Ask the Hort Agent: Snakes in your yard
Question: How can I keep snakes away from my house?
Answer: Snakes are now moving around. While there are a few precautions you can take to reduce the occurrence of snakes, there is no way to totally keep them off your property.
It should be comforting to know that most snakes are non-poisonous. All four poisonous snakes found in North America are native to North Carolina – water moccasin, rattlesnake, coral snake and copperhead. Luckily, only one of them is commonly found in Harnett County - the copperhead. Water moccasins (or cottonmouths) can be found around water features like ponds, creeks, rivers, and swamps. The pigmy rattlesnake has been found in western Harnett County around the Fort Bragg area. The coral snake does not reside in Harnett County. The copperhead is the least poisonous of all poisonous snakes, and it can be found nearly anywhere. All other snakes found in Harnett County are not poisonous.
Poisonous or not, most folks do not want snakes hanging around their house. Steps can be taken to reduce snake populations. First, remove any debris or materials which harbor mice or insects. Snakes also use debris as a place to hide as well as hunt. Second, get a pet. Many dogs and cats will keep snakes away by either killing them or their food source. Pets also serve as snake alarms. Many dogs will alert you to the presence of a snake. Third, clean up your yard. Keep mulch depth at 3 inches or less, cut down weeds around buildings and prune shrubs up properly. Old timers used to describe an unkempt property as looking “snaky.” There is a lot of truth to that statement.
Snake populations can be minimized around ponds by fish. Large mouth bass love to eat small snakes. The key to snake removal is the presence of big bass in the pond. Small bass are aggressive, but big ones do the job best. Tell your fishermen to catch and release the big boys.
Many homeowners try sulfur around the house. Sulfur products may have a small deterrent effect in places where they don't get washed away, like under the house. Sulfur has no effect in the general landscape. Plus, sulfur lowers the pH of the soil, and that is not desired. Under the house, plug holes where pipes, vents, and utility lines (cable tv, phone, electric lines, etc...) enter the floor.
Learn how to identify the poisonous snakes. You will have more peace of mind when you know that the snake you see is harmless. For more info, visit http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/agpubs/ag-472-2.pdf If you do not have internet access then contact the Extension Office at 910-893-7530 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
By the way, snakes are not “poisonous.” The correct term is either venomous or non-venomous. Alcohol and marijuana are poisonous. Wait, they are legal and used as a medicine. Insect repellants are poisonous, but they also repel bugs that carry life threatening diseases. Prescription drugs can be poisonous, but the doctor told us to take them. Mushrooms are poisonous for sure, but they are good on hamburgers. Everybody knows lead is poisonous, but typically not life threatening unless taken in small high velocity doses. To be honest, I don't understand why snakes can't be considered either poisonous or non-poisonous.
Gary Pierce, Horticulture Agent
Harnett County Cooperative Extension
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