Tips for keeping poisonous snakes out of the yard

Last updated: July 07. 2014 10:00AM - 1233 Views
Brian Maddy County extension agent

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At this time of the year we get a lot of interesting calls. Snakes tend to top the list.

Out of the 46 species of snakes that are known to be found in Georgia, only six are venomous. Only along a small portion of the Coastal Plain are all six found and no single venomous snake specie is found in all 159 Georgia counties.

Your chance of getting struck by lightning is far greater than your chance of dying from a poisonous snake bite. The bad guys in question are the copperhead, cottonmouth, eastern diamondback rattlesnake, timber/canebrake rattlesnake, pigmy rattlesnake and coral snake.

The coral snake is the only one on the list that is not a pit viper. With that being said, many people have an irrational fear of snakes going back to biblical times.

Venomous and non-venomous snakes serve as a valuable part of our ecosystem. They do a great job reducing our rodent population as well as serving as a meal for many of our birds of prey. The big question is: “How do you keep them out of your yard or away from the pool?”

Snakes are predators and are very efficient. When they come into your yard they are hunting. If you have a pool and at night have green interlopers taking a swim, you will undoubtedly have legless visitors as well.

A bird feeder and birdbath in the backyard also encourages a food chain. Birds will build nests nearby and snakes love eggs and baby birds for breakfast.

Chipmunks, squirrels and mice are also attracted to the delicacies in the feeder. The larger constrictor snakes such as a king snake will be on the hunt. King snakes are immune to the pit vipers venom and will readily make a meal out of an eastern diamondback or copperhead.

That’s why you shouldn’t kill every snake you see. King snake populations are declining and we are seeing a corresponding rise in the copperhead population.

Nice warm rocks or concrete around the pool also entices snakes. They can’t regulate their internal body temperatures so they need a nice, warm spot.

Check out the sandy beach areas at night along the lake. They also like dense vegetation, tall grass and lush gardens. They also look for good dens. That’s any place they can scoot under.

Picking up rocks can be an experience along a pond or creek. Plug all outside holes into your house or into your crawl space. Remember, they are hunters. Eliminate the mice or other critters living in the house and snakes won’t be looking for supper.

Most of the snake repellents that you see at the stores that have been tested have proved to be ineffective. There are some amusing YouTube videos that also prove the same point.

Mothballs don’t work. The mothballs containing naphthalene are dangerous to small children and pets. Mothballs containing 1,4-dichlorobenzene can considered carcinogenic. Not only are these mothballs dangerous, they are also illegal.

These products are not labeled for this type of control. Rope doesn’t work either. That’s an old cowboy tale. Fake owls and ultrasonic sound emitters are also ineffective. Snakes are deaf.

What works well are barriers. Identify the types of snakes that are invading the yard. Determine if you can eliminate the food source.

Mesh fences laid at an angle to the ground with a foot or so laid flat on the ground may prevent entry. The openings have to be smaller than the diameter of the snake. Plastic works well as a temporary barrier. Metal is more permanent.

Commercial snake traps may work in houses. You may have to size the trap to fit the snake.

Snakes use their fork in their tongue to track their prey by smelling and tasting with their tongue. Their forked tongue collects airborne particles and by processing both taste and sense of smell simultaneously, they can track their prey. They can also sense the ground vibrations of someone walking up on them.

Pit vipers sense prey by the heat they give off by pits on their faces. They can determine the size of the prey by the amount of heat. They try not to kill mammals that they will be unable to swallow.

Snakes will strike as a defensive mechanism if you get too close or step on them. Most folks who are bit by venomous snakes are handling a snake that they may not know is poisonous. It may take as many as three strikes to inject the venom. Their fangs have to be pumped in order to inject the venom.

If you are unfortunate enough to get bit by a venomous snake the first step is to remain calm. Call 911 or the Georgia Poison Control Center, 1-800-222-1222. Get to the hospital as soon as you can!

Try to identify the snake but don’t pick it up, it can strike again. Lie down and stay immobile. Keep the affected limb at an even level with the rest of the body. Do not give the victim any food, drink or medication. Do not use a tourniquet or cut the wound and suck out the venom. Do not pack the wound with ice. Wash it with warm soapy water.

Snakes are beneficial and are a natural part of our landscape. We need to keep them where they need to be. Remember that non-venomous snakes are protected species. We have a color snake guide available at the office. Stop by the office and pick one up.

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