“Any natural organic way to keep snakes out of the yard? I am not opposed to killing them, but would rather annoy them so much they go off and bother someone else. Thinking specifically copperheads and garden snakes.”
This year’s record drought in some areas of the country and record rains in others are bringing varmints that used to live in holes out where we can see them. Many folks do not like this. I actually want these creatures in my yard since they are voracious eaters of other things I prefer not to have there. I don’t even mind SEEING them. It is NOT unreasonable, in my opinion, that I don’t want an up close and personal relationship. At six years old, a spider bite nearly rotted two fingers off my right hand. And even God tells us not to like snakes, doesn’t he? I have a slinky friend that lives in my yard. He’s not my pet and doesn’t have a name, nor does he “sit” or “roll-over.” I’ve found him quite trainable, though. He responds appropriately when I say, “get-the-heck-away-from-me-if-you-wanna-stay-alive!”
Unlike Joan in the Hormel commercial who doesn’t shave under her arms and keeps a goat on the roof, my dear friend Diane Cabiness is a real naturalist. In fact, she’s a certified Texas Master Naturalist and the one I go to when I have a native plant question. She’s also the number on my cell phone’s speed dial for critter queries. She rehabilitates injured snakes and spiders and then takes them to visit school children, which to me is cruel but the kids LOVE ‘em. Nerds get a chance to be cool kids when they let things crawl around on them without screaming or peeing their pants. Diane’s cool even without her reptile and arachnid collection. She has an authentic love of creatures, which is not the vibe I get from hairy goat gal who appears lazy instead of an embracer of nature. So I asked Diane what constitutes a yard where snakes would not be happy. Her answer? 1) no food, 2) no water, and 3) no cover. That simple. Since snakes snack on small mammals like mice, getting rid of wood stacks, brush piles and similar vermin friendly habitats could remove their food source. (Those are favorite spider hang-outs, too, by the way.) In dry conditions, use less water and make sure you don’t have leaky outside faucets. If you have shrubs, ground-cover, or a thick mulch (more than 3″) around the house, you’ve also inadvertently created a cozy snake spot.
As far as repellants, moth balls and sulphur/sulfur – often the ingredients in products touted as SNAKE REPELLANTS - might make the small mammals that are known snake treats scarse, but are ineffective for keeping away snakes themselves. Their awful scent more likely keeps YOU out of your garden so you don’t see the snakes there. Beware using both, which are dangerous to mammals. (“Mustard gas” is made with sulphur.) I’ve planted pungent herbs such as rosemary and onions surrounding my roses and veggies where I’m puttering around a lot, often with bare hands. Mint under the hose bibs, too. The deer are less likely to browse where these plants are present and I’d heard snakes don’t like them either. I’ve not seen any snakes anywhere near the rosemary….yet.
SNAKE-PROOF FENCING can be installed where small children or pets need to be protected, but cost prohibitive in a large area. Check out the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management for more information.
While death is natural and organic, the North Carolina Extension Service lumps things into “lethal” and “non-lethal” when it comes to snake control and, like my friend Diane, prefer the non-lethal controls. (Not sure “decapitation-by-hoe” is considered a death by natural cause, anyway.) They also amen Diane’s suggestions about what works best to keep snakes at bay near homes. Then they talk about snakes IN the home.Close cracks and crevices in buildings and around pipes and utility connections with 1/4-inch mesh hardware cloth, mortar or sheet metal. All doors and windows should have tightly fitting screens. (http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/gaston/Pests/reptiles/snakecontrol.htm) Thanks, guys. I’d never even thought about them coming inside…..till now!