Snakes are generally unwelcome visitors that most people simply are not comfortable having around their home. Unfortunately, killing a snake is the most common way people deal with its presence. Generally, the snakes living under your front steps or slithering through your backyard are not anything to worry about. The majority of small snakes we encounter in the Coulee Region are not venomous and pose no threat to people or property when left alone. A good rule of thumb is that if you are not sure what kind of snake it is - leave it alone and let it live to a natural ripe old age.
If you still cannot bear the thought of snakes on your property there are a few things you can do to deter their presence. First, keeping your lawn cut low and clean deprives snakes of the hiding places they seek; when they don’t have places to hide they are not likely to stay. If ridding your yard of snakes is a priority:
Don’t allow weeds and brush to grow on your property or near your house.
Don’t keep wood, brush, leaf, stone, or debris piles about your property.
Don’t leave garbage, derelict cars, unused machinery, or other items sit in one spot for years on end to create habitat for any unwanted creatures.
Don’t heavily landscape your property. Dense mass plantings provide wonderful cover for snakes. Ponds may also attract snakes to your yard. Rock gardens provide a great place for snakes to sun themselves.
Second, repair cracks along your building foundations and fill holes under sidewalks and such. Caulk and vinyl cement patch are cheap, easy, and effective products used to fill cracks, crevices, and holes. There are snake repellants on the market that can be used as short term deterrents. Keep in mind, these products are water-based and wash away with rainwater.
Finally, eliminate food sources. Don’t allow your yard become a haven for rodents or insects. Keeping a clean property, scarce landscaping, and filling cracks in foundations also deprive these unwanted creatures of places to thrive. When such creatures are present, snakes are provided a plentiful food source and have reason to hang around. Check your local garden centers for insecticides and repellents that can be used to rid insects from your home, garden, and yard.
If you find a small snake (less than 2 ft.) in your home do your best to not panic. Keep a close eye on the snake and call for a second person to assist if possible. You can safely direct the snake out of your home using a broom to guide it to an opened door. If you feel threatened by the snake or feel it is not a native species to Wisconsin, call Animal Control at (608) 781-4014 for advice or service availability provided for your location. Animal Control will respond to calls where rattlesnakes or domestic snakes have gotten into a home.
If you have a regular occurrence of snakes in your home you will need to investigate for points of entry. You need to search carefully and methodically. Check for cracks in your foundation, missing or damaged door thresholds, damaged basement windows, or gaps between your foundation and siding just to point out a few possibilities. When you are reasonably certain the snake is out immediately repair or fill such points of entry. You do not want to trap the snake in your house. It may come out in another room within your home or die behind a wall and smell for weeks.
If you have any questions regarding snakes you may call Animal Control at (608) 781-4014 or the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources at (608) 785-9000.