If you have a garden, you should do all you can to find out more about anything that can place your hard work in danger. From insects and raccoons to snakes, bugs, and rain, you need to protect it if you want it to thrive.
The garter snake is one common problem that people who have backyards or even basements seem to be dealing with. Since it’s commonly found throughout North America and relatively harmless to humans, we thought we’d write this guide to help you deal with your friendly reptile neighbors without actually hurting them.
Identifying A Garter Snake
With around 600 snake species in the world, realizing the one in front of you is a garter snake may seem like a daunting task, but we assure you it’s not that hard. First of all, as we said, this is a species which is indigenous to the North American continent and widely found across all of it.
The whole “garter snake” family has 35 species, easily recognizable by their slim bodies with body-long stripes across them. Another particularity is that these stripes come in a number of colors, including orange, yellow, green, red, and gray. There have also been reports of garter snakes with turquoise stripes, so they’re quite the rainbow of colors.
It’s worth knowing that these snakes don’t have fangs and are not venomous. Be that as it may, they still own a few teeth and can bite when provoked, so be careful! Like any animal, that bite can become infected if not properly cleaned and some people even have a rare condition which makes them allergic to their saliva.
As you can see, the biggest problems garter snakes can cause is not by actually attacking you but by simply enjoying themselves in your home, garden, or basement.
Why Are They Invading Our Spaces?
Since they are reptiles, garter snakes are cold-blooded creatures which will often dwell in locations that offer warmth and food. Because they are so slender, they do not require much space to enter your home, being perfectly adaptable to small cracks.
While one of their benefits is natural pest control since they can also feed on small mammals and amphibians, most people don’t enjoy the frightening experience of finding a garter snake in their home. Most importantly, they tend to give off a distinct, foul smell that can impregnate your house.
Add that to the fact that they prefer to hibernate in large numbers to prevent heat loss and you may have a smelly problem that can make your residence uninhabitable.
What Is Their Favorite Environment?
As we said, a few garter snakes in your garden will actually do more good than harm. They eat insects and other pests like these so they can act as a protector to your beloved plants. However, you really don’t want them enjoying it so much that they decide to also call their cousins.
When not resting, these snakes prefer moist, grassy areas so they will be often found near your source of water. They also like to feel safe and covered so if your yard has piles of debris such as rocks or generally dense vegetation you are likely to also have some unwanted neighbors.
A large number of garter snakes will prove problematic for a number of reasons. First and foremost, people are generally scared while encountering a snake and even if this particular species is not venomous, they will bite if you accidentally step on them and that bite can cause a lot of pain.
It’s estimated that a few million people get bitten by snakes each year, with the majority of these bites coming from non-venomous species. Secondly, garter snakes don’t generally distinguish between the insects they eat so having a large number of them for too long can prove harmful to your garden.
Getting Rid Of Them
If you’re not a very big fan or they’ve wreaked havoc in your garden, garter snakes can be driven away with a few preventive measures, so you don’t have to worry too much about this.
We think you will agree that preventing something from happening is always easier than dealing with the consequences. With that in mind, take a trip around your home and close up any holes, cracks, or empty spaces where a snake could get through. Making your house snake-proof is the best measure you could take against them.
If you’re already dealing with invaders, there are products you can buy that will help you in your fight against them. You can find certain granular snake-repellent formulas on the market that are effective and easy to use. As long as you put on some gloves and sprinkle along the perimeter of your choice, snakes won’t usually dare to cross it.
Also, most repellents like these have natural ingredients so they won’t prove to be an additional problem for your home or garden. Make sure to also use them under the house for extra-protection should they choose to seek shelter there.
Another tip is to clean up any debris piles that the snakes could use as shelter. A clean garden will usually mean fewer locations in which they could hide so less potential surprises for you. Keep your grass well-mowed and your bushes trimmed, as garter snakes don’t like people who don’t take care of their garden and they punish them by hiding in it.
Also, put yourself in their shoes (well, scaly skin). Why do they like to come to your garden, for instance? Because you have a lot of insects and critters that they can use as lunch. Eliminate the things that drive them to your property. Get some pest control to repel insects and rodents and make sure to clean up your basement.
So, Those Are The Only Possibilities?
Cleaning up your things will be a large part of what’s required to get rid of garter snakes. However, there are other steps you can also take to achieve this goal of yours. If you have the time and desire, you can try to simply catch and relocate them to a different area. If you buy a commercial trap, the bait is already included so you just need to lay it and wait.
An old cowboy trick that was handed down through generations in Texas was to put sisal rope around the area you don’t want the snake into, and it will not cross it due to the soft nature of its underbelly.
A different approach would be to get some chickens for your backyard, as they tend to act as a pest control mechanism and actively chase them away. While garter snakes are rarely a treat to chickens unless the chicks are just days old, the birds will be a menace for them after a few weeks!
Do keep in mind, however, that this may be a battle that will incur some casualties, as your chicken may tend to occasionally catch and devour the snakes so this is not exactly the most non-violent way you could think of for getting rid of them.