Home > Great Big Greenhouse Blog > July 2015 > BONNIE'S GARDEN--Snakes--Bad Guys or Good Guys?

BONNIE'S GARDEN--Snakes--Bad Guys or Good Guys?

I’ve talked to three customers this past week wanting to know how to get rid of snakes.  So I thought I’d do a little research and here is what I’ve found.  Most repellents don’t work.  Some repellents may work on one or two species of snakes—but not all of them.  And they don’t work on Copperheads.  Sorry, but mothballs don’t work—and mothballs release toxic chemicals into your soil.  Most repellents don’t work on snakes because strong odors don’t repel them—they don’t use their sense of smell like we do.  They use it more to gather information about the surrounding environment—food sources, water sources, etc.  Some people say crushed eggshells or gravel works, but snakes have dry tough scales.  They can slither over broken glass—a few eggshells won’t bother them.

Remember, most snakes are just passing through enroute to someplace else.  If some are definitely hanging around, then what does work?  Well, there are two things…

Number One—If you have snakes in your yard, then you have a bigger problem than just snakes.  You have a food source—you have a healthy population of slugs, crickets, etc., mice, rats or other rodents.  You want to get rid of the snakes?  Get rid of the food source.  Remember, snakes are actually good guys in the garden.  They eat the rodents and insects that destroy our yards and our plants and the mice and rats that are eating our insulation and gnawing on our power cords.

Number Two—While snakes are predators, they are also prey for bigger birds and other creatures, so they like to move about where they are partially hidden—among tall grass, for example.  Keep yards and empty fields mowed.  Keep wood or rock piles away from the house.

While there are around 35 species of snakes in Virginia, only three are venomous—the Timber Rattlesnake (which is more prevalent in the mountains, not here), the Cottonmouth (aka Water Moccasin)—which tends to be found near water sources slightly east and south of here—and the Copperhead.  The Copperhead is the most prevalent venomous snake in Virginia.  So what are our chances of actually getting bitten by a venomous snake?  Well, according to UVA’s Health System, over 31,000 people called the Blue Ridge Poison Center last year.  Only about 80 had anything to do with venomous snake bites. 

So what do we do if we accidentally cross paths with a snake in our yards?  Well, learn to identify what a venomous snake looks like (so many innocent snakes have been killed because people “thought” they were venomous.)  Then remember that snakes are shy and would far rather avoid you rather than interact.  Most people get bitten when they are trying to kill or trap a snake because the snake perceives it as a threat.  Best advice, leave it alone and back away.  Once you’re ten or fifteen feet away, then you can grab a hose and shoot a stream of water at it.  That will usually startle it enough to make it move.

As for me?  Well, in the twelve years I’ve been in this house, I have seen two snakes in my yard—one was a rather long black snake who was sunning himself on my patio.  As soon as he saw me, he made tracks.  I never saw him again.  The other snake was a little green one that lived one summer in my crape myrtle.  He was about as big as a drinking straw and I gingerly picked him up and moved him to a different branch when I was getting ready to prune out some deadwood.  For those who don’t know, snakes are actually smooth and dry.
Posted: 7/6/2015 by Bonnie Pega | with 0 comment(s)
Filed under: repellents, rodents, snake, snakes
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