Wild snakes can be very dangerous, especially to vulnerable adults, children, and pets. Rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, coral snakes, and copperheads pose a threat to everyone because they’re highly venomous. That’s why you always need to look out for any clear signs of snakes in your yard
Search for snakes in the undergrowth, burrows, and any holes you might find. Use a torch, not your hands. Also, look for snake trails, droppings, and shed skins in your yard.
Be careful when you search. There’s a chance that the snake in your yard could be highly venomous and aggressive. The signs of venomous and non-venomous snakes are exactly the same.
Where Do Snakes Live in Your Yard?
To understand where snakes might live in your yard, put yourself in the mind of the snake. As a snake, you will be spending much of your time hunting. If you aren’t hunting, you need a safe place to sleep away from predators.
This means you’ll be spending most of your time hidden somewhere. Whether you’re waiting in ambush for prey, or trying not to be seen by bigger animals, you need somewhere safe and secure. There are lots of places in your yard that are ideal.
Snake Hide in Undergrowth
Snakes love to hide in the undergrowth, like uncut grass and bushes. These areas offer them two things. The first is security. They cannot be easily seen in thick grass because they’re low down, and may be camouflaged. Examples of the kinds of undergrowth that snakes like include:
- Tall grasses
- Leaf litter
- Fallen logs
Secondly, the undergrowth also offers opportunities for food. Rodents love to scurry through the undergrowth for the same reason that snakes do, for security. Snakes take advantage of this by waiting for their prey to come by before eating them.
If there are any areas of your lawn that haven’t been mown for a while, there may be snakes there. And if there are any hedges, they may be in there too.
Snakes also prefer places with trees because there’s lots of shade. There are also roots for them to hide among or under. Some snakes prefer to live in trees. So, the more trees and plants you have, the more snakes you’re likely to have.
Snakes Hide Inside Garden Features
Aside from natural features, snakes also love man-made features. Say, for example, that you’ve got rattan furniture out in your yard. Even basic furniture may offer the following hiding spots:
- Underneath the furniture may be shaded, which is a good start for a hiding snake
- Behind and underneath cushions
- Inside any storage drawers in your furniture
Aside from furniture, any feature with lots of holes and hiding places is perfect. Snakes are drawn to rocks with holes and cracks in them. They see them as good defensible hiding places. If anything in your yard is similar, they may use it in the same way.
Yards offer plenty of places they can hide. If you have any brickwork, this often has holes in it for them to exploit. There may also be a way for them to get from the crawlspace to your yard.
Snakes Hide in Burrows
It’s a common misconception that snakes can create their own burrows. But it’s not true. What they can do is find the burrow of another animal and hide in there.
Moles and rabbits are the two most likely animals to have burrowed in your yard. If you’ve had a problem with either of these animals in the past, then snakes could take advantage of that.
Many snakes hunt by entering animal burrows to see if there’s anything inside to eat. If there isn’t, they may come back later to use it as a hiding spot.
Again, this is bad for you because they like to defend these spots. There’s usually only one way in and one way out. So, if you reached in to try and grab the snake, they would be cornered. That’s when snakes choose to bite.
Snakes Hide in Crawl Spaces
The human equivalent of a burrow is a house, and they can hide in your house, too. The snake may split its time between hunting in your yard and living in your house for shelter.
If you have a crawl space under your house, this is a prime location for snakes. Not only does it offer shelter, but it also offers the following:
- It’s warmer than the outside because it’s sheltered, and because of your heating system
- Rodents may live in your crawl space for shelter and provide food for snakes
Snakes may also live in the wall cavities of your home, or the loft. If they are living in parts of your home, you may hear them moving around. This would be an extra sign of snake activity.
Snakes Can Climb Trees
There are two kinds of snakes: terrestrial and arboreal. Terrestrial snakes live most of their lives on the ground. Arboreal snakes spend most of their time in trees. But any snake can climb a tree.
There are good reasons that snakes climb trees. Many eat birds and bird eggs, and some species do exclusively. Trees are an excellent place to hide from ground-based predators.
Also, trees give them access to places they otherwise can’t get to. A snake could climb a tree as a way of dropping into your yard, which you may have protected with a snake fence.
How to Know If There are Snakes in Your Yard
The first sign is the snake itself. Some snakes have bright colors, like the corn snake, which is orange. They would stand out against grass or soil.
Some snakes, though, prefer to remain camouflaged. These species will be more challenging to spot. And besides, all snake species prefer an area with cover. They are therefore difficult to find. That’s why you have to look both for the snake, and for the signs of snake activity.
1) Is Your Yard Snake-Friendly?
One problem that people don’t appreciate is that your yard can be snake-friendly. This is where:
- There are lots of ways for snakes to access your property
- There are lots of places in your yard for snakes to hide
- You aren’t currently taking any preventative measures to stop snakes
- Your yard is close to things that snakes like: bodies of water, or locations where there are lots of rodents for them to feed on
The more snake-friendly your yard, the more snakes you’ll have there. There are simple measures you can take to make your yard less accessible for snakes.
The first way a yard can allow access is if your fence posts have big gaps between them. The snake can easily get through. This is rectified with chicken wire. Any tree branches hanging over your yard from outside also make your yard accessible for snakes.
If your yard allows lots of hiding places, this is perfect for snakes too. Overgrown grass, tangles of tree roots and yard furniture all allow snakes places to hide in your yard. Get rid of these, and you’ll get rid of some of the snakes.
2) Shed Snake Skins in Your Yard
Snake skins are an indisputable sign that snakes have been present in your yard. They are left behind when a snake sheds, which all species do periodically. They don’t rot, but some pest animals do eat them. They may be gone within a few days.
Shed snake skins are clear and have the snake’s scale pattern on them. They are usually whole, so look like a thin, inverted sock.
They are likely to be left near an area that gets regularly damp or moist, because this helps the shedding process. But they may be left anywhere. Don’t touch it directly as snake skin has salmonella on it.
That being said, snakes only shed irregularly. If you notice a snake skin, then it’s likely that the snake or snakes have been present in your yard already for some time.
3) Trails Snakes Leave Behind in Your Yard
This sign is a little more difficult to spot than a snake skin. Snakes leave trails under certain conditions that you can identify.
Not all snakes move in the same, side-to-side way. But those that do leave a recognizable side-to-side trail behind.
Of course, they will only leave these trails in certain conditions. You can’t spot the trail in the grass. But if they’ve slithered over loose soil or sand, they will.
If you’re careful, you can follow the trail to see where the snake is hiding. If so, be careful and follow our guide on how to search for snakes in your yard below.
4) Do Snakes Have an Odor?
Many pest species are renowned for their odor. Some smell a certain way because they purposefully produce a scent to mark territory. Others smell awful because they live in dirty places.
Of all pest animals, snakes aren’t thought of as having an obvious or distinctive scent. But they do, or at least some species do. This scent can be used to identify whether you have snakes in your yard.
Some snakes give off a musk when threatened. Garter snakes are a common example that you may find in your yard. Their smell is a strong, foul musk, reminiscent of cat urine or mink musk. It’s difficult to describe but unforgettable if you smell it!
According to the Journal of Chemical Ecology, though, most snakes can secrete the same musks—just not in as high quantities.
And other species can shoot musk too, like garter snakes. Rat snakes produce musk, milk snakes produce musk, and kingsnakes and corn snakes do too. These are all snakes that you could find in your yard. They reserve their musk for when they’re threatened.
Aside from that, snakes don’t have a natural odor. They don’t have any fur that clings to mud, for example, and gets smelly. They’re quite clean animals, especially because they shed frequently.
5) Do Snakes Create Nests in Your Yard?
Another sign of some common pests is that they create nests. Rodents create nests made from scraps, as do wasps and many other invasive animals. But what about snakes?
- Snakes don’t create nests like other animals do. There are several reasons why.
- Snakes lack paws they can use to rearrange their nest.
- Snakes don’t have the mental capacity of mammals and birds.
- Snakes don’t look after their young after they lay their eggs.
Rather than create a nest, snakes will find a burrow or a hole in a rock formation. They’ll lay their eggs there and almost all species will then leave them, never to interact with their young again.
This also means that it’s unlikely you’ll find snake eggs in your yard. They are typically well hidden. Given that the mother doesn’t protect them, they need to be even better hidden than usual.
6) There Are Fewer Rodents and Birds Than Before
Snakes tend to have a specific diet that they stick to. For starters, they’re obligate carnivores. They can’t eat anything except other animals. So, even if they’re on the brink of starvation, you’ll never see a snake eat fruit for example.
But their diets are even more restricted than that. Many snake species specialize in eating one or two kinds of prey. A corn snake eats whatever rodents are available in their habitat. They may rarely eat an amphibian or a small egg, but the vast majority of their diet is one thing.
Other snakes only eat birds and birds’ eggs. Granted, this isn’t common in the U.S. It’s mostly tropical snakes that only eat birds. But according to the Ecological Society of America, rat snakes and racers both prey on songbirds.
As such, you can see this effect in action in your yard. If your yard used to be home to lots of rodents, but suddenly isn’t, there may be a snake.
7) Do Snakes Leave Droppings in Your Yard?
Snakes are wildlife like any other animal. As such, they have to leave droppings occasionally. They may do this in your yard, and if they do, it will be noticeable.
What Do Snake Droppings Look Like?
Have you ever considered what snake feces look like? It’s reflective of both their diet and biology. The kind of snakes you’ll find in your yard will either eat rodents or birds.
You may notice fur or feathers in their feces. But you won’t see bones because snakes can digest them. If you see fur/feathers but no bones, it may be snake feces.
As for the size and shape of the feces, that depends on the size of the snake. But it will be long, thick, and dark-brown.
One other critical identifying factor is that it will have a white substance at the end. These are the snake’s urates, i.e. their equivalent of urine. Snakes excrete both their urates and feces at once in the same way.
This material is chalky and solid. When the snake leaves their droppings, there’s a small amount of fluid with it. This quickly dries up leaving the chalky urates behind.
What Do Snake Droppings Smell Like?
Snake droppings smell exactly as you would expect, but there is a difference between the droppings of different snakes. The bigger the snake, the larger their feces and the more obvious the smell. A corn snake’s droppings aren’t large as the snake is thin, so they don’t smell as bad.
Compared to other animals, a snake’s droppings don’t smell as bad as those of a dog.
One thing to note is that sometimes when snakes musk, they produce feces too. That’s because the feces adds to the musk, making it smell worse. It also helps the musk cling to the animal that was musked on.
It’s possible that the snake’s feces will smell like musk too. If this is the case, the smell is especially bad, worse than that of a dog.
Where Do You Find Snake Droppings?
There is no specific place that snakes are likely to leave their droppings. They don’t leave them in any particular place, for example, to mark their territory.
If you want to search for snake droppings to check if there are snakes in your yard, feel free. Start with all the places that the snake is most likely to hide. This includes undergrowth, around tree roots, and inside any enclosed areas.
When you do find some, take a good look at it. The more decomposed the feces is, the longer ago it was left. This will give you a good idea of how long ago the snake was there.
However, bear in mind that the feces may have been from a snake that was passing through. The snake may not live and hunt in your yard.
Something else to note is that snakes don’t leave droppings frequently. Some snakes only eat once a week, for example. They therefore only leave droppings once a week.
How to Search for Snakes in Your Yard
Start by learning which snakes are common in your area. This will help you because you’ll know what colors to search for.
You shouldn’t use your hands and feet to search. Use a stick instead, in conjunction with a torch so that you can see what you’re doing.
Snakes will usually try to avoid conflict with big animals like people. To do so, they will try to slither away when you get close. This behavior is common to both venomous and non-venomous snakes.
However, it may not apply when the snake is in a hiding spot. When the snake is hiding, it may be somewhere with only one exit like a burrow. Here, it can’t escape without getting past you. When this happens, they will get defensive and try to bite.
Checking Burrows for Snakes
Snakes love burrows, even if they can’t make their own. But reaching in is a bad idea as you might be bitten. So, rather than reaching into the burrow, try alternative means.
If the burrow is quite wide, you could try shining a light into it. You may see the snake as they usually sit near the entrance, to protect their space.
Depending on how you treat your lawn, you could use a pitchfork to dig up any burrows. This would tell you definitively whether there are any snakes in there. And digging up the burrow before relaying the turf would get rid of a potential hiding place.
Can You Catch Snakes in Traps?
Alternatively, you could set traps for the snakes. Humane traps lure the snake inside, but don’t let them out. Scientists who want to study snakes use them all the time.
The traps are simple in construction. They’re thin and long. Alternatively, you could use a basic rat bait trap that closes behind the animal when it accesses the food. These may not work as well because the snake may not entirely be inside the trap when it tries to close.
You would need to load the trap with bait. This would sit at one end of the trap.
If all else fails, hire an exterminator. They will know how to trap and dispose of snakes safely. Some exterminators are humane while some aren’t. But whichever you choose, they can get rid of snakes in your yard without you having to lift a finger.