No doubt, you’ve heard all about how snakes are actually misunderstood, how they’re really important to the environment, how they fight lyme disease, yada, yada, yada. They probably still freak you out. We get it. It’s hard not to be freaked out by those slithery boys. Especially when there’s a pile of them in your driveway!
As you may have noticed, snakes are more active than normal around this time of year. You might see them around your garden, your driveway, your yard, or even your home. Here’s what you should know about snakes in summertime. It might not help you get over your fear, but at least you’ll know what to do while you’re freaking out.
Why Are They Here?
Snakes spend most of the year preparing for winter. The most time-consuming and essential part of this preparation is mating. Midwestern snake mating season is determined by the amount of heat and sunlight we get starting in late spring.
Snakes are cold-blooded, so they need to take in heat and sunlight in order to have the energy required for mating. Getting more sun than usual means coming out from their hiding places more than usual. It’s not that there are more now than before, it’s that they’re more visible.
What Are They Doing?
If snakes have to soak up sun, why does it seem like they move around more in summer? Well, one explanation is that they’re searching for mates. Breeding can get competitive, so sometimes they have to get proactive if they want to, uh, socialize.
Even though snakes need to absorb heat and sunlight to warm their blood, they also can’t absorb too much or they’ll overheat. That’s one of the reasons why they prefer cool locations like the undersides of rocks, beneath decks, or in basements. It’s also why you tend to see snakes more early in the morning or at night than you do during the day. The fact that cool, damp places are also where they find prey doesn’t hurt, either.
What Attracts Them to My House?
Snakes choose where they live based on access to food, shade, and shelter. They’ll come into a house or yard to hunt small mammals or some insects. They can’t get too hot, so they look for places where there’s shade, high vegetation, or other dark, cool places to hide. Some may burrow into loose soil or under decorative rocks, siding, or decks.
After mating, a snake’s #1 winter-prep priority is finding a place to hibernate–its “hibernaculum.” A hibernaculum needs to be dark, warm, enclosed, safe, and below the frost line. A home’s foundation, walls, or garage can often meet all of these requirements. Snakes don’t generally move far from their home environment, either, so a few will multiply into a bigger problem quickly.
Are They Dangerous?
Probably not. There are numerous venomous snakes native to Midwestern states–including the Timber Rattlesnake, Eastern Massasauga, Prairie Rattlesnake, and Northern Copperhead–but they’re relatively rare. Even if you do encounter a venomous snake, they’ll only bite you as a last resort. Snakes are shy, and prefer hiding to attacking. The overwhelming majority of snakebites treated every year happened after the victim either provoked or manhandled the snake, usually while intoxicated.
Even in the off-chance you do encounter a venomous snake and in the extreme off-chance that snake bites you, the snake probably won’t inject you with venom. Venom is a crucial hunting resource for snakes, and it requires a lot of energy and sustenance to produce. Frankly, it’d be a waste to envenomate you. If you’re bitten, wash and dress the wound and seek medical attention immediately.
How Can I Prevent Them?
Deter snakes by depriving them of food, shelter, and places to hibernate. Snakes burrow under shaded, stationary cover where they can stay cool and go unnoticed. Clear away yard clutter such as piles of leaves, lumber, or compost. Snakes need shade to move around freely, so cut your grass short and trim your bushes and hedges regularly. Rodents like chipmunks or squirrels eventually attract snakes, so look for ways to keep small mammals away from your home. If you use a bird feeder, make sure the seed doesn’t fall down to the ground.
Perhaps most importantly, seek out and block access to potential snake hibernacula. Walk the perimeter of your house and look for cracks or gaps. Seal, cover, or repair any crack that’s larger than a quarter-inch. Make sure you check your garage and garage door, your windows, and your doors. One of the most common routes snakes use to get into your home is through gaps around utility lines. Seal gaps around water pipes, electrical lines, sump pumps, and other places where utilities like gas and power enter your home.
We know you’ll never like snakes, but hopefully knowing a bit about them can help you manage your fear. Ultimately, the kinds of snakes you’ll find around your home or yard aren’t too scary. For the most part they’ll just lounge around… and make baby snakes… and eat chipmunks. Ok, that’s kind of scary.
If you have a problem with snakes in your home or yard, you can always give Plunkett’s a call. We offer Varment Guard Wildlife Control and those technicians have the expertise and experience to handle snakes and all kinds of wildlife problems. Those snakes will have to do their freaky tangle time somewhere else this year!BACK TO BLOG