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.
08 Jul 2009, 15:44
in the last 2 days we have captured and released 3 large garter snakes
living under my sidewalk. I poured snake repellent in there to no avail.
Because there were 3, do you think there are a lot more in there? And we've
moved them pretty far away - could they keep coming back? Any thoughts on
what to do?
24 Aug 2009, 20:47
We have just recently taken in a garter snake for a pet and a few days ago
it shed its skin but it won't eat anything. we've tried meal worms,
earthworms, grasshoppers and now we put in some minnows that we caught from
the lake but it doesn't seem interested. How long can he go without eating
before we should think about letting him go?. I read that they may not eat
when they shed so should i be concerned? What else can we try? Thankyou
02 Apr 2010, 14:19
We moved into an old (1830) brick home in upstate New York. The walls are
over 12" thick brick and the foundation is even wider. It's a solid old
home yet there are a few nooks and crannies where the snakes are coming
into our basement. That was fine until this week; 3 made there way into our
living space!! We have found what seems to be a nest. We have caught &
carried over 25 snakes in a row across the road into a corn field. How do
we get rid of them? I'm not sure if they ware coming back...we caught 3
03 Jul 2010, 23:13
We took up our deck boards to clean out underneath and found a garter snake
living there. Last year we had tons of carpenter ants in the same area,
this year I've seen about 5. The snake can stay! I misted him with cool
water and put him in a tall, clean waste receptacle until we were done with
our work and then put him back. Hope he wasn't too stressed out by it all.
The Snake Whisperer
03 Sep 2010, 14:11
Now I need the opposite advice, I want to create a safe garter snake
habitat at the edge of my backyward where I can release rescued garters
back to the wild.
Garter snakes are amazingly underestimated creatures. They are friendly
and very curious. They even enjoy looking at themselves in a mirror. They
are clean, almost never eliminating in or near their den.
Put a new object in a garter cage and like children who see a new toy on a
playground, they all immediately race over to check out the new toy. When
photographing garters, many either start showing off for the camera like a
child or else they try to see their reflection in the camera lens.
Wild garter snakes try their best to avoid humans. First they will freeze
and stay still, hoping to go unnoticed. If this doesn't work and they feel
really threatened, they will flee from the human as fast as they can.
Garter snakes are beneficial, ridding yards and gardens of harmful pests.
It's sad that human misconception of snakes and misunderstanding of them
create baseless fears in so mamy people and cause so many people to murder
so many harmless & actually beneficial snake species.
Ask the Exterminator
03 Sep 2010, 15:58
If you live in a colder climate your garter snake will be looking for
cracks in the ground in which to crawl to escape the cold and hibernate.
Garter snakes occupy a variety of habitats including pond and stream edges,
wetlands, forests, fields, rocky hillsides. They usually return to their
original dens and may travel over two miles to get there.
13 Sep 2010, 11:27
Hi, I have found two baby garter snakes in my house this week. They look to
be about a month old. My Weiner Dog found them and began barking very loud.
Both were found on different days. I plan to keep my snake dog here in
Texas. Would recommend you get one.
The Snake Whisperer
20 Sep 2010, 17:09
I live in central Indiana and I want to try to prevent the garters I
release, from going right back to the death trap I rescued them from, a big
pile of carpet padding some ignoramus dumped in a field by my house. The
padding with its insulating qualities & numerous folds to crawl into, lures
the garters right into it. But there are many areas in the padding where
the padding rotted away from its backing, which is made of what appears to
be thin nylon thread similar to fine fishing line, woven in a pattern of
small squares. The snakes get trapped in those squares in the backing,
usually hanging themselves by the neck with multiple areas of their bodies
trapped as well. As they struggle, the thread slices their bodies and
their necks. I've seen s many as 20 dead garters enmeshed in that padding.
I've found almost four times that many that were trapped and still alive,
cut them free, took them home where I could then remove the thread embedded
in their skin, treat their wounds & let them recover.
This is why I want to create a safe place to release them into, where they
will again be living wild, but find the safe place more desirable than the
death trap in the field.
Maybe I could release them under my house, there are plenty of cracks etc
in the dirt under the house where they could go, there are plenty of small
openings to the outdoor world they could use as entrances and exits, but if
I did that, I still want to have something safe and insulating as a refuge
for them too.
Whatever I come up with, it has to be safe & meet the snakes shelter needs
well enough that they choose to stay there instead of going to the death
Ask the Exterminator
20 Sep 2010, 17:12
Seems to me the first thing you would want to do is arrange to have all
that carpet padding removed.
The Snake Whisperer
20 Sep 2010, 17:24
There is at least one of these snakes that will stay here as a pet as long
as she lives. She is a 2 year old who miraculously survived her injuries
in the carpet padding death trop, but she ended up with the back half of
her body misshapen and paralyzed.
That little girl is happy, curious & makes the most of her life in
captivity. She gets around fine in her cage,eats well, her bodily functions
appear normal, she just sort of drags the back half of her body along with
her. She has normal use of the front half of her body. She does have
feeling in her tail. But even the skin on the back half of her body has a
different appearance from the front half, duller smoother, another effect
of the paralysis. She is a great living example of the harm people do to
native wild creatures when they dump their trash in fields and woodlands
instead of disposing of it properly.
13 Oct 2010, 10:40
there are snakes under my porch and so far we saw five. we dont no how many
r there under the porch but when we tried putting mothballs, none of the
snakes went away. what can we do to stop the snakes from entering the house
and being in our garden? i am really terrified from the snakes entering the
house. please help
Ask the Exterminator
13 Oct 2010, 10:52
Mothballs will work, but if the snakes are already there the mothballs may
actually prevent them from leaving. To get rid of snakes I'm afraid you are
going to have to capture and remove them. Perhaps you'd best call an animal
removal service to do this.
20 Mar 2011, 16:59
I found a gardener snake and he escaped out of a very small place. I was
surprised! How is this possible?
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)
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 wholes...is this true...I think that there was a den or
something under our porch...huh....to close to inside...please email back
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.
27 Jun 2011, 19:22
Ooops! That's karma, not karms.
Ask the Exterminator
28 Jun 2011, 09:42
Although some snakes do burrow, most "snake holes" are produced by
chipmunks, mice, shrews and other small mammals. Many snakes utilize these
burrows for food, shelter and egg laying sites, but most species don't dig
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
22 Apr 2012, 00:35
We recently bought a duplex with some tall old maple trees and lots of
shrubs that create an attractive natural border between our house and the
condos next door. We looked outside and saw our tenants' children chasing
something in the backyard. They were trying to catch a snake. We couldn't
Fast forward to yesterday, I nearly stepped on one. Naturally I was
startled, screamed and then started laughing hysterically.
Now I have the other side of the duplex to rent. And I had to show it
yesterday. The young woman loved the yard but made a comment that she was
scared to death of snakes. I didn't say anything about my close encounter a
few hours earlier. Well she came back today with a deposit. She wanted a
second look at the yard. We stepped onto the patio and 3 garter snakes
slithered across the concrete!
Instead of shrieking, she moved closer to the area where they had hidden
themselves and said: "Wow! Cool!"
"But I thought you were afraid of them," I said.
"I'm afraid they'll bite me but these are ok." She took the apartment and
offered to help me disperse the critters. Go figure.
I grew up on a farm and remember a year when the snakes infested
everything. My dad usually had an affection for a good rat snake and would
try to encourage them to stick around the grain bins. But one year we had
hundreds of them. Sadly we had to kill too much of a good thing including
garters, black, bull and even a couple of copperhead and cottonmouth
snakes. We're talking 1965 Indiana here. It was getting close to
nightmarish. I'm sorry to tell sympathetic conservationists my father shot
dozens of big snakes out of the trees and my mom and I had to keep garden
hoes by the door and walk through our yard every day to clear them out. The
dog and cats helped too. It took us an entire summer to get the population
under control. We still don't know why the population exploded so close to
the house that year, but we did have a huge river flood in the spring. We
lived in the hills several miles from the river. Ah yes I also took a
gallon jar filled with garter snakes to school for show-n-tell. It saddened
my dad to kill the snakes. He had always caught them, wrapped them around
his arm and carted them off to the barns or corn cribs, but the numbers
were overwhelming even for him.
Now back to my problem. I think I will walk the property every day and
literally beat the bushes to startle the snakes in an effort to discourage
them or call my local zoo and see what humane removal methods we can use. I
don't want to kill them. I want to remove almost all of them. I'm guessing
we have a nest near or on our small in-town lot.
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?
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.