Why Snakes Won’t Travel Far From Their Nest (What it Means)

snake eggs in nest

Snakes! For some people, the word strikes fear into their hearts, while others are completely fascinated. Whether you fall into either category, when you see one near your home, you might wonder where it came from, and where it’s headed.

Snakes generally don’t roam far from their residence. When they find shelter, warmth, food, and a water source they tend to stick close by. If you see a snake on your property, chances are it has a nest somewhere close by either in a brush pile, an abandoned animal burrow, or inside your house.

While these slithering reptiles are vitally important to the environment, we understand why you don’t want them getting too close. There are ways to encourage snakes to move on and take up residence elsewhere without resorting to harmful tactics.

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Where Do Snakes Make Their Nests?

Eastern Garter Snake on hiking trail

Most snakes, with the exception of the gopher snake, and a few others, don’t dig out their own nests. Instead, they look for places they can hide away and feel safe in.

Different snakes like varying places of shelter; some snakes like bodies of water, while others like to hide out in rocky outcroppings, or hollowed-out trees.

After snakes eat something they need to find a place of shelter to hide out and digest their meal. Just like us after a huge meal (Thanksgiving dinner anyone?) snakes get sluggish and drowsy.

While they are digesting these big meals, they are most vulnerable so they will seek out shelter to rest and let their meal settle.

Snakes Like Hollow Trees And Logs

Believe it or not, snakes actually have a lot of predators and are afraid of animals that are larger than they are. That includes humans!

Though some snakes are more aggressive than others, their first line of defense is to get away as quickly as possible.

Snakes will seek out small shelters where they can feel safe and rest without worry. Some like to find hollow, rotted-out trees and logs.

Snakes Seek An Environment That Will Regulate Their Body Temp!

These places offer shelter from the outside and protection from most predators such as hawks and owls.

Rotted trees and logs are also usually warmer inside because of the decomposition. When materials break down, they put off a small amount of heat, which is perfect for a snake!

Since snakes are ectothermic—cold-blooded—they rely on their environment to regulate their body temperature. Rotted logs and trees are a great place for snakes to hide out, nest, and stay warm and protected.

Snakes Love Loose Leaf Litter

Snakes feel most comfortable when their nest or home covers them. Most species especially like to feel the ceiling of their residence on their backs. Leaf litter fills out these requirements nicely.

Thick piles of leaf litter can house plenty of insects, rodents, frogs, and other food sources for snakes. This is another reason snakes like to use piles of leaves as a nest.

Leaf litter is a good insulator. It takes in the warmth of the sun and holds onto it during cool nights, which also helps to keep the snakes warm. Just another reason they like to hide out there.

Keeping your leaves raked, or mulched and spread out will help limit this type of hangout. A clean, managed yard limits the possibility you’ll have many snakes nesting on your property.

Garden Beds Are Good Hiding Places For Snakes

Mulch can elevate the look of a well-maintained yard, but if you’re applying too much, you could be inviting snakes. 

Overly thick mulch beds often attract insects and rodents. Voles especially love a thick mulch bed because they can burrow through it and find food.

These in turn start attracting the snakes who are looking for an easy meal, and a great place to hide. 

Chipmunk and vole burrows are perfect for snakes. The snake can slither in undetected, stay hidden and wait for an unsuspecting rodent to get too close.

Ways To Keep Rodents And Snakes From Bedding In your Garden

One way to avoid rodents and snakes from bedding down in your garden beds is to keep from laying extra thick layers of mulch.

Limit your mulch beds to 3 to 4 inches deep max. This way you still get the benefits of mulch but make it less likely to attract rodents and snakes.

If you’re terribly concerned about snakes in your mulch, you can use something like gravel as mulch instead. Just use something that is smaller and has a rough feeling as snakes don’t like to slither on sharp surfaces.

Marble chips, crushed granite, and lava rock are great choices. Just be sure to use small rocks. Large stones can actually provide hideaways and holes snakes are attracted to.

Snakes Will Nest In Old Animal Burrows

“It’s extremely difficult to dig in the dirt without limbs,” (Snakes everywhere). When they find abandoned animal holes, snakes can quickly move in.

If you’ve had rabbits, gophers, chipmunks, or other burrowing animals on your property you may still have holes and tunnels around. Unless you filled them in after running those pests off, snakes could quickly take up residence.

Snakes love these places because they provide plenty of shelter from the elements, and a place to rest without worry. They can also brumate (reptile term for hibernation) in old animal burrows.

Snakes Use Old Animal Burrows For A Few Reasons

When female snakes are ready to lay eggs, they will often search out protective areas such as old animal burrows.

Some snakes search out animal burrows because food is inside. Gopher snakes for instance will dive into gopher holes or chipmunk holes in search of their favorite meals. Once they have evicted the previous tenants, they can stick around for a while.

According to Stanford University, the gopher snake can stick around in the burrow for up to a week after eating a meal.

Snakes Like Protective Porches And Patios

While snakes can often be found basking on warm rocks, or on the road as they try to warm up, they also seek out shady areas to cool off and hide. Our big deck, porch, or patio can be perfect places for a snake to chill.

These areas have very little traffic—how often do you crawl under your porch? These areas are cool, damp, and shady, which helps them regulate their temperature when the summer sun is baking the earth.

These areas can shelter animals snakes will eat such as frogs, toads, lizards, and insects. Not only can areas under porches be a great shelter for snakes, but they can be a buffet as well.

Tall Grass And Weeds Can Shelter Snakes

I’ll never forget the time—way back in the day when I was an elementary school kid—I came across a snake in the tall grass. In the back yard, before the woods, was a patch of grass nearly as tall as I was.

In my daily exploration of the yard, I picked up a rake. The handle was just sticking out of the tall grassy area, the head was deep in the weeds. When I hefted the rake to the heavens I saw a small ribbon of scales intertwined in the tines.

My eyes bugged out, I might have shrieked, and I tossed the rake as far as my tiny arms could throw it. I then ran for the house. My day of exploration was finished.

Snakes like tall grass because they can hide in it from predators. It’s hard for hawks and other predators to see snakes when they are hidden in tall grasses and weeds.

These areas attract rodents as well. Wherever there are mice and rats, you can bet that snakes will soon follow.

Other Places Snakes Will Hide

Snakes will hide out and nest in small places they can fit their entire body. This includes rock piles, wood piles, and yard debris.

Take a look around your property, if you see anything that has small cracks or crevices, there could be a snake hiding in there.

Storage sheds are another place snakes like to nest. There are a lot of dark hiding places, and little cubby holes they can squeeze through to hide away.

Why Don’t Snakes Travel Far From Their Nests?

Western diamondback rattlesnake in a high S defensive position with tongue out on dirt road in Arizona.

Snakes don’t like to travel. They aren’t creatures that like to explore because they’re bored. Instead, they will stick close to an area they are familiar with, especially if it has everything they need.

Most snakes will only travel in search of food or a mate, but once they find shelter, food, and water, they’ll make themselves comfortable and stay put.

Some snakes do travel a long distance. The rattlesnake, for instance, can travel up to a mile in search of a mate or nourishment, but most times, snakes won’t go nearly that far.

What other reasons will keep snakes from traveling far from their nest?

1. Some Snakes Take Care Of Their Eggs

Most snakes don’t have a shred of maternal instinct. Often they will lay eggs somewhere and leave them. 

Snakes can lay eggs in compost, leaf litter, loose soil, or other places they will stay warm and protected, and then they take off to do other snake things. Some snakes on the other hand will stick around for a little while.

These snakes will protect their eggs and nests at least until they hatch. Once the babies hatch, then the mother bids them good luck and disappears. So, some snakes won’t travel far because they are defending their babies.

2. Snakes Don’t Like To Leave Home

When snakes find a good shelter, they don’t want to leave it. If you see a snake around your house, then chances are good that it has a nest or place of shelter nearby.

When snakes feel protected, they’re not going to go very far. Hawks, foxes, skunks, other snakes, and even Fido and your precious kitty may go after snakes. Because of this, they want someplace where they can feel safe.

When snakes find a good shelter, they’ll stick around, and not travel far away.

3. Young Snakes Will Travel

While some snake mothers will stick around for a few days or a few weeks after the babies are hatched, most baby snakes slither out into the world to make their own way.

Snakes are born with survival instincts. They know how to hunt, how to get away from predators, and how to hide. They don’t learn much from their mothers.

4. Some Snakes Like Company

Most snakes are solitary creatures. Larger snakes have been known to eat smaller snakes. Sometimes even mother snakes will eat their young!

Many species of snakes are better off by themselves, but there are some snakes that do better with others.

Garter Snakes

Garter snakes are one species that often seek each other out. Especially when it’s time to hibernate.

In certain areas of Canada, thousands upon thousands of garter snakes will emerge from their rocky dens when spring arrives.

They gather in these huge numbers to hibernate and help to keep each other warm during the frigid Canadian winters.

Rattlesnakes

Rattlesnakes are another snake species that will den together.

While out in the open, they tend to avoid each other, and while searching for shade or shelter, several snakes can often be found grouped together.

Now that you’re sufficiently “creeped out” by all the places snakes can gather. How do you get rid of them?

How To Get Rid Of Snakes That Are Nesting Near Your Home

Garter Snake Forked Tongue Flick Black Background

Snakes don’t actively seek out your home so they can terrorize you.

The reason snakes are getting too close or coming inside your house is either by accident, or there’s something they are looking for.

You’ll have to figure out why snakes are attracted to your property for one, then go about making it less attractive to these slick reptiles.

Keep Your Grass Short

Mowing your grass frequently is one of the best ways to keep snakes away.

According to the Utah State University Extension, snakes feel exposed in short grass because they are spotted easier. Snakes are less likely to move through or hang out in short grass because it increases their exposure.

Regular lawn maintenance and getting rid of any overgrown areas are some of the best ways to keep snakes away or send them packing.

This will also deter mice, rats, and other animals snakes are attracted to. When there’s nothing to eat, snakes will look for easier places to find meals.

Clean Up Messy Areas

Much like mowing your grass, keeping your yard and property as neat and organized as possible will keep snakes away.

Getting rid of any brush piles, raking or mulching leaves, and keeping your firewood neat will reduce the places snakes can hide.

If you have a shed or outbuilding, keep it organized, and visit it often. More traffic and neat, organized areas are places snakes want to avoid.

Fill In The Critter Holes

If you had or have a problem with burrowing animals, you should try to get rid of them and then fill in the holes.

Burrowing animals such as voles, moles, gophers, and others are creatures that snakes like to go after.

When these animals live on your property, they will attract snakes. It’s not only important to get rid of these animals, but you’ll have to fill in their burrows as well.

When the burrowers are gone, the snakes could simply move into the holes and stay there.

Get Rid Of Rodents

By keeping rats and mice away, you’ll drastically reduce the number of snakes patrolling your yard.

Things that attract rodents include tall vegetation, bird feeders, pet food, and tiny holes and cracks in your foundation.

You don’t have to get rid of the feeders or your pets, just clean up after them, and remove them at night. Birds don’t feed at night, and if the pet food isn’t laid out, you won’t have a bunch of nighttime visitors.

Fill In Cracks And Holes On Your Property

Mice and rats will also try to get into the warm shelter of your house, so go around your home and fill in any places they can enter.

Cracks, holes where pipes and wires enter, as well as gaps around doors and windows can let mice and snakes into your home.

Once the rodents are gone, snakes will move on to richer pickings.

Block Access To Your Porch And Patio

Closing in the area under your porch and patio will keep snakes and other animals out.

We often leave these areas open or cover them with something decorative like lattice. While this often looks great, it provides easy access for snakes.

Cover the area with exterior plywood and add an access door so you can get in while keeping snakes and other critters out.

Use Strong Scents To Repel Snakes

Snakes have a strong sense of smell. They need to in order to search out their favorite foods. So use that extrasensory sense of smell against them by using odors they hate.

While there seem to be many scents that may deter snakes, the most effective scents are clove and cinnamon oil.

MAJESTIC PURE Clove Essential Oil and MAJESTIC PURE Cinnamon Essential Oil can be used separately or together to help repel snakes. Just add a few drops of one or both to a spray bottle and spray wherever you have noticed snakes, and where you want to turn them away.

Use Cotton Balls Too!

You can also soak cotton balls in the essential oils and place them strategically around to keep the slithering snakes out.

If you’re interested in learning more about snakes and the smells they dislike, check out our article on smells that snakes hate. Here we have listed a snake’s 12 most-hated scents, and how to use them!

Reach For Snake Repellants

There are a lot of snake repellants on the market that will do the job if you just can’t seem to get rid of them.

For more information about the best snake repellents check out our article on the best sprays to repel snakes. Here we list the best sprays on the market, to help get rid of snakes for good!

A Little Word Of Caution!

Snakes are fascinating creatures that help to keep rodent populations down and serve as a vital part of the environment.

While they are creepy looking, they don’t deserve to be hurt just because they exist.

When you see a snake in your yard, don’t reach for it to pick up, and don’t reach for for sharp garden tools, or instruments of destruction, instead grab the garden hose. Giving a snake a spray of water from your hose is enough to send them slithering quickly away.

Now, if you have a snake inside your house, or on your property it’s important to call a professional pest company to humanely remove the snake for you, and help you come up with a plan to tackle your snake problem.

Wrapping Up And Recapping

Snakes are afraid of us and don’t want to be around us. But once they have found a nice place to stay they tend to stick close to that home. The reasons snakes don’t travel far from their nests include:

  • They’re taking care of their eggs
  • Snakes don’t want to leave their shelter
  • Food is nearby
  • There are other snakes nearby and they are about to hibernate

When you’re trying to repel and get rid of snakes on your property, use these tips to send them away:

  • Fill in any cracks or animal burrows
  • Mow your grass and keep it low
  • Clean up yard debris
  • Block access points
  • Get rid of rodents
  • Use repellants

Hopefully, you don’t have to deal with snakes on your property, but if you do, you now know what to do and how to handle the situation.

References:

Towers, Steven R., and Richard G. Coss. “Confronting snakes in the burrow: snake‐species discrimination and antisnake tactics of two California ground squirrel populations.” Ethology 84.3 (1990): 177-192. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1439-0310.1990.tb00796.x

Santos, Xavier, et al. “Habitat suitability, threats and conservation of isolated populations of the smooth snake (Coronella austriaca) in the southern Iberian Peninsula.” Biological Conservation 142.2 (2009): 344-352. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006320708004230

Carpenter, Charles C. “Comparative ecology of the common garter snake (Thamnophis s. sirtalis), the ribbon snake (Thamnophis s. sauritus), and Butler’s garter snake (Thamnophis butleri) in mixed populations.” Ecological Monographs 22.4 (1952): 236-258. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1948469

Woodbury, Angus M., and Dale D. Parker. “A snake den in Cedar Mountains and notes on snakes and parasitic mites.” Herpetologica 12.4 (1956): 261-268. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3889832 

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