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Living with Snakes in Virginia

By DWR Snake and Lizard Guide

Snakes occur in many different places, including yards and homes in rural and suburban areas. Most species are small and secretive and are seldom seen by homeowners, but larger snakes can create quite a commotion. If you live near a creek, woods, or fields, then snakes may occasionally show up in your yard. The best way to deal with snakes is to educate yourself, your family, and your neighbors about them. Remember that you have invaded the snake’s world, not the other way around. By realizing that snakes are part of the local wildlife (just like songbirds and squirrels) and a sign on a healthy environment, you may even enjoy the prospect of a snake residing on or visiting your property.

An image of a ribbon snake; this snake is black with two yellow stipes going down its body, one on each side

A common ribbon snake in a yard setting. Photo by J.D. Kleopfer/DWR

We also realize that not everyone is excited to see a snake in their yard, so there are a few things you can do to deter snakes from living near your house. Snakes will stay in an area only if appropriate food and shelter are present. If you eliminate these, snakes will not be attracted to your yard. Try the following:

  • Regularly mow your yard short.
  • Eliminate hiding places for mice, rats, and other small animals that would be food for snakes.
  • Remove snake shelter such as brush and mulch piles, thickets, and lumber.
  • Remove bird feeders during the spring and summer. Bird seed that falls to the ground attracts rodents, which in turn attract snakes.
An image of a red corn snake on a rock; this snake is copper in color with dark orange spots surrounded by a black perimeter

A red corn snake. Photo by J.D. Kleopfer/DWR

There is no government-approved chemical repellent that will deter all snakes from your yard. Products sold in stores primarily contain sulfur, which washes away quickly, and their effectiveness is highly questionable. The only truly effective way to keep snakes out of your yard is to fence the entire area with a solid four- to five-foot fence made of a slick material, buried a foot in the ground.

A snake in your home is the most difficult situation for all concerned, including the snake. Almost all snakes that enter homes are non-venomous species and are simply in search of food such as mice. They can enter any opening that a mouse can squeeze through, so sealing all opening where pipes and electrical wires enter the dwelling will help prevent snakes from making an unwanted appearance in your home.

If you do find a snake in your house, non-lethal options to remove it include sweeping the snake into a trash can with a broom or calling a licensed pest removal company. Search the internet for the telephone number of a reputable nuisance wildlife control company. Your local Animal Control may assist, but their involvement with snakes or other native wildlife removal varies between cities and counties. Government agency personnel normally will not come to your house to remove a snake. Any captured snake should be released to the nearest natural area and only with landowner permission.

How You Can Help Conserve and Protect Snakes

  • Support efforts to establish and protect natural areas.
  • Educate yourself and others about these amazing animals.
  • Keep portions of your property in natural conditions by not mowing, grazing, or timbering. You will be amazed by the amount of wildlife it attracts.
  • Reduce the use of fertilizers and pesticides in your lawn and garden.
  • Avoid using glue traps for rodents and nylon netting for landscaping. They often inadvertently kill snakes and lizards every year.
  • Do not remove rotting logs and standing dead trees, because they are an important component of the habitat needs of many species of snakes and lizards. They use these habitats to forage for insects, as cover from predators, and as nesting sites.
  • Help conserve land through land donations, donations to organizations, or conservation easements.
  • May 17, 2023