Pet Snake Tips

Snakes: Information

Few animals are more disliked or misunderstood than snakes. Irrational fears and feelings that people have about snakes come from misunderstandings and superstitions handed down from one generation to another. Snakes are not mysterious at all, and their colorful, fascinating life histories do not justify the anxiety many people feel about them

Most of the 50 species and subspecies of snakes found are harmless. (A subspecies is a geographic race of a species.) The five species of venomous snakes found in the state include the Osage copperhead, western cottonmouth (water moccasin), western pygmy rattlesnake, massasauga rattlesnake and timber rattlesnake. Although you should respect venomous snakes and approach them with caution, most snakes you may encounter in an urban environment are harmless and beneficial because they eat insects, mice and other rodents.

Snake biology and habits

Snakes are reptiles — a group that also includes lizards, alligators and turtles. Reptiles have been around for millions of years. Snakes are ectotherms, which means they regulate their body temperature by taking heat from their environment or by giving off heat. Because their body temperature is affected by environmental temperatures and varies with surrounding conditions, snakes are inactive during hot seasons (aestivation) and cold seasons (hibernation). Snakes may go for several weeks without eating because of frequent periods of inactivity.

Because snakes are coldblooded, they must rely on behavior to regulate their body temperature. During the hot part of the day, snakes move to shaded areas. On cool days, they sun themselves on rocks or in warm and open areas. Snakes often seek out paved roads because they are attracted by the heat from the road surface.

Because snakes have a backbone, they are classified as vertebrates, the same group as fish, mammals, birds and humans. The snake’s skeletal system is unique. Snake bones are light and highly movable. The lower jaws and skull are connected by a piece of stretchy material called a ligament. This ligament allows the snake to open its mouth wide and move each jaw independently. Thus, a snake can swallow prey much larger than its head.

Don’t wait to see a snake

Use Snake Deterrents to create an avoidance zone

Snake Deterrents have been developed to repel many kinds of snakes. They emit a pulsing vibration into the surrounding soil. When the snake perceives the vibration as a source of danger most snakes will choose to avoid confrontation. (Similar principle to bush walkers walking noisily to scare snakes away.)

Snake Facts:

Scientists have evidence that snakes can detect the direction of vibration!

Vibrations as small as one billionth of a meter can be sensed by some snakes!

Snakes hardly hear airborne sounds but are sensitive to vibration.

Most snakes choose to avoid danger.

Snake Deterrents:

Vibrate to signal danger.

Vibrate within the snakes pitch range.

There are a number of factors to consider:

To protect one spot, one snake repellent may be sufficient. To protect the area immediately around your house, one repellent at each corner could be enough to provide overlapping vibration between adjacent repellents. Best coverage is when the snake repellents are away from the walls, say 5m.

Some situations may require more repellents.

Soil types: The 25m apart is a maximum range for most soils, but for sandy soil or soil with a lot of fine stones, you should reduce this to 10m apart.

Hard objects: If you have pathways, you’ll need a repellent on both side because the vibration doesn’t pass through hard objects in the ground. This applies to concrete, bitumen, gravel, pavers, etc.

Shallow top soil: If your top soil is shallow then reduce the separation between repellents.

Multi-level ground: You’ll need snake repellents on both levels where ground is terraced because the vibration won’t travel between levels.

Soil cracks: If the soil is dry and cracked you’ll need repellents on both side because the vibration doesn’t cross the gap

Ways to Stop Snakes From Slithering Into Your Yard

With a drier and hotter start to summer this year, more snakes are following their prey into areas that are irrigated and provide good cover and food. Unfortunately, this describes many people’s yards, and for a lot of people, the sight of a snake strikes fear. To further the problem, many companies take advantage of people’s fear of snakes by selling products or services that are ineffective, and in some cases, may increase the danger to people and pets

Most people’s fear of snakes stems from the worry that they are venomous. Most won’t want to be close enough to tell, but venomous snakes have a pupil that resembles a cat’s. It has an oblong shape with peaked ends that look like a slit in the center of the eye. Non-venomous snakes usually have round pupils. The snakes most people are likely to see in their yards will be non-venomous, such as the garter or gopher snake.

If you encounter a snake in or around your home, keep calm and follow these tips.

Mow grass often and keep it fairly short. Snakes are less likely to reside and move through short grass because it increases their exposure to predators such as owls and  hawks. Shorter grass also makes snakes easier to spot.

Avoid over watering your lawn. Too much landscape water may attract prey species such as worms, slugs and frogs, which in turn may attract snakes seeking a meal.

Keep trees and shrubs trimmed and away from your home and garage, and keep branches off the ground. Creating a 24-to-36-inch space under trees and shrubs will help keep snakes away and will make it easier to spot them if they do slither in.

If you feed birds, keep the feeder away from the house or consider not feeding them. Birds are messy eaters and often leave seed scattered below the feeder. Seed on the ground attracts rodents, which may also attract snakes seeking a meal. Store bird seed in a metal can with a tight-fitting lid.

Feed pets inside. Feeding them outside can attract insects and rodents which, again,  attract snakes. If feeding outside is necessary, be sure to clean up uneaten food promptly. Store pet food in a metal can with a tight-fitting lid.

Store firewood, excess lumber and other types of debris away from your home. These provide prefect places for snakes to hide.

Think before you landscape. Avoid using mulch and large rocks in your landscape, as they attract snakes and their prey and can create breeding and overwintering habitat. Instead, use smaller, tight-fitting rock such as gravel or river rock. Also avoid landscaping with water gardens and Koi ponds.

Seal cracks and crevices on sidewalks and foundations, and consider getting an energy audit. These can be a great way to identify places that allow air conditioning and heat to escape the home. These same cracks and crevices may be used as an entry point by snakes and other small creatures.

When all else fails, consider fencing. Use 1/4 inch or smaller rigid mesh or solid sheeting and bury it a few inches into the ground. Include a bend at the top to prevent snakes from climbing up and over.

Do not use snake repellents or sulfur, as they are ineffective. Do not use mothballs because the active ingredient is naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene – chemicals that are toxic to insects and mammals, but are not effective against snakes. Using mothballs outside your home also violates product labels and puts your family and pets at risk. Do not use sticky traps outside. Traps placed outside capture all sorts of non-target animals and result in a slow, agonizing death.

If you have issues with snakes in your chicken coop, avoid using ceramic eggs or golf balls. Snakes that eat these artificial eggs die a slow and painful death over many weeks, and new snakes will show up to take their place. Instead, focus on improving your coop to prevent snakes from entering and follow the deterrents recommended above. If using ceramic or other artificial eggs to encourage a brooding hen to lay, glue them down to prevent snakes from eating them.

Do not bring out the guns, shovels or other weapons. Discharging a firearm toward the ground can result in bullet ricochet. If needing to get a snake to move on, use a water hose to spray the snake, which will encourage it to find a new place to take up residence.



Snakes belong to the reptile family along with turtles, lizards, crocodiles, and alligators. Reptile young are hatched from shelled eggs or born alive and are essentially miniature versions of their parents. Reptiles depend on the outside environment for body heat because they do not produce it internally.

Snakes do not have eyelids! Their eyes are covered by a protective transparent scale.

Snakes hear by picking up vibrations through their skull and jaw bones.

Snakes smell with their tongue! Odor particles are picked up by the tongue and deposited on a special organ in the roof of the snake’s mouth which then sends information to the brain. This sense of smell assists the snake in finding food and identifying potential mates or enemies.

A snake’s dry and scaly skin provides protection as they move over rough or prickly terrain.

The outer skin covering is shed and replaced several times during the year and shed skins are good clues to the presence of secretive snakes.

Snakes are predators. The smaller Michigan snakes feed on invertebrates such as worms, slugs, or insects. The larger species take larger prey, such as frogs, rodents, birds, or other reptiles.

Snakes must swallow their food whole. This is possible due to flexible connections between many of their skull and jaw bones and stretchable skin, which allows them to swallow prey larger than their heads.

Non-venomous snakes have tiny, recurved teeth that are useful for holding and swallowing prey.

Venomous species have these same recurved teeth, as well as enlarged teeth for injecting venom.


Snakes usually mate in early spring. Although the majority of reptiles reproduce by laying shelled eggs, many snakes give birth to babies that develop inside the mother’s body. Of 18 snake species, 10 are live-bearing and only 8 lay eggs.

Egg-laying usually occurs in early summer, with the eggs deposited in an empty rodent burrow, in moist sand or soil, or under a log or stump.

Depending on the snake species, clutch size ranges from 1 to 50 eggs.

Most snakes abandon their nests soon after the eggs are laid, but females sometimes coil about the eggs for varying time periods.

Hatching occurs in late summer or fall when the baby snakes cut their way through the leathery egg shell using a specialized “egg-tooth.”

Live-bearing snakes give birth about the same time in late summer

The number of young born can vary from 5 to 50 depending on the species.

The babies often emerge enclosed in a thin membrane which soon ruptures.

There is no parental care of the young, though they may remain near the female for several hours.


17 of 18 snake species are harmless, and the one venomous rattlesnake can be identified with minimal training. All snakes can be avoided with simple precautions when visiting natural areas. Learn more about snake safety tips and snake bite treatment


Key Points

Specific advice about children with potential snakebite should be sought early from a clinical toxicologist (Poisons Information Centre 13 11 26, 24 hrs/day).  This should particularly occur with envenomation by snakes of snake-handlers or other sources of exotic snakes, as well as by those bitten by snakes in locations other than.

In Victoria, there are 3 venomous snakes – Brown, Tiger and Red-Bellied Black.

Antivenom should be administered early if signs of envenomation.  Brown and tiger antivenom will cover all snakes.


Snake bite is uncommon and envenomation (systemic poisoning from the bite) is rare. The bite site may be evidenced by fang marks, one or multiple scratches. The bite site may be painful, swollen or bruised, but usually is not for snakes


Focus on evidence of envenomation.

Once the possibility of snakebite has been raised, it is important to determine whether a child has been envenomed to establish the need for antivenom.

This is usually done taking into consideration the combination of circumstances, symptoms, examination and laboratory test results.

Most people bitten by snakes do not become significantly envenomed.

Role of snake venom detection kit (VDK)

A VDK is rarely indicated as

There are only two types of antivenom required for snakes (tiger and brown) and both can be given to treat envenomation without identifying the snake, and

The diagnosis of envenomation is based on the aforementioned history, examination and laboratory test findings.  A VDK is NOT used to diagnose envenomation.

A VDK may be indicated if the snakebite is from a non-snake.

Attempted identification of snakes by witnesses should never be relied upon as snakes of different species may have the same colouring or banding.

VDKs can have significant rates of snake misidentification with both false positives and false negatives and should therefore only be performed by an experienced laboratory technician.

The results should not override clinical and geographical data. Discuss use and results with a clinical toxicologist