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Put out the unwelcome mat for snakes

By Willie Chance
University of Georgia

Someone recently came by my office and brought a harmless mud snake for me to see. I thought I would show the secretaries the snake, too. Big mistake!

University of Georgia Cooperative Extension county agents seem to get a lot of snake calls in the late summer and fall. What can be done to prevent snake problems?

First, be more watchful this time of year. Snakes usually avoid people. Don’t do things to corner them or put them in a defensive mode.

Take care walking in the woods or tall brush. In dry weather, snakes also have to find water. Be careful working in areas around water.

Put out the unwelcome mat for snakes. Snakes need food, water and cover to live. Clean up brush and trash piles, mow tall grass and weeds and remove things snakes hide under.

Clean up clutter in yards, open garages, on porches and in open storage buildings. Remove shrubs and other things close to the ground. This is especially important around buildings. Snakes like damp, cool and dark spots. Look for and change these sites if you can.

Leave snakes alone! Many people are bitten trying to catch or kill a snake. Know your venomous snakes. There are only a few in Georgia. If it isn’t a venomous snake, then you have much less to worry about. For information on how to identify snakes, see the UGA Savannah River Ecology Lab’s Herpetology Web site at www.uga.edu/srelherp/.

If you can identify the snake you can determine what it’s eating. This may tell you what attracted it to the area. If possible, do not let pet or bird food sit out. This attracts rodents, which in turn attract snakes. Clean food storage areas regularly and keep food and trash sealed.

Insects attract some snakes. Identify the insects that snakes eat and control them. Frogs and lizards are another food sources. Controlling moisture will reduce frogs. With less food sources available, perhaps the snakes will leave.

Snake repellents have been shown to be unreliable. Even if they work, they must be reapplied regularly.

Some snakes are climbers and will crawl into houses. The shed skins of these snakes are sometimes found in attics. To prevent snakes from entering your home, seal holes around and under the house. Fall is a good time to exclude snakes since they may be looking for warmer temperatures or a place to spend the winter.

Despite your efforts, if a venomous snake gets inside your home, seek professional help. The most likely venomous snake I would expect around homes would be the copperhead. This does not rule out finding one of the other venomous snakes near a house. (Moccasins may be found around wet areas.)

To remove a nonvenomous snake, pile damp towels or burlap in the area where the snake was seen. This will attract the snake. Then remove the snake and take it far from the house for release.

You may also trap a snake on a glue board available at hardware and other stores. Once you catch the snake, take the snake and board far from the home and pour vegetable oil on the snake and trap. The oil should counteract the glue and allow the snake to eventually escape.

Several companies remove wildlife for a fee. They can evict wildlife house guests and take measures to prevent them from returning.

Evicting unwanted guests requires hard work and perseverance. However it is important for your family's health and safety. For more information on how to responsibly handle wildlife damage problems, see The Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management Web site at http://wildlifedamage.unl.edu/.

(Willie Chance is a Houston County Extension agent with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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