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Garter Snakes

Summary: Having a couple of garter snakes in your garden is good. Garter snakes eat lots of insects and unwanted rodents and they keep pretty much to themselves. But, if you have a phobia about things that slither, then you'd better read on.

Snake repellents like Dr. T's Snake A-Way Repellent can be effective if you put down enough product and repeat often. A surer way to remove snakes from an area is to capture them on Snake Guard glue boards. You can release the snake from the glue board by pouring vegetable oil on the snake.

Garter snakes are our most common garden snake found abundantly from Canada to Central America. To have a garter snake or two in the garden is good. These non-poisonous snakes eat pest insects, mosquito larvae, slugs, snails, crickets, rats, mice, voles and even other snakes which may be poisonous. But, if snakes freak you out and you can't walk in the lawn knowing snakes are present, then here are some steps you need to take.

First, mow your lawn often and don't allow grass to grow up along the sides of your house or other structures. Snakes seek cover for protection and tall grasses provide the perfect hiding place.  Now, look around your property and


start eliminating other snake hiding places.

That perfectly stacked wood pile needs to be away from the house and sitting on some type of stand. It cannot be sitting directly on the ground.  And, how about those beautiful piles of decorative rocks you worked so hard on? Yep! Those are a great den for snakes. How much did you say you hate snakes? If you're registering a “10” on the “I hate snakes” scale, the rocks have go to go. Trim bushes so low lying branches are removed. Remember, snakes love the security of those bushes. Piles of leaves and any other debris need to be removed, too.  I never said this would be easy.

Now, let's talk about things that snakes eat. You will need to pay special attention to making sure you are not attracting food that snakes like. Things like rodents and insects need to be controlled around your house. Make sure you are not attracting rodents. Keep trash in good-sealing trash containers. Seal or screen places where mice or squirrels can hide like under porches and in garages. You'll also have to consider treating around your foundation with an insecticide or other insect repellent. Snakes also like to eat crickets, grasshoppers and other insects that tend to migrate toward the cool, moist perimeter foundations of houses. Keep the snake food out of your garden and you won't have snakes.

That's a lot of work to keep your snake phobia in check, but it's what needs to be done. I can assure you that snake repellents will not give you total control. Only the elimination of shelter and food will make snakes find new homes.

Ask Rick A Question


10 May 2011, 19:35
We are having a garter snkae problem. I have no problem with them being in the yard, however they are coming into my house and I cannot tolerate that. I went to open my backdoor today and one was jammed between the door and the door facing. There was a baby on th floor just inside the door. Last summer we killed about 20 in our basement. I can't handle this having a snake phobia. We tried snake bait last year but they just crawled right through it and our house stunk for months after Help me please!
11 May 2011, 14:16
Regarding Tara -- Keeping reptiles in captivity is a very tricky business. Unless there were extraordinary circumstances that required it not be in the wild, common sense and ethics would demand your snake's return to the wild. They have many natural needs that captivity cannot come close to providing for the longterm. Thousands of snakes and turtles die every year because they did not do well as pets even with the best of care (even special reptile lamps, warming rocks, special diet and vet care cannot come close to what the natural world can give them). I recently came across the case of a painted turtle that was near death after having been kidnapped from a pond and kept in captivity. It too had stopped eating, probably out of protest for being imprisoned without having committed a crime!
11 May 2011, 14:25
I would also like to say "thank you" to the Snake Whisperer whose comments are an island of sanity in this sea of unfounded fear and loathing of garter snakes. This is not a pest problem, it is a psychological problem best solved in a therapist's office. It reminds me of the old coots in my neighborhood who trap and haul away squirrels! Squirrels, like garter snakes, are part of the web of life. So many have been hauled away that all sorts of imbalances have occurred as a result (smaller rodents overbreeding now that the larger ones are gone, dwarf mistle toe which is eaten by squirrels is now out of control and killing trees, etc.). Learn to live with nature. If we cannot be tolerant of small creatures we haven't a prayer at establishing peace on a larger, global scale.
Ask the Exterminator
20 May 2011, 08:35

You need to elimate the things that are attracting the snakes to your house. Tall weeds and clutter along the exterior foundation walls will attract snakes. Pet food that attracts rodents will cause snakes to set up house. Anything conducive to rodents or other small animals will attract snakes. Eliminate the food source for snakes and you will resolve your problem. To prevent snakes from getting inside you need to check door thresholds to make sure they are tight. Close up all other holes with the Xcluder product found on this website. Click on "Pest Control Products" at the link at the top of this page.
26 Jun 2011, 18:22
Hello: Please allow me to share an embarrassing personal problem - I'm having trouble making it to the bathroom :( And I need a cure that all of those "bladder control" meds on TV can't help. I'm sufferring from Herpetologic-floor-phobia! this morning there was a garter snake guarding my bathroom door! ~We've had snakes here before in the basement, around outside, etc., BUTT(pun)now it's personal!I am really pretty creeped out.. Even my FEARLESS Jack Russell, Goose, was spooked! (Obviously not a mongoose tee hee)
lori areford
27 Jun 2011, 19:07

We have killed at least 20 garter snakes around my house under my front porch and 7 in my basement wall....My husband has bordered up the basement so no more snakes or rodents in there...we have i think cemented some snakes under our porch..on both sides...and part of the front porch...if we finally got them all how long will they last under the porch without food....and can they dig wholes out... i saw where they couldn't that they use other rodents this true...I think that there was a den or something under our close to inside...please email back lORI.
27 Jun 2011, 19:21
Wow. Lori -- I wouldn't want to have your karms. I wonder what you will be thinking when you are walled up without any hope in the afterlife. There is always a gentle way to deal with these snakes. Here in Colorado, I have humanely relocated rattlesnakes using a garden hose, a long-handled three-pronged garden tool and a deep sterilite trash can. The garter snakes I let stay because they are a real gift -- they eat all sort of bugs and keep everything nicely in balance. We have wood rats in our wood pile, mice under some big boulders out back, garter snakes under the deck, a squirrel in the tree, deer sleeping on our lawn in late afternoon, and everything is so full of life and beauty and peace. It would be so sadly sterile without these creatures. I hope someday you will awaken to all the beauty -- to be like you are now is to be walking dead.
Monica Vink
29 Jun 2011, 10:46
I am deathly afraid of snakes. For example (last night i freaked out so much that I acctually tore the sheets of my bed to make sure there were no snakes in my bed.) I live in a rural town in Iowa and do get just garter snakes, but I don't even go out on the grass if I don't have to. My husband tries to get rid of them without telling me so I don't see them. How do we find their hole and how do we rid our yard of them. We mow constantly, weed wack, and the such. Please don't tell me to get over my fear just because other people have fears and people don't yell at them to change, so please just help me.l
Ask the Exterminator
29 Jun 2011, 10:58
Other than simply looking for the holes, there's not much else I can recommend. Once you locate the holes I suggest putting out some of the Snake Guard glue traps mentioned in the article.
08 Jul 2011, 11:28
I am writing a short story based loosely on what happened to the Idaho family whose home was built on a hibernaculum. What I can't seem to figure out is why there is no way to destroy the hibernaulum and keep the snakes from returning. That couple had to declare bankruptcy because they couldn't get rid of the snakes (as you may know). Is there really no way to destroy the hibernaculum? (Sorry Snake Whisperer!). I would be very interested in any input you have and will gladly credit you should my story be published. Thanks!
Ask the Exterminator
08 Jul 2011, 11:50
So sorry, but I have no experience dealing with a snake hibernaculum. I know that the snakes return to their chosen hibernaculum and, like nesting birds, it is nearly impossible to change their habit of returning.
08 Jul 2011, 11:52
Gotcha. Thanks for the input. Much appreciated.
10 Aug 2011, 15:38
If one killed a snake, left it there dead would another snake eat it? Or is it something else that ate it?
Your suggestion is that If I change the outside environment of my house, the snakes will go away and then seal all areas that they may be coming into the house? Even though they were born here? They will move on? Please say yes!
Ask the Exterminator
10 Aug 2011, 16:56
I cannot say "yes" positively. As you already know, some snakes return to their nest year and year. And "yes", snakes will eat other snakes, but not always will a snake eat another snake of the same species.
20 Aug 2011, 15:50
We finally got rid of ours. They moved next door to an empty house. I've seen them over there under an old shed. We pulled up all the shrubbery around our house and put in white marble rock. We sealed up all the holes we found them at and then a few more for good measure. We caulked around any cracks in the door frames and we keep the house sprayed for bugs, inside and out. I haven't seen a snake on our property since May. YAY! We are replacing the exterior doors as soon as we can because they are old and ill fitting, so things can come through the cracks. Bur hopefully no more snakes.
Connie Falk
30 Dec 2011, 13:37
Garter snakes are absolutely harmless. I used to take my daughter on hikes and catch garters for her to pet. They are very beneficial to the home garden and eating those garden pests. I would welcome any garter snake to my yard!!
30 Dec 2011, 22:42
Three cheers for Connie, and for any sane person who doesn't take out their hangups on gentle, useful garter snakes!
02 Jan 2012, 00:29
Yep, they are hamless, I caught one and kept it as a pet. I had it for about 6 months and let him go when I moved from Georgia to Ohio.
09 Mar 2012, 06:43
We have old cisterns and pipes out in our yard I've seen Garter snakes in them. I was wondering can snakes crawl underground such as a worm or is a larger than its body hole needed for the snake to move? We are constantly finding snakes in our basement family room an I can not find where they are getting in. Don't mind them out in the yard but not a big fan of them in the house.
Ask the Exterminator
14 Mar 2012, 10:02
Snakes certainly burrow. Perhaps they are coming up via a connecting pipe from the old cistern.
17 Apr 2012, 13:55
Hi I'm doing a school project on this any sites you guys know of with info I'm having no luck really.
10 May 2012, 10:22
I love garter snakes. How anyone could kill them, particularly when there's just one our two is imbecillic. Personally, I'd take 20 or more, I so rarely see them these days(rural new Hampshire). 40 years ago they were everywhere and its true--the're friendly, harmless and inquisitive/intelligent. Yay snake whisperer and dorothy and those others who are pro-snake!

So, Mr. ask the Exterminator, the answer to most of these people's questions is "get yourself a good psychologist and cognitive behavioral counselling". Killing garter snakes is apalling. Now, I don't like airplanes, either flying over my house really low, as they do, or riding in them. But I see no need to eradicate them. It's MY problem; get it?
William Richmond
04 Jun 2012, 15:29
Thanks for the information on snake guard glue. I have garter snakes under my deck and will try the glue.I am from Ireland and have a phobia about snakes.What I need is ST Patrick to banish them.
09 Jul 2012, 16:52
There is a garter snake inhabiting a hole in my back yard. My dog keeps trying to dig it out so I put a large heavy rock in the hole and rocks around the larger rock. Will the garter snake be able to get out and if it does will it attempt to return to the hole?
18 Aug 2012, 12:25
i saw 5 or 6 3 foot long garters run outa my garden and into a nearby wood pile when i ran the other way lol, i noticed a few more go into the wood pile does this mean there is a nest in the wood pile?
28 Aug 2012, 13:00
We have a year round fish pond with waterfall. we have fish and frogs and lily pads, etc. I have purchased 6 doz fish this year and we have 13 remaining. The garter snakes are eating my fish and baby frogs. We have removed all the plants around the pond and thinned out our perennial beds. there is a brook running behind our house. If it weren't for the pond, I wouldn't mind the snakes. Is there such a thing as a pond cover? or anything else I can purchase. I would prefer not to get a cat.
28 Aug 2013, 23:03
we have had three snakes in our house two things how do they get in and do common garter snakes climb. where is the best to locate how they are getting in.
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