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Take steps to reduce chance of finding snakes in your yard

Posted: June 10, 2012 - 12:15am

No other creatures provoke the feelings that snakes do. Some people are attracted to them, while others are repelled by them. Some people are intrigued by them, and others are seized by an overwhelming urge to kill them.

I have friends who, when they see snakes, become so terrified that they can’t do anything, while others have to investigate to see what type of snake it is.

Georgia has an abundance of snakes, with close to 50 species. One reason so many fear snakes is because they worry they might be venomous. The majority are nonvenomous or harmless.

There are six species of venomous snakes in our area: the Eastern coral snake, Micrurus fulvius; copperhead, Agkistrodon contortrix; cottonmouth, Agkistrodon piscivorus; pygmy rattlesnake, Sistrurus miliarus; timber rattlesnake, Crotalus horridus; and Eastern diamondback rattlesnake, Crotalus adamanteus.

Snakes are adapted to a wide range of habitats, including dry areas, wet areas, ponds, lakes, rivers and in yards. Nonvenomous snakes are best left alone as they provide control of unwanted pests like mice, rats and other rodents. Venomous snakes control pests as well, but they can be a danger to people and should be removed if found in areas where people are present. In Georgia, snakes are protected and should be left alone when possible.

I receive numerous inquiries about how snakes can be kept out of yards. The first step is to make the yard unattractive to snakes. Snakes like places that are overgrown and weedy, piles of boards, logs, brush and rock piles. These areas provide habitat for their prey and provide cover for the snakes to hide from their predators.

The first step is to reduce the cover. This can be accomplished by mowing the lawn to recommended mowing heights, which will also help the lawn do its best. Also, remove brush piles and piles of leaves and pine straw. Overgrown shrubs around the home can be another hiding place for snakes. Shrubs need to be pruned properly and kept clean and free from debris. It is best to keep the shrubs pruned so they are not touching the house or buildings. Also, do not over-mulch the plants. Mulch that is too thick provides a hiding place for snakes.

There are some species of snakes that live in the ground or right at the soil surface. These are worm snakes and earth snakes. They will get about 12 inches long when they are full grown. They eat earthworms, slugs, snails and insects that live in the soil, so they can be left alone under the mulch.

Wood piles are another great place for snakes to hide. Wood that is used for heating homes should be stacked at least 12 inches off the ground. This will reduce the hiding places for snakes and their prey. Also, any other objects need to be off the ground as well. If these wood piles or other objects are touching the outside walls of the house or buildings, move them so they are at least 12 inches away.

The next step is to remove the food source of snakes. If mice or rats are a problem, control them and there will be fewer snakes in the area. If there is a pond, stream or other body of water close by, it will be hard if not impossible to remove the food source, but the number of snakes seen can be reduced by keeping the banks around the body of water clean and mowed.

There are a number of products that are sold to help repel snakes. Some of them have on the label that they repel only certain types of snakes. Others say to make sure that the area is completely free of snakes before applying the product. If these products work and the area has snakes in it, then the snakes will be trapped in the yard. But research at different colleges has shown that the repellents are not that effective.

There are no guarantees that if these practices are followed that no snakes will be seen. However, these practices will reduce the possibility of finding snakes.

Charles Phillips is a retired Columbia County Extension Service agent and operates Hort Consulting. He can be reached at cphillipshort@comcast.net, or at (706) 836-2152.

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