why do snakes dig holes?
Questions About Snakes

How Do Snakes Dig Holes Underground?

Snakes are nervous creatures and want to stay out of the way of predators. As most predators of these reptiles are mammals or birds, staying underground is a significantly safer option. This is why snakes often prefer to live in holes and burrows.

How do snakes dig holes? Snakes rarely do dig holes. Instead, most snakes lay claim to holes that were created by other animals. Sometimes they eat the existing residents, or scare them away. On other occasions, a snake may find a hole that has been abandoned.

We will cover everything you may need to know, including how to identify and fill a snake hole. We’ll also look at other animals that you may find living underground

How Do Snakes Bore Holes in the Ground?

Snakes will not dig a hole by themselves. They are not capable of doing so. The best a snake will be able to do is burrow through the very loose soil, or piles of leaves.

This doesn’t mean that snakes won’t dwell within holes, though. Whenever one of these reptiles comes across a hole, they claim it for themselves. This can make it harder to identify a snake hole. It could have been created by another digging or burrowing animal.

How a snake claims these holes depends on how brave and aggressive the breed is. Some snakes will eat the existing animal. Others will wait nearby, and act threateningly. Particularly shy snake breeds, however, will only claim an empty, abandoned animal hole through fear or reprisals.

Why Do Snakes Dig Holes?

  • Protection from Predators. Even though many people fear snakes, they are prey to many other wild animals. These reptiles feel very exposed when moving around the open, especially to birds of prey. A snake will have no chance of protecting itself from a swooping hawk, for example. For this reason, they like to stay out of sight of a potential predator.
  • Many snakes have evolved to blend into their surroundings. Desert-dwelling snakes have scales that are the color of sand. Likewise, forest-based snakes are almost invisible when surrounded by leaves. This means that snakes can hide in animal holes and wait for prey to approach. This, again, prevents a snake from exposing itself to predators while hunting.
  • After a snake has eaten, it can take up to a week to digest a meal. This means that the snake will look to find a small and secure place to rest. The same also applies to a snake that is laying eggs, or giving birth. A snake will be vulnerable during these times, and will want to hide away.
  • Protection from the Sun. They may retreat to a hole in the ground after basking in the sun. They can retain this warmth while remaining safe.

Is a Snake Hole Considered a Nest or a Den?

If just one snake is living in a hole, it’s called a nest. On the rare occasions that multiple snakes share one hole, it’s called a den. The latter is most likely to happen during the brumation season.

Do Snakes Go Underground?

Snakes generally prefer to remain a few inches underground, working through existing holes and tunnels. If a snake goes any deeper than this, they risk losing their food source. Most snakes prefer to lay in wait for prey, striking when something crosses their path.

However, when the winter arrives, snakes may head a little deeper underground to hibernate. As snakes are cold-blooded, they struggle to remain warm during the coolest months of the year. Staying underground until the spring keeps them alive.

Are Snake Burrows Only Found in the Ground?

Not necessarily. Snakes also set up home in holes bored into stone walls, or logs with small holes. If animals are capable of making a gap, a snake may claim it as their own.

Some snakes may climb trees and clamber inside a hole. This is not common, though. It can take a snake quite some time to climb a tree if it doesn’t come naturally to the breed.

What Do Snake Holes Look Like?

As we have established, a snake hole could look like any other animal’s burrow. However, many signs indicate a snake is living within the hole:

  • If the entry point is narrow, it could be home to a snake. These creatures like to feel snug and secure. A snake is at their happiest when their backbones brush against the top of a hole.
  • The entrance of a snake hole will be clear and undisturbed. This means that there will be no spider webs growing over it, or piles of leaves.

Snake Holes vs. Gopher Holes

Snakes will often set up home in gopher holes, as the sizes are largely compatible.

This can work well for humans, as gophers can be hugely disruptive. If snakes chase them off, or even eat them, it can only be a good thing.

 snake holes vs. gopher holes

What Other Animals Live in Holes?

According to the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management, the following animals dig up green turf:

  • Chipmunks
  • Badgers
  • Woodchucks
  • Rats
  • Otters
  • Voles
  • Squirrels
  • Rabbits and Hares
  • Foxes
  • Coyotes
  • Crayfish
  • Skunks

Take a look at the summary of animals holes listed above. You can glean insights into what animal may be leaving their mark by measuring the diameter.

You will also need to observe what may emerge from the hole. There is every chance that a snake will lay claim to these holes themselves.

What Should I Do if I Find Snake Holes?

Most snakes in the USA are non-venomous. Such breeds are a valuable part of your yard’s ecosystem, as they will control the pest population. Remember, snakes eat insects and rodents.

Don’t blindly place your hand in the hole as it could be a copperhead snake hole rather than that of a garter snake. Keep your cats and dogs away, too. Even though the bite of a non-venomous snake won’t kill you, it can be painful. Dogs are more at risk.

If you want help dealing with the snake holes found on your property, call animal control.

How Do I Get a Snake to Come Out of Its Hole?

Just follow these steps:

  • Apply a heat source, such as a hot water bottle, at the mouth of the hole. The snake will sense this, and be attracted to the warmth.
  • Lay food at the mouth of the hole, such as a dead rodent. It may not be hygienic, but it’s effective. Even a snake that isn’t hungry will not be able to resist investigating food.
  • Place a sizable but shallow body of water beside the hole. Snakes get thirsty too, and they sometimes like to cool off by wallowing in water.
  • Build a little protective fence around the hole. Snakes hear by sensing vibrations on the ground. If there is a lot of movement nearby, they’ll be very skittish. They won’t come out if they hear noise from pets or young children.
  • Purchase some substrate and lay it outside the hole. The snake may mistake this for a natural habitat, and come to investigate.
  • Sit by the hole for a while each day. Sooner or later, the snake will recognize your scent. This may make them curious if they are brave.

If you are not successful during the day, try again after the sun goes down. Remember, some snakes are nocturnal, especially during the summer. You may need to show some patience, but eventually, you’ll gain a snake’s attention.

If you’re unsure what to do when the snake emerges, you should consult a professional. Alternatively, pick up a humane snake trap. These will secure a snake, and you can release it back into the wild.

How to Fill Snake Holes in the Yard

If you find snake holes on your property, you may decide that you want to cover them up. Snakes will not suffocate.

If you wish to remove snakes from your property permanently, you should cover their hole with something solid. A substantial piece of wood is best. While not aesthetically pleasing, it can be eventually removed.

The idea is to send a message to snakes that you don’t want them around. If you disrupt their nest, they’ll receive that loud and clear and move on. If you cover it with loose soil, however, snakes will burrow in it.

If you want to deter snakes but prefer not to use wood, try wire fencing. You could also secure some hessian fabric, which is more likely to be camouflaged against grass. Throughout the whole process, however, you’ll have to remember that you are technically on snake territory.

How Do I Prevent Snakes from Creating Holes in My Yard?

Snakes live to hide and remain undetected. This means that a clean and tidy yard is usually undesirable to a snake.

Keep your grass well trimmed and short, and regularly sweep up piles of leaves. If you have fallen tree branches or logs, remove them. These steps, along with some low-level fencing around your property, will keep snake out. Just remember that the same rules will not apply to rodents and other burrowing animals. No snake holes in your yard do not equal no holes in your yard.

Remember, just because a snake cannot dig holes it doesn’t mean they are not populating them. A hole designed as a den for another animal could soon become home to a snake. This means that you’ll have to be vigilant about staying safe when you notice a hole.

If you happen to come across such a snake burrow burrowing in the wild or your yard, steer clear of it. You should watch from afar for a while, and get an idea of what is living within. Regardless of whether this cavity is a snake hole or not, you should fill it. Eventually, a reptile is likely to set up home in this attractive location.