Dealing With Snakes - Preventing Negative Encounters

Natural areas that provide homes for snakes and other wildlife are disappearing and becoming more divided by development, forcing snakes to eke out a living in the remaining fragments of habitat -- which are often yards and gardens in residential areas. As a result, people and snakes are often forced to live in the same areas. However, the chances of encountering a snake in a residential area are not great, (many snakes simply don't do well around people), and the vast majority of snakes you might find around your home are harmless.  Here are a few key strategies you can use to prevent negative (or unwanted) encounters with snakes --      
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"Snake Proof" Your Yard

Do you have tall grass, overgrown shrubs or piles of brush, debris, or wood? If so, these may provide hiding spots for snakes, and tall grass can make it difficult to watch your step. Be alert when playing or working in your yard to avoid being surprised if you suddenly see a snake. Remember, snakes are most active in spring and summer. firewood storage

Keep grass mowed in high use areas where children and pets play, and keep shrubs and tree branches trimmed away from the house. Installing chain-link or privacy fence is an effective way to keep pets and children away from wetland and lake edges.

Brush or wood piles can provide habitat for wildlife.  Don't remove them, but keep them well away from buildings and areas where children play. Store firewood neatly on a rack -- NOT on the ground.

"Snake Proof" Your Home, Garage, and Sheds

Are there gaps under your doors, holes in your walls, or openings on your roof that might allow snakes to easily enter your home? Are there any holes or gaps in the screens on your windows, doors, or porch, or open drain pipes from enclosed pools? Snakes may enter in search of rodent prey or a cool hiding spot. Inspect your home, keeping in mind that some snakes (especially small ones) can enter through an opening no larger than a pencil. snake entering house

Seal gaps under doors with door sweeps and garage door threshold weather strips, and use caulking or expansion foam sealant to seal cracks or gaps in walls (where wiring or plumbing enters) or the foundation. Hardware cloth can be used to cover vent stacks, pool drain pipes, or other large access points.

Pet doors are commonly overlooked access points for snakes, and must be sealed or removed to prevent snakes from being able to enter. Outdoor and indoor/outdoor cats capture and kill millions of frogs, lizards, snakes, and birds in Florida each year, and are often responsible for bringing snakes into homes - usually through pet doors!

"Rodent Proofing"

Rodents attract snakes, plain and simple. rattlesnake eating ratKeep garages and sheds closed (and seal all holes), and keep these areas neat and clutter-free. If you see rodents or signs of rodent activity, use traps or hire an exterminator to remove them, but avoid using poisons --they can harm wildlife and pets. Inside the home, keep basements and attics clutter free, seal holes, and monitor for rodent activity. Keep all food (even pet food) in tightly closed containers.

Other Prevention Measures

If you frequently encounter venomous snakes and find that the measures above don't deter them, you may consider using fencing in some areas (i.e., along edges of wooded areas or margins of lakes and wetlands) to prevent snakes from entering your yard. However, this method of excluding snakes from an entire yard can be costly and time consuming, and should be used as a last resort. For more information about this technique (and the others listed above), see the resources below.

For more information, see the following resources:

Available to download and print -

Dealing with Snakes in Florida's Residential Areas -- Preventing Encounters

Preventing Encounters Between Children and Snakes

Available to purchase -

Venomous Snakes of the Southeast Poster

Venomous Snakes of the Southeast CD/DVD set

Also see -

How to Get Along with Snakes - Florida Museum of Natural History

Registered Nuisance Wildlife Trappers

Florida Snake Removal

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