Many people are deeply afraid of snakes, causing them to often be villainized. While snakes can cause a few problems for landowners, they are mostly tolerable. Some larger species of snakes may cause problems with chicken coops, but aside from venomous snake species, snakes are not a threat to humans or their pets.
Encounters with Snakes
Most encounters with snakes are done in passing. However, if you do encounter a snake, be sure to: leave the snake alone, identify it by species; and continue to leave it alone so long as it is not venomous and not inside a house or building.
All outdoor encounters with nonvenomous snakes should be resolved by letting the animal go its own way, most likely to never be seen again. However, all encounters with venomous snakes should be taken seriously. The snake should be removed to ensure that no one gets hurt. In most areas, you can call animal control or local police or fire departments to remove the snake. However, we would urge you to contact Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh to provide the snake with the best chance of survival. Moving snakes to unfamiliar territory may compromise their chances of survival, so it must be done with the utmost care.
Excluding snakes from buildings can be difficult, and keeping snakes out of yards or gardens may be impossible.
Snakes in houses may be there either accidentally or purposely to find prey or shelter. They can become trapped inside and may die from lack of food or moisture if not captured and removed.
Reducing the chance of a snake moving into your yard can be done so by making your yard less attractive to snakes:
- Remove piles of rocks, wood, or other debris;
- Trim tall grass and undergrowth;
- Repair cracks around concrete porches and sidewalks;
- Do not allow space under the floor of storage sheds;
- Remove mice and rats around the home; and
- Store wood and compost piles far away from your home and decking.
Removing Snakes from Inside Your Property
If you discover a snake in your house, act as soon as possible, and do the following:
- Remain calm and avoid disturbing the snake or driving it into hiding;
- If possible, carefully open a nearby door and use a broom to gently herd the snake outside;
- If you can’t herd the snake and it is small and coiled, slowly place an empty pail or wastebasket over it, then put a weight on top to trap the snake until an experienced handler arrives;
- If getting the snake outside or trapping the snake is impossible, try to confine it to a room or corner with barriers such as boards or boxes, so that it will be easier to capture when the expert arrives.
If you know there is a snake in your house, but you cannot find it, remember that snakes like warmth and darkness. As such, placing a heating pad or even a pile of burlap or other material on the basement floor may attract the snake so you can then trap it.
If you are not afraid of snakes and believe you can do so without harming yourself or the snake (make sure it is a nonvenomous species!), you can consider putting on gloves, gently picking up the snake, and carefully relocating it outside.
Snake-Proofing Your Property
Snakes usually enter buildings at ground level, some fitting through tiny cracks or holes no more than one-eight inch wide. Closely inspect the foundation of your building for unsealed wire or pipe conduits or basement windows or doors that do not seal tightly and seal these openings immediately.
Some snakes are also good climbers, so tree shrubs, stone walls, or chimneys may provide access to the roof. Be sure to check for openings around the eaves and roof. Inspect behind concrete porches, steps, and where decks attach to your house.
If you have had snakes in your property, try to identify which opening is likely the main snake entrance. Seal all openings except the suspected main entrance. On that opening, install a one-way door for snakes, as follows:
- Roll a piece of aluminum window screen into a ten-inch cylinder slightly larger in diameter than the entrance hole.
- Insert the roll into the snake entrance.
- Suspend the outlet end a few inches off the ground, so the snake can exit but not reenter.
- Leave it in place a month or longer (if you install it in the fall, leave it in place until late spring).
- Once the snake has left, remove the tube and permanently seal the opening.
Please note, Humane Action Pittsburgh (HAP) is not a wildlife rescue and is unable to address concerns or assist with wildlife emergencies. Please utilize the resources on our website to find the appropriate organization to contact. Submissions to HAP through our contact form or email will not be able to be addressed.