Wild snakes can be really dangerous, especially to vulnerable adults, young children, and small pets. Different species of rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, coral snakes, and copperheads pose a threat because they’re all venomous. You need to check for the signs of snake presence in your yard to keep your family safe, while taking precautions while doing so.
Search for snakes in any undergrowth, burrows, and holes. Also, check for snake trails, droppings, and shed skins. Never use your hands as snakes have excellent camouflage and may not be detected in time.
The signs of venomous and non-venomous snakes are exactly the same. Take precautions when you perform the search. If you’re going to inspect your yard more closely, wear snake-proof boots, trousers, and gloves.
Where Do Snakes Live in Your Yard?
To understand where snakes might live, you need to understand what matters to snakes. All snakes need a source of food, warmth from their living environment, and safety from predators.
Snakes spend most of their time still and hidden somewhere. Whether they’re waiting in ambush prey (rodents, birds, frogs, etc), or trying not to be seen by predatorial animals, they need somewhere that’s safe.
Snakes like to hide in the undergrowth, like uncut grass and bushes. These areas offer them the security and food they need to thrive. Snakes cannot be easily seen in thick grass because they’re low down and are likely to be camouflaged. The undergrowth types that snakes like include:
- Tall grasses
- Leaf litter
- Fallen logs
The undergrowth also offers feeding opportunities. Rodents scurry through the undergrowth for the same reason that snakes do, for security. Snakes take advantage of this by waiting for prey to come their way.
If there are any areas of your lawn that haven’t been mown for a while, there may be snakes hiding there. And if there are any hedges, they may be hidden away in there, too.
Snakes also prefer places with trees because there’s shade. There are also roots for them to hide among or under. So, the more trees and plants you have, the more snakes you’re likely to have living in your yard.
Aside from natural features, snakes also like man-made features almost as much. Even basic furniture may offer the following hiding spots:
- Underneath the furniture may be shaded
- Behind and underneath cushions
- Inside any storage drawers in your furniture
Aside from furniture, any feature with lots of holes and hiding places is ideal. Snakes are drawn to rocks with holes and cracks in them. They see them as good hiding places.
Yards offer plenty of places that snakes can hide. If you have any brickwork, this often has holes in it for snakes to exploit. There may also be a way for snakes to get from the crawlspace to your yard.
It’s a common misconception that snakes can create their own burrows. What snakes 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.
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.
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 also a prime location for snakes. It offers snakes the following benefits:
- It’s warmer than the outside because it’s sheltered and heated
- Rodents may live in your crawl space for shelter, so there’s food
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 another obvious sign of snake activity.
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 types of snakes eat birds and their eggs, and some species do so exclusively. Trees are a great place to hide from ground-based predators.
Trees give snakes access to places that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach. A snake could climb a tree as a way of dropping into your yard, which you may have protected with a secure fence.
How to Know If There are Snakes in Your Yard
Most snakes are concealed and well camouflaged, so they’re difficult to spot. That’s why you have to look for the snake and signs of recent activity.
Is Your Yard Snake-Friendly?
The more snake-friendly your yard, the more snakes you’ll find. Your yard is hospitable to snakes in the following situations:
- 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 rodents for them to feed on
There are steps you can take to make your yard less accessible for snakes:
- If your fence posts have big gaps between them, the snake can easily access your yard. This can be rectified with chicken wire.
- Any tree branches hanging over your yard make access easier. Talk to your neighbor about getting these branches cut back.
- Overgrown grass, tangles of tree roots, and yard furniture give snakes places to hide in your yard. These should be removed.
Shed Snake Skins in Your Yard
Snake skins are a clear sign that snakes have been present in your yard at some point. They are left behind when a snake sheds. Shedded skin doesn’t rot, but some pest animals do eat it, so the old skin ‘may’ disappear.
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 moist, because this helps with the shedding process.
Trails Snakes Leave Behind in Your Yard
Snakes leave trails under certain conditions. Not all snakes move in the same side-to-side way, but those that do leave a recognizable 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, you will know if you have snakes in your yard.
Do Snakes Have an Odor?
Many different snakes give off a musk when threatened, such as garter snakes. The cloacal glands emit a very strong, unpleasant odor. Snakes reserve ‘musking’ for when they’re feeling threatened.
According to the Journal of Chemical Ecology, most snakes can secrete the same musk as garter snakes, just not in the same quantity.
For example, copperheads produce a musk that smells like cucumbers. Unfortunately, you’ll already know about its presence at this stage because this scent is only emitted when the snake is annoyed and stressed.
Sometimes when snakes musk, they also produce feces. 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.
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. However, snakes don’t create nests for the following reasons:
- 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 most species will then leave them, never to interact with their young again.
Fewer Rodents and Birds Than Before
Snakes 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 or vegetables, for example. But their diets are even more restrictive than that.
Many snake species specialize in eating one or two kinds of prey. Corn snakes eat whatever rodents are available in their habitat. They may rarely eat an amphibian or a small egg, but the majority of their diet is rats/mice.
You can see this effect in action in your yard. If your yard used to be home to lots of rodents and birds, but suddenly isn’t, there may be snakes present.
Do Snakes Leave Droppings in Your Yard?
The appearance of snake poo reflects its 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 snake feces, but you won’t see any bones because snakes can digest them with strong stomach acids. If you see fur and feathers but no bones, it may be snake poop.
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. Snake excrement 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 the same time and in the same way. The substance is chalky and solid. When the snake leaves its droppings, there’s a small amount of fluid (urine) that comes with it. This quickly dries up leaving the chalky urates behind.
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.
Once you understand how, it’s easy to find out if you have snakes in your yard. You can carry out this process yourself or hire a pest control company. You’ll then need to take steps to make your yard snake-proof, especially if you have children and/or pets who play outside.