Landscaping Methods to Prevent Snakes 2023 (Tips & Tricks)

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Landscaping Methods & Tips to Prevent Snakes

Snakes in backyard
If you live in an area where snakes are more common, it’s sensible to employ a few landscaping tips to prevent snake infestations. Photo from hippopx

A snake encounter in the home or backyard can be one of the most frightening and memorable experiences for just about anyone. As these slithering creatures seem to communicate danger, largely due to their portrayal in literature, it’s understandable to want to keep them away at all costs. In regions where snakes are known for being widespread and rampant, it’s prudent to employ a few design tips and tricks to prevent snake infestations on your private property.

Many biotic and abiotic factors influence the chances of both venomous and non-venomous snakes entering one’s backyard. For example, something as simple as a water fountain can signal the presence of amphibians, which may lure carnivorous snakes. Additionally, the scent of droppings from domesticated pets or farm animals might tempt nearby rattlesnakes or constrictors, especially during periods when wild food is scarce.

Before landscaping your backyard or outfitting your home with safeguards against potentially dangerous wild animals, it would pay to familiarize yourself with the snakes in your area. Knowing some information about their behavior and seasonal trends should help you make the right landscaping decisions.

What Attracts Snakes?

Backyard pond
Gardens with backyard ponds can be a haven for snakes. devra / CC BY 2.0

The prospect of a warm and safe place in which to rest, search for food, and seek shelter from possible dangers appeals to snakes just as much as it appeals to us humans. In fragmented areas, where large patches of land may be devoid of natural habitats, snakes may enter backyards and homes as they migrate from one area to another in search of a mate or a natural source of food.

Snakes are attracted to cool, shaded, and structurally secure areas that provide all of their basic needs or increase their chances of easily accessing these. Unkempt hedges where they can burrow under and seek protection from the elements, for example, would make a nice spot for them to nest in and interact with other members of their kind.

Gardens with backyard ponds, bird cages, sites where small mammals may hide and breed, and openings through which animals may easily enter and exit the property can be a haven for snakes. Thus, effectively keeping snakes away and disinterested in your home might mean eliminating all of these features.

Simple Methods for Preventing Reptilian Intruders

Mowing lawn
Regularly mowing your lawn can help to prevent snakes from hanging around in your backyard. Alan Light / CC BY 2.0

A garden that truly does not appeal to snakes, unfortunately, may also lack the very elements that we desire to keep our outdoor spaces stimulating and enjoyable. While it may not be advisable to install a naturalized pond, a personal chicken coop, or beautiful bird feeders if you’re extremely wary of snakes, your fear of them shouldn’t entirely keep you from indulging your backyard fantasies.

Instead, you might focus on reinforcing your garden’s fences or securing your home’s entry points to make it difficult for any wild animals to furtively enter. You might also focus on tidying up the garden and maintaining its greenery to eliminate any areas in which a snake may hide or lay its eggs. Even the type of substrate you use, the seamlessness of your pipe systems, and the way your yard accumulates water after a storm can affect how eagerly snakes would want to enter your property.

Listed below are some simple ways to dissuade snakes from sneaking into and living in your home or yard. Depending on the biodiversity and distribution profile of snakes in your area, along with your general outlook towards snakes (some gardeners welcome a small population due to their ecological services), you might entertain some or all of these tips.

  • Regularly mow your lawn. Avoid growing tall grasses and using plants like bamboo to add complexity to your property’s perimeter.
  • The lower half of your fence or the entire structure should be free of gaps and be anchored deep into the ground.
  • Regularly prune or trim your hedges, trees, living fences, shrubs, and any overgrown plants. Remove fallen branches, twigs, logs, and clutter. Remove weeds in the garden before they can take hold and spread on their own. Do not leave mounds of leaf litter and debris as snakes may nest under these.
  • Store any unused garden items or construction materials in a secure shed, garage, or greenhouse.
  • Remove any food items that snakes or small wild animals may wish to eat. Do not feed your pets outdoors as the smell of their food may attract snakes. Harvest vegetables and herbs before they can attract rodents, rabbits, and other grazers. If these prey items are regularly present in your garden, they will likely draw in predatory snakes.
  • If you intend to install a bird feeder, keep it away from your home’s entry points and remove any bird food that spills onto the ground.
  • If you intend to keep a chicken coop, regularly gather the eggs. Reinforce the perimeter and entrance/exit points of the coop to prevent small snakes from intruding.
  • If you intend to keep an ornamental pond or water garden, you may surround it with a fine yet rough substrate that snakes may struggle to slither over. Considering creating a pond with a raised wall. You may also wish to install a fine mesh net over the pond’s surface. Note that large stones and rocks around a pond create small caves that may attract snakes.
  • Seal any openings or gaps around the doors and windows of your home, shed, garage, greenhouse, and basement.
  • Keep a level or sloped lawn to prevent water from pooling into one area and developing into a seasonal pond.
  • Do not store firewood, lumber, large pieces of wood, and boulders close to your home.
  • Avoid using mulch in your garden as snakes may use it as a microhabitat for overwintering.

Reinforcing Your Property’s Perimeter

Wooden fence
A fence can help to keep snakes out of your backyard but bear in mind that wooden fences often have gaps where a snake could slither through. Clarkston SCAMP / CC BY 2.0

The best way to reinforce your property’s perimeter in order to reduce the chances of slithering intruders is by installing a fence. Though fences are far from fool-proof, especially in the presence of desperate wild animals, they will at least dissuade the majority of small critters (including snakes that are simply “moving through” the area) from finding their way into your yard.

The right type of fence is crucial. As you’d be installing one with the intention of keeping snakes out, any gaps in the structure should be fine or wholly absent. A solid sheet of fencing material or one with a very fine hard mesh can be used. You may also use wooden structures for a more natural finish, but keep in mind that snakes will likely find their way through the gaps in between the slats. Consider reinforcing the bottom half of a wooden fence with a layer of mesh, cement, or a metal sheet.

If your yard already has a sturdy fence, ensure that it is at least 24 inches (61 cm) tall. Keep in mind that larger snakes can slither upward and over low structures; a bend at the top of the fence may discourage them. Moreover, the base of the fence should be buried at least 3 – 4 inches (8 – 10 cm) below ground level. Keep in mind that some snakes may burrow underneath shallow fences to get to a target area.

The Importance of Lawn & Hedge Maintenance

Leaf pile
Regular backyard maintenance, such as preventing fallen leaves from accumulating, is key in preventing snake infestations. Collin Anderson / CC BY 2.0

Overgrown grass, hedges, shrubs, and trees often allow snakes to make their way into private property in an unnoticeable manner. As reptiles that have evolved to stealthily travel under the cover of plant matter, snakes are adept at weaving through grass and slithering over branches. Keeping the grass mowed and the hedges trimmed should increase their exposure to their own predators. This should make them think twice about making their way around your yard!

Maintaining the tidiness of your yard means removing fallen debris, preventing fallen leaves from accumulating, and weeding fast-growing plants before they can create invasive colonies. By eliminating spots where snakes can hide, you effectively reduce their chances of nesting and egg-laying. Removing clutter should also make it easy for you to spot any wild intruders. 

To prevent snakes from nesting underneath large shrubs and trees, aim to keep a gap of about 20+ inches (51+ cm) between the lowest branches and the ground. This should help keep the substrate exposed. In case any snakes do happen to make their burrows or nests underneath shrubs, the gap should hasten the work of professional exterminators.

Plants That Deter Snakes

Snakes usually avoid plants with strong odors and rough textures, such as lemongrass. Henna / CC BY 2.0

Apart from using structural measures to help keep snakes out of the garden or home, you should consider using plants. Snakes tend to avoid plants with strong odors and rough textures. Many aromatic tropical plants, some of which contain antivenom compounds in their essential oils or sap, are known for keeping dangerous snakes away from human settlements.

In Sri Lanka, for example, locals have traditionally cultivated stands of Andrographis paniculata (king of bitters) around establishments like schools and shared housing. Other strongly-scented plants that may reduce the chances of snake infestations include garlic, onion, lemongrass, kaffir limes, and skunk cabbage. Coupled with plants that may cause injury upon contact, like cacti and snake plant (Dracaena trifasciata), these can make snakes extremely wary.

The Ecologically Safe Way to Keep Snakes Away

Grass snake
Snakes are naturally shy animals that usually do not mean any harm. If you have one in your backyard, don’t try to remove it without professional help. Bas van Oorschot / CC BY 2.0

Snakes are naturally shy animals. Whenever possible, they would prefer to stay away from human settlements. They genuinely do not mean us harm. As they usually end up in our gardens due to confusion or for lack of a better form of shelter, it is our responsibility to treat them with respect and care. After all, they are wild animals that play crucial roles in nature.

While deciding on preventive measures for keeping snakes away from the backyard and home, it’s vital that we employ ecologically-friendly strategies. Although chemical-based snake repellents are available, their use is not encouraged. The potentially harmful ingredients in these repellents may not only kill snakes but also harm all other living things that they come into contact with. As a result, their large-scale or continuous use may negatively affect the environment.

Do not use mothballs, decoy eggs made of ceramics or plastic, and poisonous substances that are targeted toward other pests. Using firearms to kill or force snakes out of your property is also heavily discouraged as these can severely harm the snake or yourself. Instead, employ the preventive measures discussed above.

If there is currently a snake in your yard and you need to do something about it, contact a local wildlife agency, a fire safety unit, or the police for help. Do not attempt to remove the wild animal, particularly if it looks to be venomous, on your own.

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