Snake Inspection Guide
While snakes cause virtually no damage to homes or property, the mere sight of any species of snakes is liable to strike fear in many people and most animals. Snakes will harbor in areas that serve their needs. They need a place to hide and keep warm, moisture and a food source. Snakes can move indoors if these needs are met inside or near the structure. Snakes are more commonly found outside in areas where all of their needs can be easily met.
Signs of Snakes Outdoors
Snakes live in areas where they can have all of their needs met and it easiest for them to thrive. The appearance of snakes on your property is usually indicative of a rodent population nearby. Properties with readily available water sources such as bodies of water, bird baths, standing water or animal watering troughs will also have a higher chance of having snake activity.
Signs of Snakes Indoors
Similar to outdoors, shed snake skins is usually one of the first indicators that a snake has made its way indoors. Snakes are great at hiding and can find some very inconspicuous places to squeeze in. Snakes are most often found in basements or crawl space areas but they have been known to make their way into living areas as well.
You can search the following areas for snakes:
Under and behind appliances
On wall ledges
Near door or window frames
In or around stored boxes
In or around clothing piles
Near water water pipes
Near heat sources
In confined, dark spaces
Snakes that are loose in a home are often hard to find. One thing that might help to “lure” the snake in is to place piles of damp towels covered with a dry towel at different places along walls. The pile should be at least big enough that a snake could crawl under it and hide itself. This is helpful because of snakes’ preference for moisture. The piles can then be checked several times a day.
How to Find Snakes on Your Property
This is a topic very few people like to discuss—how do you find the snakes that are living on your property? For many, this is a scary prospect. Most people are happy to never see a snake, much less actually go looking for one on their property.
But whether you are deathly afraid of snakes or simply don’t care to be around them, having an idea of what sorts of snakes are in your neighborhood is a good idea—particularly if there are venomous snakes in the area
Now, let’s makes this easy for many of you. If you’re the type of person who has a perfect lawn with no heavy shrubbery and no standing water (such as a water tub or small pond for goldfish and the like), then you likely have very little chance of finding a snake on your property.
While snakes do sun themselves on open grass, snakes like to hang out near places where they can crawl into things or under things. They also like to be near water, not only to drink but also to eat the toads and frogs that are also attracted to the water. If you have a perfect lawn and very little shrubbery, you may see a snake once in a while that is simply passing through.
But if you live near water and have a shed on your property or thick shrubbery or various pieces of wood or metal on the ground, then you likely have snakes. The number of snakes, of course, depends on where you live and the time of the year. Also, remember, for every snake you see, there are many more nearby that you can’t see.
How do you find snakes in your backyard?
Looking for snakes in your yard or other residential areas is pretty easy. First, make sure you never put your hands or feet anywhere that you can’t see them clearly. This is the best rule for avoiding a bite by a venomous snake. Typically, snake’s movements are governed by the search for food, the search for a mate, and the need to thermoregulate (control their body temperature). Since snakes are ectothermic (that is, they rely on changing their environment to regulate their body temperature, versus mammals which can thermoregulate mostly without changing environments), they tend to look for places to bask in the sun when the air is cool and there’s sun out. Likewise, on hot sunny days, they look for cover that protects them from extreme heat. You’ll have best luck finding snakes on warm, dry days. The time of year will vary depending on your location. Look for cover items—boards, roofing metal, pieces of cardboard, bark, etc. that might provide shelter for them. Using a long stick of some sort, carefully lift the cover item toward yourself (so that a surprised snake will have to escape away from you, not toward you). Finding areas where rodents, frogs, birds, or other prey animals live may also help you locate snakes. Essentially, herpetologists (those who study reptiles and amphibians from a scientific perspective) just spend a lot of time looking under cover items and occasionally finding snakes moving on the surface. Sometimes we use tricks like putting out stacks of a few sheets of tin or some plywood to help provide a hiding place, but these have to weather for at least one growing season usually before they are likely to produce any results. Above all, make sure you know how to identify the venomous snakes in your area before attempting to locate any snake, and be sure you are prepared to make a safe retreat if you encounter one.
First, understand what types of snakes you’re apt to find in your area. If you’re prone to “hots” (venomous species) in your neck o’ the woods, this is NOT a good idea.
If you’re OK as far as hots go, then think like a snake. Snakes like safe, dark places to hide more often than not, though some are excellent at climbing trees and will hang out “upstairs”. They like being away from noise and strong smells, but near water so they can drink and can soak when it’s time to shed. They want a food source (generally rodents).
Most of your “easily domesticated” species like corns, rats, kings, hognoses, ribbons, racers, garters, and such will prefer hidey-holes near trees or streams. You can tempt them into specific areas by putting down plywood sheets or bed linens for a few days, then turning them up to peek underneath. And you’d better be prepared for a bite, because no one likes being disturbed when they’re napping. You also don’t know what else is going to shelter under there, so it’s not something I’d recommend.
Rather than pulling an animal from the wild, I always recommend you try “adopting” from a reputable source first, with a second option being buying a captive-bred animal that was NOT pulled from its natural habitat and thrown into a cage. This is more expensive, of course, but animals bred in captivity tend to be robust, healthy, and free of parasites or diseases which is something you’d have to take care of on your own with a wild-caught specimen.
Choosing the Best Pet Snake
Snakes are fascinating animals, and with regular handling, most of them can be quite tame as pets. However, snakes are obviously not the right pets for everyone. They have unique requirements and should only be cared for by those with the commitment and understanding to meet their needs. If you are new to pet snakes, find out what you should consider before deciding to get one and what species are the best snakes for beginners.
Things to Consider Before Choosing a Snake as a Pet
When choosing a snake as a pet, realize you are making a long-term commitment because many species can be expected to live over 20 years.
You must be willing to feed prey animals to your snake (though previously frozen, pre-killed prey is the safest choice) and you will probably have to devote some freezer space to frozen prey items (i.e., rodents).
Snakes are very good escape artists, so you will need to make sure you have an escape-proof enclosure. Snakes are persistent about finding and squeezing through any small gaps.
As beautiful as they are, large constricting snakes and venomous snakes are not recommended as pets due to their safety concerns.
Get a captive bred snake from a reputable breeder, if at all possible. Wild caught snakes tend to be more stressed and prone to parasites and disease, as well as being more difficult to tame
Get a Healthy Snake
You will want to do a cursory exam of your snake to check for any signs of illness, including bubbles coming out of the nose, retained skin, closed eyes, and mouth rot.
Ask for a feeding demonstration to make sure your new snake is readily taking pre-killed prey and eating well. Ball pythons are somewhat notorious for having feeding problems, so this is an especially good idea for ball pythons
Recommended Beginner Snakes
These are all reasonably sized, fairly easy to care for, and tend to be quite docile snakes to care for as pets
These ones are also easy to find from a breeder or at a reptile show since they are quite popular:
King and Milk Snakes
What to do about snakes
Snakes instill a deep-rooted fear in many people that few other animals can match. Even other animals seem to put them in a special category; many wild animals recognize snakes as threatening, and some birds and monkeys even have special vocalizations for sounding an alarm when a snake is seen.
But there’s no justification for the persecution of these animals and the acts of violence often committed when even the most harmless of them is sighted. Snakes suffer greatly from changes in their habitat. Isolated when their natural land is broken up by development, they can’t easily move across the unfriendly terrain.
Common problems and solutions
Snakes cause few problems, and the few they do are relatively benign. Some of the larger species may cause problems around poultry houses, occasionally taking chicks or eggs, but—except for the venomous species— snakes are not a threat to humans or their pets. That does not convince people who have a deep-seated fear of these animals that they are harmless, and the fear some people have at even a glimpse of these reptiles contributes mightily to what are real conflicts between humans and snakes.
Snake Identification Books on Amazon
In many places, you can call animal-control or local police or fire departments to remove the snake. What happens after that may be problematic, since most poisonous snakes have well defined ranges in which resources, such as winter dens (hibernacula), are critical to their survival.
Exclusion (preventing entry or re-entry)
Excluding snakes from buildings can be as difficult as excluding rodents. And keeping snakes out of yards or gardens may be completely impractical.