Black Rat Snake.jpg
Black rat snakes keep the pest population down, but may also enjoy an egg poached from your chicken coop.

According to legend, Ireland had a snake problem. In a land overrun by sinister, slithering serpents, St. Patrick rose up and drove the scourge into the sea. Some say he used his shepherd’s crook to frighten them away. Others say music or a lyrical rhyme. Perhaps he gave a sermon so powerful the oppressive creatures fled in fear and shame. The last of these is likeliest, in that this myth probably speaks not literally of snakes, but of sinners driven away by the impact of the missionary’s religious convictions.


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This much is true: There are no snakes in Ireland.

Scientists suggest their absence is not because they left, but because they never got there at all. After the ice age, the icy sea surrounding this inhospitable island country simply prevented snakes from settling there. I think I prefer the tale of St. Patrick.

A land without snakes probably holds a lot of appeal to those with ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) or just find them icky on general principle.  As a gardener, I am generally pro-snake, happy to have the slithery, low-profile predators on hand to keep rodent riff-raff from eating my plants. My tune changed just a bit the first time I found a black rat snake curled up in one of the chicken nesting boxes cheerfully swallowing his second egg. And when I was called onto an elementary school playground to remove a copperhead discovered under a play structure, a snake-free land started to look mighty appealing.



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Copperheads are a venomous snake not uncommon here in North Carolina and their bite causes painful tissue damage and can even be fatal. North Carolina has the unfortunate distinction of having the highest rate of venomous snake bites in the United States. While it is usually my preference to relocate unwelcome wildlife, I do not hesitate to kill the copperhead.

If snakes have overstayed their welcome in your yard and St. Patrick isn’t on hand to drive them away with a wave of his shepherd’s crook, all is not lost. Although it is nearly impossible to truly keep outdoor spaces snake-free, a few preventative measures might keep them from hanging around.

Clean Up the Clutter

Stacks of wood, rock piles or other debris piled near your home are an invitation for snakes to settle in. Clear out what isn’t necessary and make sure the rest is kept tidy and away from structures.

Mow the Lawn

Tall grass is the perfect opportunity for these ground dwellers to lurk undetected. Snakes are unlikely to linger on a well-maintained lawn and if they do, you’ll see them coming.

Keep Hedges Trimmed and Tidy

Snakes follow the food. Field mice, frogs and other fodder are inclined to seek out dense brush or accumulated leaves to keep cool and out of sight.

Check Structures for Gaps or Holes

Seal that gap under the tool shed door and inspect the foundation of your home for any appealing hidey-holes. A space no wider than your finger can be all these reptiles need to make your house their home.

Collect Eggs Regularly

If you have embraced the joys of backyard chickens and the eggs they provide, be aware that snakes like those eggs even more than you do. Once they have discovered a clutch, snakes will return regularly to feast.

Most snakes are harmless (although still creepy), but unless you know exactly what kind you’re dealing with, proceed with extreme caution. If bitten, seek immediate medical attention.


15 Comments About this Article

  • anonymous
    I actually had a non poisonous garters snake come in through a fireplace vent into my front room one chilly fall day. I soon had that vent covered with fine netting. I also found two curled up inside the insulation of the wall, behind the shut off valve of the outdoor faucet. they got in through a small 1/2 inch hole. Little beggars will get in anywhere warm come fall.

    Posted 1 year ago

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  • Gin
    So I was working I'm my garden picking up weeds and sticks and I went to pick up more and there were 4 snakes curled up together striking at me! I didn't stick around to see what color they were because I freaked and ran. How can I get rid of themost bc I hate snakes!

    Posted 1 year ago

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  • anonymous
    Will sulphur powder get rid of snakes?

    Posted 11 months ago

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  • anonymous
    I have them in my house.. HELP! OLD house, Stone foundation, right on a creek with a stone wall. :'( I HATE them and am started to be afraid in my own home.

    Posted 11 months ago

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  • anonymous
    I was told that burned tobacco keeps snakes away. Since I smoke cigars I have been shredding the butts and sprinkling them in the garden. It seemed to work well last year so I am keeping it up.

    Posted 10 months ago

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  • anonymous
    If you get rid of the food source (mice, chipmunks, frogs, etc) it will help. Keep grass, hedges, bushes trimmed.....one has to expect a snake or two if living close to water, rocks, woods; this is there habitat.

    Posted 10 months ago

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  • anonymous
    I am afraid of/ hate snakes, am interested in the answer to the suld fer question.

    Posted 8 months ago

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  • anonymous
    I live out in the country and have chicken's and yes, the snakes love my eggs as much as I do. One day my husband was working in the garden so I decided to check for eggs I looked in the nest and there it was a huge I mean huge black snake. You could tell he has come to our house for lunch. He had several eggs in him. I told my husband to come here fast and get this snake. So he ran down to the chicken house and the snake was on the move. He said he could not see him. I said there he is. Then my husband said looks like he is going outside so he ran outside of the chicken house. So I looked in nest again and I saw that guy again. My husband ran back in and was looking for the snake. I said can you see him, there he is. He said no. So, I reached in the chicken nest and grabbed the snake and threw it on the ground and it bit his shoe and I said Can you see him now? I also hate snakes but I hate them more for eating my eggs and little new born chicks. So I have become a snake machines getting them.

    Posted 8 months ago

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  • anonymous
    if you have a cat or two they will rid your area of mice, chipmunks, etc., and reduce snakes

    Posted 8 months ago

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  • anonymous
    so lucky I am living in Mauritius with no Snakes guys... but we do have small species of non venonimous snakes around.. and I really really hate them.. and they do bite as well... However... I do have some in my backyard and at home.. Ireally wanna get rid of them... do you know if there is any plant that would simply drive them far away from my house please????

    Posted 7 months ago

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