Living With Snakes

Snake Country Survival Guide

Worried about snakes at home? Killing or moving snakes is a quick fix, not a solution. Moving a snake far from her home may be a death sentence for her and is a temporary fix for you — where there’s one, there’s likely to be more. Learn to live safely with snakes and appreciate your encounters.

NEW: Keeping Dogs Safe in Snake Country

Snakes make good neighbors

They’re more helpful than harmful

More snakes = less disease! Snakes eat vectors and carriers of many diseases, including The Plague and Lyme disease.

Snakes are effective, all-natural pest control. Snakes won’t raid your garden or chew up your wires, but they will eat the critters that do. And due to their non-competitive nature and ability to fast for long periods, vipers (rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths) are more effective at controlling prey populations than bird or mammal predators.

Still don’t want vipers for neighbors? Make friends with other snakes! Kingsnakes, racers, and other non-venomous snakes eat venomous snakes. Others, like gophersnakes and bullsnakes, compete with venomous snakes for food.

patch-nosed snake eating a rodent
An Eastern Patch-nosed Snake eats a rodent in a garden

Killing or handling snakes is a good way to get bit

Most bites happen to people who try to handle or kill snakes; the rest are due to people not watching where they put their hands or feet.

Once you spot a snake, the risk of a bite is virtually zero since you can keep a safe distance.

Snakes presumed dead can and do bite.

Shooting snakes can result in people getting shot because their size and shape make them easy to miss.

black-necked gartersnake
A basking Black-necked Gartersnake

Make your yard less attractive to snakes

Don’t feed or water pets or wildlife on the ground.

Eliminate debris piles and other shelters for snakes or their prey.

Reduce water and lush or overgrown vegetation that attract snakes and their prey.

Horse hair ropes, mothballs, and other commercial repellants don’t work.

A Gophersnake (Bullsnake) hunting around a house

Create a safe, wildlife-friendly yard

Use lights when walking at night.

Create clear, wide paths for safe walking.

Look before placing your hands and feet.

If you can’t see, use a long stick to disturb vegetation and hidden animals.

Don’t use bird netting or glue traps (it is difficult to safely extract trapped animals).

Keep pets indoors or under control.

Hiker steps near a western diamondback rattlesnake
Hiker steps near a Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake

Snakes are important predators and prey. Their presence indicates a healthy and productive ecosystem.

Learn your wild neighbors’ habits and avoid their areas or observe from a safe distance

You could see snakes taking care of their kids, hunting, or babysitting their neighbors’ kids.

Woody, female Arizona Black Rattlesnake, defends her offspring from an unseen threat.
A Western Patch-nosed Snake uses his enlarged rostral scale to dig out loose dirt from a rodent burrow.
Male Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnakes square off in ritualized combat to settle a dispute over rights to court an unseen female.
Cletus, an adult male Arizona Black Rattlesnake, gets a surprise visitor.

Fence snakes out

The most effective fences to keep snakes out should:

  • Be 4’ high with solid, buried footing.
  • Be made of smooth, solid material or ¼” or finer hardware cloth or wire mesh.
  • Have their drainage areas covered with ¼” or finer hardware cloth or wire mesh.

Trim trees and shrubs that give climbers a way in (all snakes can climb).

Central Coast Snake Services has photos of different examples of fences on their website.

The fence on the right of the wooden post has fine wire mesh installed to exclude snakes; to the left is unaltered wire fence that snakes can crawl right through. Photo courtesy of Central Coast Snake Services.
The fence on the right of the wooden post has fine wire mesh installed to exclude snakes; to the left is unaltered wire fence that snakes can crawl right through. Photo courtesy of Central Coast Snake Services.

If you find a venomous snake in a high-traffic area (in your house, on the patio):

  • Wait for him to move,
  • Use a long-handled broom to gently encourage him to move, or
  • Call a wildlife professional. Let them know you don’t want him moved far because this is his home too.

If someone is bitten by a venomous snake seek medical attention immediately. The only effective treatment for snakebite is antivenom, so don’t waste your time with snakebite kits or other home remedies.

Won’t you be my neighbor?

Snakes have an undeserved reputation as evil, cold-blooded creatures.

Fear and misunderstanding result in merciless persecution and impede snake conservation efforts.

A curious Sonoran Whipsnake peers at the photographer.

A curious Sonoran Whipsnake peers at the photographer.

We envision a world where snakes are respected & appreciated instead of feared and hated.

Advocates for Snake Preservation

changes how people view & treat snakes

We provide resources on how we can peacefully coexist with our snake neighbors.

We study snake behavior and natural history, following the principles of Compassionate Conservation.

We dispel myths and misinformation about snakes through free presentations, online outreach, and publications.

Find out more about us at