yard.
You Have A Rodent Problem That’s Giving Snakes A Meal
Many common backyard snakes will feed on mice, rats, and other small rodents. If you have any level of rodent activity on your property, your yard is essentially offering an all-you-can-eat buffet to snakes – and they won’t turn down an easy meal.
Now you might think: “What’s the problem with an extra snake or two in my yard if they’re helping to keep mice away?”
It’s true – one snake in your yard may not be a problem, and some folks may even consider snakes to play a key role in the elimination of their rodent problem.
Once snakes realize that they have constant access to a food source in your yard, though, they’re not likely to leave on their own, and one snake can quickly turn into many if you aren’t proactive about handling the underlying rodent problem.
How To Fix It
To help keep snakes away, you’ll need to monitor what type of rodent activity is going on in your yard and how high of a level or infestation you might have so that you can effectively put into place corrective measures to minimize the activity.
Placing live traps may be an alternative method to handling a rodent problem and will help reduce the activity in your yard, but if you have both a rodent and snake problem in your yard, don’t shy away from the idea of reaching out to your local pest professional for assistance.
Dealing with rodents can be a challenge if you have a large infestation, so throwing another pest like snakes in the mix may not be something that one person can take on by themselves without the proper tools for the job.
Your Pets Eat Outside And Are Spilling Food
Snakes aren’t the ones that will go after the leftover dog food in Fido’s outdoor bowl, but it is an attractive meal to other pests and rodents that snakes are happy to eat up.
We know we talked about rodents being a reason you may see more snake activity in your yard, but leaving pet food outside and even having too many bird feeders in your yard could attract small rodents and other animals that snakes eat regularly.
How To Fix It
To help reduce the likelihood of additional squirrels, chipmunks, and other small rodent or animal activity in your yard, bring in any leftover pet food (or people’s food) that would typically be left outside.
Consider removing unnecessary bird feeders from your yard and cleaning up any feed that may have been thrown to the ground during a squirrel leap to the feeder as well.
If you keep bags of seed outside, consider using an airtight container like Vittles Vault Pet Food Storage Container so that pests can’t access the food in the container either.
If you can reduce the amount of extra food available to the smaller critters that snakes eat, the critters will go elsewhere, and the snakes will follow their meal right out of your yard.
Snake Friendly Landscape Materials Are Providing Snakes A Home
Snakes love large rocks and mulch–both of which are commonly used in landscaping displays across the country.
Using large rocks in your landscape attracts snakes because the rocks provide hiding opportunities for the snake to go unnoticed by predators. However, these rocks can also serve as a potential breeding ground if they decide to stay for the long term.
Mulch, while it may be uncomfortable for some snakes to move around on with its sharp ends, is a greater attraction for chipmunks and other small rodents to make their homes in.
While snakes won’t necessarily go burrowing in your mulch piles, they will slither over to your mulched area to make a meal out of the other creatures that made their home in the mulch or wood chips.
How To Fix It
Many of us consider gardening and landscaping a hobby that we enjoy, so we don’t want you to put down those shovels just yet. Instead of nixing your landscape ideas completely, consider ways you might alter your ideas to help reduce snake activity.
- Swap larger rocks for smaller, more tight-fitting rocks. If you swap your larger landscape rocks for gravel or similar, smaller landscape rocks, there is less coverage provided for snakes and no valleys of rocks for snakes to turn into their breeding grounds.
- Reduce the amount of mulch you’re using. Some folks love to pile mulch up and will have a foot of mulch around the base of their trees. Instead of piling the mulch up to such a great height, consider reducing the amount of mulch you use so that small rodents aren’t encouraged to make the area their home and fall prey to snake activity.
- Keep your landscape tidy. Don’t forget that snakes like to hide, so they enjoy the coverage of overgrown plants and weeds. If you keep your garden trimmed and weed-free, you’re not giving snakes any extra hiding places in your landscape.
- Reconsider your landscape pond or fountain. We know we already touched on this but consider this our friendly reminder to reconsider adding extra water to your yard and landscape areas so that snakes don’t follow their prey into your yard.
You can also try using some of the smells that snakes hate around these areas for more options!
An Unprotected Woodpile Is A Home For Snakes
Snakes are sneaky creatures, so an unprotected outdoor woodpile provides the perfect place for snakes to hide.
In addition to serving as a great hiding place from their predators, the wood also provides a place for snakes to stay dry during inclement weather and reduces their exposure to the elements during the colder months.
How To Fix It
If you have the room and ability to move your woodpile into a shed or outdoor building that isn’t your home, moving your woodpile will help reduce the number of hiding locations for snakes, and therefore the number of places that they can call their home.
We know that moving an entire woodpile indoors isn’t always an option though, so consider moving your woodpile to the perimeter of your yard if it’s a better-suited option.
While this won’t necessarily get rid of your snake problem completely, it will help reduce the level of snake activity in the more well-traveled areas of your yard while you determine if there are additional reasons snakes are calling your yard home.
Unsealed Entryways In Your Home Can Bring Snakes In
Snakes like to make their homes near heat or water sources, which your home or other outdoor buildings could provide for them during bad weather or during the colder months of the year.
Because of their size, snakes can often make their homes in places that some would think are too small, like in boxes or behind your appliances. However, their coil and slithering abilities leave very few places snakes can’t get to if they’re determined enough.
How To Fix It
To help keep snakes out of your yard (and home), check your buildings for cracks and crevices.
Seal any openings or entryways with caulk or weather stripping, and if you’re dealing with a larger area, consider covering the area with a fitted screen or fence like The Snake Fence Barrier so that snakes can’t make their way through (or around) it.
BONUS TIP: Closing off any cracks or unwanted entry points to your home will help reduce other pest activity in your home and exterior buildings as well!
Dealing With Snakes
Most people’s fear of snakes comes from the fear that snakes are venomous. While most folks won’t want to get close enough to determine the difference, Utah State University reminds us that venomous snakes have pupils that resemble a cat’s with an oblong shape and peaked ends.
Whether the snakes you spot in your yard are venomous or not, people still may not be willing to take the chance with an unknown level of snake activity in their yard, especially if they haven’t been able to identify the species, so explore snake activity at your own ability and comfort level.
When in doubt, don’t hesitate to call your local pest or wildlife expert in your area and they will be happy to work with you to determine the type of snake (s) you have in your yard, and the best course of action to remove them.
Arnold, S. J. (1977). Polymorphism and geographic variation in the feeding behavior of the garter snake Thamnophis elegans. Science, 197(4304), 676-678.
Cope, E. D. (1892). A critical review of the characters and variations of the snakes of North America. Proceedings of the United States National Museum.
Graitson, E., Ursenbacher, S., & Lourdais, O. (2020). Snake conservation in anthropized landscapes: considering artificial habitats and questioning management of semi-natural habitats. European journal of wildlife research, 66(3), 1-11.
Parkhurst, J. A. (2009). Managing wildlife damage: Snakes.
Soares, S. C., Lindström, B., Esteves, F., & Öhman, A. (2014). The hidden snake in the grass: superior detection of snakes in challenging attentional conditions. PLoS one, 9(12), e114724.
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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