Snakes in the House Having a snake loose in the house is one of the most terrifying situations for most folks. During spring most wildlife breed and have young or lay eggs. That is nature’s way. Man (meaning mankind not just males) has built roads, paved forests, drained swamps and altered normal wildlife travel patterns but nature keeps happening. Snakes and other reptiles having no way to regulate their body temperature must find a protected place to ride out the winter. As spring arrives they go looking for a meal, a mate and a protected place to have their young or lay eggs. You see some species of snakes lay eggs while others hatch the eggs inside the mother. Once the eggs are laid or the babies are expelled, the mother leaves and provides no maternal duties. Nature takes over and the babies fend for themselves A brush covered thicket, a barn full of hay and old junk, or an attic or cluttered basement make nice habitat for breeding. Usually the area is dark, undisturbed with food close by. All snakes are predators. Most small snakes as well as green snakes and garter snakes eat insects, earth worms, grubs and salamanders. Larger snakes eat rodents, other snakes, birds and bird eggs. Water snakes eat eggs, frogs, aquatic insects and even fish. It is during the search for food or habitat that most snake encounters happen around the home or yard. Learning a little about snakes and their biology will help keep your home snake free. First properly identify the snake to make sure it is not venomous. Sweeping snakes into a box or waste basket is a good way to corral the animal to get a closer look. The Barrow County Extension Office will try to identify snakes you bring in or you can visit a good web site such as http://www.snakesandfrogs.com/scra/species.htm to identify your snake. That 12 inch long snake in the flower bed could be a baby rat snake or a fully grown worm snake. Georgia has about 45 species of snakes and only 6 are venomous. More than half of all U.S. snake bite victims were bitten while handling the snake and more than two-thirds saw the snake before being bitten, but tried to kill, capture or harass it. So before picking up a snake to remove it, make sure what type of snake you have. There is even a method to determine if a shed “skin” came from a harmless or venomous snake. All non venomous snakes in Georgia are protected so in most cases they should not be killed. Snakes can be excluded from areas, trapped, their habitat can be modified, and there are even repellents on the market to repel snakes. Exclusion is the term given to preventing their entry. A ¼ inch wide gap can allow a snake to enter your home. So make sure doors have door sweeps on the bottom and the door sweep touches the threshold. Some snakes are good climbers so make sure all holes through the siding or brick are sealed. Closely examine where all electrical, cable, phone, and air conditioning services enter your home for gaps. Any gap should be sealed with expandable foam insulation or steel wool. Small mesh hardware cloth or screen can be used to exclude snakes from larger openings. Many times modifying the snakes’ habitat should be performed at the same time as installing exclusion practices. Move stacks of lumber, firewood or clutter as far from the house as possible. Keep the carport as clean as possible. Most large snakes dine on rodents so try to make your home or yard unattractive to mice, rats or chipmunks. If mice are in the attic or basement try to control them first. Keep all pet food stored in rodent proof containers and closely mow grass as well and other vegetation. The more wild and wooly your yard the more likely you are to attract snakes. Repellents for snakes are up for discussion. Old wives tales say the powdered sulfur was sprinkled around cowboy’s camp sites to keep out snakes and many people still use powdered sulfur today to keep snakes away. I think it was more the aroma of cowboys out on the trail for weeks at a time without a bath that repelled snakes. Commercial snake repellents are available today at garden centers that contain sulfur and naphthalene but wildlife experts report repellents are useless for most snakes. Trapping is a good method to remove snakes you know are in a home or barn. Several sticky glue traps intended for rats can be tacked to a piece of plywood to catch snakes. Place your traps against walls snakes are known to travel or in areas in the attic where snakes have been seen. Vegetable oil will release the glue so snakes can be released unharmed. Some report successful trapping with a tubular, funnel trap similar to a fish basket made from ¼ inch mesh hardware cloth. Call the Barrow County Extension Office if you need help identifying snakes or need more information on removing snakes from your home or yard.