When I arrived home one afternoon last week, my dogs ran up to see me. After I walked into the house, one of the dogs ran around the building and started barking.
This dog barks very little and only when something is in the yard.
As I watched him, he jumped back really fast. My first thought was that he had found a snake; he hates snakes.
He was bitten by a rattlesnake four years ago. Since then, he will find any snake that comes into the yard. He had cornered a 3-foot-long black rat snake. I caught the snake and released it outside of the dog's area.
I like having nonvenomous snakes around because they eat rodents, insects and slugs. Snakes have been very active lately because it is warming up. Because they are cold blooded, the warm temperatures make them more active. The number of calls about snakes has increased with them moving around more, and people working in their yards more.
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 a friend who is so terrified of snakes that if she is driving a car and a snake crosses the road, she has to pull over to regain her composure.
There are nearly 50 different species of snakes found in Georgia. One reason that so many fear them is because of venomous snakes. There are six species of venomous snakes in our area -- the eastern coral snake, copperhead, cottonmouth, pygmy rattlesnake, timber rattlesnake and Eastern diamondback rattlesnake.
So there is a chance that you will find a snake in any habitat that you go into. You will find snakes in dry areas, wet areas, ponds, lakes, rivers and in yards. Nonvenomous snakes are best left alone because they provide pest control. Venomous snakes control pest as well, but they are a danger to people and should be removed if found in areas where people are present.
I receive numerous inquiries asking how to keep snakes out of yards or what products might be applied to the ground to drive them away. Research has shown that repellents don't work on serpents. So what can we do to reduce the chances of finding snakes?
The first step is to make your yard unattractive to snakes. They like places that are overgrown and weedy, with piles of boards, logs, brush and rocks. These areas provide habitats for their prey, such as mice and rats, and provide cover for the snakes to hide from their predators.
Making your yard unattractive to snakes can be accomplished by mowing your lawn to recommended mowing heights. This will help your lawn do its best. Remove brush piles and piles of leaves and pine straw. Keep shrubs clean and free of debris. Also prune shrubs so that they are not touching the house or other buildings.
If you have firewood, stack the wood so that it is at least 12 inches off the ground. This will reduce the hiding places for snakes and their prey. Any other objects need to be off the ground as well. If these wood piles or other objects are touching the outside walls of your house or buildings, you need to move them at least 12 inches from the walls.
The next step is to remove the food source of snakes. If you have a mouse or rat problem, you need to control it. If you have a pond, stream or other body of water near your home, it will be hard, if not impossible, to remove the food source, so keep the banks of the body of water clean and mowed.
There are no guarantees that if you do all these practices you will not see any snakes. However, these actions will reduce your possibility of finding the legless creatures .
Columbia County Extension Agent Charles Phillips can be reached at (706) 868-3413 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Extension Web address is www.ugaextension.com/columbia.
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