By Wade Hutcheson
University of Georgia
Like many other people, I don't have snakes on my list of favorite wildlife. I recognize they provide a service: they feed on rodents and other pests. But I'd just as soon not happen up on one.
The fact that they feed on rodents is a clue. If you're seeing snakes, you may have a rodent problem. Take away the food source and the snakes will move on.
However, if your house is surrounded by natural countryside with woods, streams and swamps nearby, snakes will show up from time to time. If they don't find a reason to stay, most often they won't.
Cleaning up the yard will help
What attracts them to stay is finding suitable lodging and dining. If the grounds and surrounding areas include tall grass, debris piles, weedy places and the like, they'll think, "Hey, this is a 2-star hangout. I believe I'll stay awhile."
Cleaning up the clutter is the way to eliminate snakes. No chemicals, poisons or effective repellants are registered for snake control.
Answer these questions: Are there rodents or other food sources? Are there lots of places to hide? If either answer is yes, take action to remove the food and cover.
Control rodents, get rid of debris, remove brush piles, cut the grass, and stop cluttering the yard with stuff that won't move in a yard sale. Not only will the snakes go away, but your neighbors will be appreciative, too.
Keep things such as firewood and lumber stacked 12 inches above ground or off the floor and away from walls. Plant shrubs at least 4 feet from the foundation, both for the plants' sake and to keep clutter and debris from accumulating.
If you live near a pond or stream, try to keep the bank neat, but don't strip away all vegetation or your soil will wash.
Most Georgia snakes aren't poisonous
Finally, remember that most snakes in Georgia are nonpoisonous and aren't the dreaded cottonmouth water moccasin. The state is home to three kinds of rattlesnakes (Eastern diamondback, timber and pigmy), cottonmouths, copperheads and coral snakes. It's easy enough to learn to recognize these six snakes.
If you don't want to learn about snakes, just give them their space and allow them to move on as you would a turtle or frog.
A poisonous snake in a populous area should be killed or removed safely. If you need help identifying Georgia's snakes checkout the Georgia Extension Service's "Snakes of Georgia and South Carolina" book.
The Extension Service also has free publications on snakes and their control and on building out unwelcome guests. Check with your local county Extension agent for more information on these publications.
Above all, educate yourself and your family. Enjoy Georgia's great outdoors carefully and be knowledgeable about what you are seeing or how to react if something happens. And watch where you step while you're out there.
(Wade Hutcheson is a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agent serving Spalding, Henry and Newton counties.)