Issue: March 1, 2008
How can I get snakes out of my garden?
I have killed 3 snakes in my garden already this year. I'm afraid of snakes and do not want them to bite me or my children. What can I do to get rid of the snakes?
Snakes are not what most people think of when they consider wildlife in their gardens. However, snakes are indeed part of the natural environment that may be attracted to a wildlife friendly garden.
Dr. Jon Boren, NMSU Extension Wildlife Specialist, has several suggestions. The first is the recognition that some snakes are beneficial. He notes that of the 46 snake species found in New Mexico, only 8 are poisonous. Non-poisonous snakes can be very helpful in reducing rodent populations that may enter our landscapes. While a bite from a non-poisonous snake is not something to be desired, it is better that becoming ill with any of the diseases that rodents can carry. So, if you have a snake problem, first determine what snakes are present and if rodents have become established in your landscape. If the rodents are present, the way to encourage the snakes to leave is to remove their food supply, the rodents.
Dr. Boren says that snake repellents have not proven effective in discouraging snakes. He does say that habitat modification to create an unfavorable habitat will discourage the snakes. That means removing places that provide cover for snakes and their food supply (the rodents). Mowed lawns, removal of large brush and tall grasses are not favored habitat for snakes and rodents. You should also remove debris piles, rocks, junk piles, and other places that provide cover for the undesired garden guests. Tightly closed garbage containers, cleaned pet feeding areas after the pets have eaten, and other sanitation measures will also discourage the rodents.
If these measures do not work, or you do not want to delay in removing the snakes, it is possible to trap them with "glue boards" . This is especially important if the snakes have entered structures or are commonly visiting too close to the house, under porches and in crawl spaces. The snakes will often travel the same route, often against a wall, so the glue boards can be placed in areas where they have been seen before. After you trap them, you can release them in an appropriate area by pouring cooking oil over the snake and glue board while you hold the board at the end of a long stick to protect yourself.
You can learn much more about New Mexico's snakes in NMSU Extension Circular 541 written by Dr. Boren and Brian Hurd, NMSU Extension Research Specialist. This publication is available at cahe.nmsu.edu/pubs/_circulars/CR_541.pdf.
Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.
Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!