Q: In the last two weeks I have killed four snakes, one of them in my garage. They were pretty big ones. One might have been a king snake, another was black with yellow lines. We live in a wooded area. I have put out lime but is there anything else I can apply to discourage snakes?
A: In my experience, snakes are like spiders – some folks aren’t particularly bothered by them, others can’t abide even one. You sound like you fall into the latter group. Unfortunately, snakes are difficult to trap and almost impossible to eliminate.
I advise you to do a “snake assessment” and minimize snake habitat around your home. Remove rock piles, stacked lumber, piles of leaves and firewood from near your home. These are places where snakes hang out because they can find food and shelter. If you live near a creek or an overgrown shrub area, mow your lawn regularly so snakes won’t have cover as they wander about. Egg shells, lime or moth balls do not keep snakes away from your yard. Examine carefully the label of products that claim to repel the creatures. You may find that the snakes you want to eliminate are not affected by the ingredients in the product. Finally, rest assured that the majority of the snakes we chance upon these days are of the non-poisonous variety.
As to the matter of killing them, I ‘d rather you steeled your nerves and left them alone. The natural areas you love will naturally contain snakes; you’ll never eliminate them. Most, if not all of them, are nonpoisonous. They are considered nongame animals and the Official Code of Georgia Annotated 27-1-28 makes it unlawful to “hunt, trap, fish, take, posses or transport any non-game species of wildlife,” Georgia law defines “taking” to include killing and the offense is a misdemeanor.
Q: Our neighborhood seems to be a haven for copperheads. I’ve found a baby in our backyard, I’ve seen one on the street recently and I’ve heard of neighbors who’ve seen them too. The animal pest control people are touting a “snake repellant” that’s stronger than what you can buy at garden centers but I’m suspicious. My regular termite guy has told me “If that stuff worked, I’d be selling it!” I don’t want to pay two hundred dollars to have someone sprinkle stuff around my house that’s not going to work. What are your thoughts?
A: I think I’d like to buy stock in a company that makes a snake repellant that really works! Unfortunately, no company like that yet exists. The one snake repellant I see on store shelves straightforwardly states that it has been shown to be repellant to rattlesnakes and garter snakes but “is not expected to repel snakes…such as corn snakes, rat snakes….cottonmouths and copperheads.”
The best way to keep snakes away from your home is to remove things that attract them. Snakes come to an area because when they find shelter or food. Piles of logs or lumber or rocks harbor the insects that snakes eat. In addition, these piles protect the snake from predators. Look around your neighborhood for snake habitat and remove anything you find. Snakes fear exposure – so mowing lawns regularly also helps repel them. Egg shells, lime or moth balls do not keep snakes away from your yard.
Even though it is startling to come face to face with these legless critters, remember that they have a place in the environment. Unless you get awfully close to a snake it is hard to tell the poisonous ones from the harmless ones. It is not legal to kill nonpoisonous snakes because they are considered non-game creatures. The Official Code of Georgia makes it unlawful to “hunt, trap, fish, take (kill), possess or transport” any non-game species of wildlife. The offense is a misdemeanor.
This publication from Missouri has lots of information about snakes and their control.
The Georgia Wildlife Federation sells an excellent snake identification booklet “Snakes of Georgia and South Carolina” for a small fee. You can call them at 770-787-7887.