Mulga Snake - The Australian Museum

Snake numbers have boomed amid recent flooding! Farmers in flooded parts of the nation, are warning of a snake plague now the warm weather is here.

The nation’s flooded plains have caused snakes to come closer together posing a risk of attack for humans and animals. People are seeing snakes where they don’t usually see them making it vital that snakes are stopped from coming into your home and garden

The sight of a snake in or around the house is the stuff of nightmares! Once a sneaky reptile finds its way into your home, it can be hard to locate them. Prevention is the key to keep your property snake free. Here are some steps and home remedies you can take to keep unwanted slithering visitors away. 

1. How do you know snakes are in your house?

Often a snake is more afraid of you than you are of them. If they venture into the home, they will hide, making them difficult to detect as they are good at lurking in nooks and crannies. Even more difficult is finding out if there is a snake in your home or garden without ever meeting it!

Signs to look out for 

  • Shedding or moulted snakeskin. Finding a snakeskin indicates that a snake has been living in the house for some time and has avoided being discovered and is sheltering somewhere on your property.
  • Look out for snake poop. A snake frequently needs to defecate especially after a feed.
  • Hearing abnormal noises or strange smells coming from a dark, cramped place. Snakes nest in small, damp areas with little or no light and prefer to lay their eggs in enclosed spaces. Check flooring, attic, cellar, and hollow walls in the house for snake droppings or tracks in dust or dirt from slithering. In the yard check piles of rocks, wood, or other debris for snake holes.  
  • Absence of small rodents especially if you are used to seeing them. Rats and mice are a snake’s prey, and their absence means they might have become snake prey!  

If you experience any of these signs it is best to assume you have a snake problem. After all it is better safe than sorry!

2. What can you do to avoid snakes coming to your house?

If you experience any of the above signs it is best to be safe than sorry and assume you have a snake problem so, take steps to correct it 

Snakes enter areas where you live in search of food and shelter.

  • Screen doors and windows. Stop snakes from entering your home by screening doors and windows. If a snake does enter your home open external doors to let the snake have a chance to leave.
  • Mice and other rodents.  Many species of snakes seek rodents for food. Mice can live in your attic or property and even if there are no mice to be found they will prey on anything from insects, birds, bird eggs, frogs, lizards, and worms. Lessen the risk by not leaving pet food out and storing animal feed in tight containers! Getting rid of their food source is a primary step when it comes to snake prevention.
  • Leaf piles and hedge trimmings provide camouflage for snakes which allow a space for them to hide from predators. They are the perfect cover for snakes to make their way into your home, particularly if they are near the foundations.
  •  Wood piles and landscape rocks. Wood or rock piles need to be kept as far away from the house as possible so snakes will not be as tempted to enter the home. Wear heavy gloves and boots when moving debris to protect yourself.
  • Dense shrubbery. High grass and unruly shrubs are a secluded space to attract rodents and is a perfect cover for snakes.
  • Move Corrugated objects. or raise them at least 12 inches from the ground. Always lift objects so that they face away from you.
  • Gaps under shed and in your home’s foundation.  Snakes can enter the home or shed through the smallest of gaps or cracks in the foundations.  Crakes, crevices, or holes must be closed especially near an accessible crawl space. Drainage areas too are a perfect entry and need a cover over them. 
  • Bird Baths. Snakes need water to survive and may attract snakes.

Weather plays a roll too as snakes are cold blooded animals and withstand heat. Yet if the weather is very hot snakes seek out shelter where they can stay cool including work boots, water pipes and damp corners.

3. What do you need to do to keep snakes away from the garden?

It is important to keep the garden and shed well maintained.  An afternoon of clearing up the garden may be the first line of defence against snakes!

Remove any potential hiding places for both snakes and their prey including cleaning up any piles of wood, metal, trash, and other debris cluttering the garden.

  • Mow grass to keep it short. Keeping grass short increases, the snake’s exposure to predators (birds of prey and feral cats) and they are less likely to spend time there. Short grass also makes snakes easier for you and your family to spot.
  • Move then discard lawn clippings and wood piles away from your home as they provide warmth and security for snakes. Stacks of firewood are perfect places for snakes to hide.
  • Keep garden beds and shrubs low in height. Trim trees so as not to be near your home and keep their branches away from the ground. A 60-90cm space under trees and shrubs will reduce snakes from sheltering there and make them easier to spot.
  • Raise nursery beds. So that snakes have nowhere to hide.
  • Limit watering the lawn too much. Watering the lawn and garden may attract animals like frogs, slugs and worms which are prey species for a snake.
  • Collect eggs regularly. If you keep chickens collect eggs regularly as snakes like eggs even more than you do!
  • Move the bird feeder. Birds scatter seeds when they are eating below their feeder which may attract rodents and in turn attracting snakes who are seeking an easy meal. Move bird feeders away from the house or stop feeding completely. Bird seed must be stored in a container with a tight-fitting lid.
  • Install a perch pole. This will encourage hawks and owls which are natural snake predators to be attracted to an area. Poles should be placed in an open area which has a good view of the garden or yard.
  • Feed pets inside the home. If it is necessary to feed a dog outside, cleaning up any uneaten food straight away is important so as not to attract snakes and rodents. Again, keep pet food in a metal container with a tight-fitting lid.

4. How do you avoid providing hiding spots for snakes?

Best not to put off covering the gap in your wall or checking if your house’s foundation is fully sealed as these are the same thing as hiding spots for snakes.

  • Avoid large rocks.  Limit the chances for snakes to sun themselves on big rocks to warm up their cold blood and muscles or to shelter them when they have had enough sun.
  • Block cavities in wall structures. By sealing the cracks and crannies in the house walls and foundations you are stopping the snake or other small creatures from using the space.
  • Avoid using too much mulch. This can provide a breeding and overwintering habitat! Instead use small tight-fitting rock such as gravel or river rock.
  • Avoid water gardens of fountains as these water features attract snakes. 
  • Replace and repair screen door holes in the house and garage. Ruptured screen doors and mosquito nets are an invitation for snakes. 
  • Install screens over pipes and vents in the plumbing. These openings are a means of inviting the snake into the home. 

5. Are there natural repellents which keep snakes away?

Many people like to use snake repellents but to be successful and drive off the snakes the yard must be cleaned up and their food sources removed. Traps and repellents for rodents and insects are the first moves to make.

Several snake repellents can be purchased from stores and online, but they vary in effectiveness and safety.

There are a few easier and cheaper ways of trying first: –

  • Ammonia. Snakes hate the smell of ammonia and will not come near it. Either spray it around the area or soak a rug in ammonia and place it in an open bag to let the smell escape to deter the snakes away.
  • White Vinegar.  Snakes do not like the smell of vinegar and it itchy on their skin which absorbs it as it slithers over a sprayed patch. 
  • Clove oil and cinnamon. As a natural alternative they can be used by combining the two in a spray bottle and sprinkle over problem areas including the foundations of the home. Rain washes the solution away so reapply after it rains.
  • Scents from plants. Grow plants that have smells which snakes dislike including onions, garlic, lemongrass, marigold, and lime.

6. Will Installing Snake proof fencing work?

Installing a fence can reduce the risk of snakes entering the property. Several companies make wildlife specific fencing to save time

Fencing needs must be made of ridged steel mesh with small holes which are about a quarter of an inch or solid sheeting. It needs to be buried between two and four inches beneath the soil’s surface to ensure snakes will not manage to slide under the fence. The fence must be installed at an angle and bent at the top to prevent the snakes climbing up and over. Start with the problem areas perhaps where children or pets play as it might not be practical to fence all around your property. 

7. What type of noises keep snakes away?

Snakes do not have ears which means they are deaf! But snakes detect sound through vibration, this is how they locate prey, detect hazards and risks. If the vibration is strong enough, they will perceive it as a threat and be scared off. Stomping hard on the ground often scares a snake away by the vibrations the stomping makes.

Most solar and battery powered snake deterrents send a message to the snake by emitting ultrasonic vibrations into the ground which tells the snake there is a threat nearby, keeping them at bay. Installing up to 4 units around the perimeter of the property is recommended to deter the snakes from coming near. They do make a noise, but it is worth it to keep your family and pets safe. 

Makes like Sureguard Snake Repellent, emits vibrations up to 20 metres away. Sentinel Q works on the same principle and sends out vibrations mimicking a heard of cows! 

Raidar Snake Defence MP Plus emits a variety of sounds and vibrations every 50 seconds with vibrations changing every 2 days. Raidar is also portable and can be taken comping which makes it a popular snake repellent in Australia.

8. Does Smoke keep snakes away?

Snakes have a heightened sense of smell and are super sensitive to fumes and odours. One smell that scares snakes the most is the smell of smoke because to them it signals danger.

One method is to dig a fire pit and let it smoulder for several days. The added trick of covering them embers with moss and leaves will give the most effect. 

Wood piles are good places for snakes to hide so if there is a lot of wood lying around best to burn the wood before snakes become active in the spring. If you keep wood all year round place it on a rack at least 30cm from the ground. 

Lighting a small fire such as in a barbecue grill can also work especially if it is hickory smoke.  

9. Can you use a water hose to frighten a snake away?

If you see a snake in your house or yard there is no need to get a shovel and attempt to bash it.

Instead stand at a distance and turn to a hose so you can spray water to scare it away! Use a steady stream of water until the snake slithers off. This option is a non-lethal and effective way of driving the snake off and stopping it from coming any closer without harming them.

A snake will not chase you unless you provoke them by poking them. Qualified snake catchers warn that if it is a brown snake best not to hose!

10. How do I protect my smaller pets from snakes? 

Snakes are just another animal to pets especially dogs, so they do not have the same knowledge as humans of the harm they can cause. A responsible pet owner must know how to keep their dog out of snake’s way. 

The summer heat brings conditions that snakes love so the chances of coming across a snake is only increases.  Dry, hot conditions allow snakes to thrive and drive them into the comfort of your home or yard.  Remember a pet can discover a snake basking in sunny warm places or hiding under the rocks, wood, and logs. 

 The best ways to keep your pet safe are: – 

  • Keep cats indoors with access to a snake proof outdoor enclosure to prevent encounters with snakes.
  • Do not let dogs roam free in the area you think you have snakes especially in long grass. In the back yard keep you dog leashed to a chair or a stake so they do not go sniffing in a likely place a snake is hiding. 
  • Train your dog to come if he sees a snake to make going to investigate the snake seem a boring idea.
  • Do not let them play with dead snakes. The venom stored in a dead snake’s body is still toxic
  • If you encounter a snake, keep your dog under control and stop moving then allow the snake to move away. Snake bites happen quickly when the snake feels threatened or startled.  
  • Walk a dog during the morning rather than in the afternoon.