Snake Repellant

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by jessandcody, Mar 17, 2004.

  1. jessandcody

    jessandcody Well-Known Member

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    Hello fellow gardeners!

    We are making a move this month to what the locals call "snake country". I'm a little petrified now.....okay I'm scared to death. I know snakes are a necessary part of the ecosystem and I do not wish to kill them, but I also don't want them right around our house and yard.

    The copperhead is the most abundant snake in the area. Is there anything we can plant that will deter snakes from our living area? I've heard that they love the smell of watermelons, and I was looking forward to growing them, but not if I'm going to be attracting danger. :waa:

    Let me know if anyone has any suggestions or comments that may help ease my fears. I would like to live in harmony with copperheads, but the less I see them, the better off I'll be.

    Thanks,

    Jess
     
  2. mygrayfarm

    mygrayfarm Well-Known Member

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    I don't know how much help I can be, but I, too, am petrified of snakes so that was one of my major questions before I moved out to the farm. I understand from the neighbors that there are black snakes everywhere, but after two years I have yet to see one (knock wood)! We have dogs in the house that raise a ruckus and that probably keeps them out of the house. We have cats in the barn that keep the mice away, and we are very careful about sweeping up spilled grain. We don't have trash piles or tree deadfall close to the house. We keep the grass mowed down to a reasonable length and if I do have to walk in tall grass, I beat the grass in front of me with a stick. We don't use chemical repellants because of the alpacas. I understand that glue boards are good for trapping snakes, but I'd just as soon go the prevention route. There's no way I'd touch a snake in a trap - I won't even touch a picture of one in a book.

    My dad told me to put a wet burlap sack on the ground and the next morning, bang it with a shovel as a sure way to kill a snake. But why attract one in the first place?

    I know that someday I will see a snake, and that will be a BAD DAY ON THE FARM, but by about the 15th snake I might be okay with them. I've become remarkably cavalier about spiders.

    I have a plaque of St. Patrick up in my barn - maybe he's protecting his Irish girl from the snakes! ;)
     

  3. jessandcody

    jessandcody Well-Known Member

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    Oh thanks, your humor made me laugh!
     
  4. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Methodically close all holes around the house. Snakes can't dig and must use existing holes. They take advantage of rodent holes, holes under rocks and cement slabs, holes between the siding and the foundation wall, holes caused by erosion, holes made for pipes and wires and air. Cover them, fill them, seal them off. Glue boards placed outside known entries work well on smaller snakes - less than 3ft. The damp burlap sack on the ground over night trick works pretty well. I don't know too much about copperheads, but I bet you can find someone in your area who knows a lot. They can help you understand where the favorite habitats are. Find them and eliminate them one by one.
     
  5. Janice 1064

    Janice 1064 Member

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    I had a small problem with copperheads a few years back and spoke with a herpetologist from one of our state agencies to find out if there was something I could do to eliminate the problem. I was informed that the copperheads choice of habitat is Found mainly in the wet , lowland areas, along cypressed-lined streams, through flat, low country, and in rocky areas. They are well associated with leaf-covered and wooded terrain.
    Not much I could do with a large cypress tree shading the rock surrounded fountain next to the house in my well mulched garden residing next to a pine tree forest with the small creek running alongside. Oh and did I mention the stone wall that runs through the garden! After speaking with him, it was obivious I have the perfect habitat for the evil little creatures. Not much I could do, short of removing the garden, and that is not going to happen. Moral of this story, I have to keep my eyes open and pray for safety. Thankfully after that year with 4 young found near the house, I have not seen any, but I am ever watchfull. There is a product sold called snake away. That is considered to be 87% effective against the copperhead. The active ingredient is Naphthalene. For suspect areas spray pure ammonia, anything in the area will immediately evacuate. Use caution when doing this. Hope this helps. Jan
     
  6. Nan

    Nan Well-Known Member

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    I always wear snake proof boots in the garden! I have seen many snakes sense we moved here, but most of them are harmless. Learn to identify the poisonous ones and don't bother the black snakes or other non-poisonous rodent eaters. They are great to have around even though they look menacing. Be careful when you reach under large cabbage leaves or under bushy plants! They love to curl up under those during the heat of the day. Never leave wood or metal sheeting etc.....on the ground. They will get under there. When you move the last of the firewood for the season...wear gloves and kinda push it with a hoe so that if there is one under there it won't strike you. I have found a hoe is an excellent weapon against copper heads and rattle snakes. Makes a mess of em! :yeeha: But for the less adventurous.....just wear boots and always see where you are reaching with your hands! Especially checking for eggs. They seem to LOVE the hen house!
     
  7. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I happen to have a full container of the "Snake-A-Way". It says on the label that it may NOT be effective against copperhead and cottonmouth snakes. For garden snakes it says a 4-5" strip around the area to be protected. For rattlesnakes it says to apply a 12" strip. A 4 pound container might get you 30 feet of 4" strip. It cost me $15 years ago. The label says 7% napthalene and 28% sulfur. It also says not to use it where snakes are present as it could confine them to the area treated. It says to reapply after rain. It says do NOT use it in a food garden.

    I don't recommend this product because of the limitations; the need to frequently reapply, the cost, and the fact that napthalene is pretty toxic.
     
  8. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I happen to have a full container of the "Snake-A-Way". It says on the label that it may NOT be effective against copperhead and cottonmouth snakes. For garden snakes it says a 4-5" strip around the area to be protected. For rattlesnakes it says to apply a 12" strip. A 4 pound container might get you 30 feet of 4" strip. It cost me $15 years ago. The label says 7% napthalene and 28% sulfur. It also says not to use it where snakes are present as it could confine them to the area treated. It says to reapply after rain. It says do NOT use it in a food garden.

    I don't recommend this product because of the limitations; the need to frequently reapply, the cost, and the fact that napthalene is pretty toxic.
     
  9. joan from zone six

    joan from zone six Well-Known Member

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    couple of things i've learned about copperheads in my part of ky - often, if there is one, there will be several - never, never, never, place your hand or foot in a place you cannot see - watch for bluebirds hovering in one place in a field, for sometimes they are on snake patrol - travel about with an active small dog that you don't get too attached to - load your guns with the first few rounds in snakeshot
     
  10. Jeff Hathaway

    Jeff Hathaway Active Member

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    Jess,

    Glad to hear you'd like to live in harmony with your snakes. It isn't very hard to do, either.

    mrgrayfarm and gobug's advice about closing up holes in your foundation and keeping the area free of debris is a good start. This will eliminate potential shelters and basking sites in your immediate area, which will lessen the likelihood that snakes will want to spend a lot of time nearby. Keeping the mouse numbers down is useful as well, and prevention is the best strategy- keep their food supply to a minimum, and again, reduce shelter for them. Don't rely on cats to control the mice. They're simply not good enough at it. In fact, they often kill smaller snakes which themselves are better at controlling mouse numbers.

    Consider checking out some of your local species at a zoo, nature centre, or herpetological society, so that you get more familiar with them, recognize differences, etc. and become a bit more comfortable. Almost certainly, most of the snakes you will see are not dangerous in the least, though they can be startling. Garter snakes are probably the most numerous in your area, followed by a bunch of smaller, secretive snakes like red-bellies, browns, and ring-necks. Black racers and black rat snakes (both commonly called 'black snakes') are also likely fairly common (and both great for rodent control, plus black racers will eat other snakes, including copperheads!). Although they're mostly nocturnal, you might also see black kingsnakes, which also eat other snakes.

    Glueboards might be a valid tool in the house, though personally I think they're not very humane. Outdoors, they're pretty irresponsible- all kinds of non-target things will get stuck to them, including many beneficial species. Beyond the rodent eaters, for example, red-bellies and browns eat enormous quantities of slugs, so they're great to have around a garden.

    I certainly wouldn't condone things like leaving sacks out and then whacking them- again, lots of potential to kill off things that are beneficial and not dangerous. Snake shot and hoes are at least selective, though it is pretty debatable whether one should go this route. I'd say no, but many others will disagree. Before you decide, it's good to know the facts about copperheads, and venomous snake bites in general.

    Although venomous, copperheads are not especially dangerous. They account for 34% of the average 7-8000 venomous snakebites annually in the US, so that works out to ~2500 copperhead bites per year. Of all US snake bites, studies report 5-6 deaths per year in recent years, mostly from eastern and western diamondback rattlesnakes. (http://www.psychiatry.wustl.edu/Resources/LiteratureList/2002/August/Gold.PDF has lots of these stats, though I've pulled some from other sources as well.)
    Copperhead bites are not generally life-threatening, and I was unable to find any records of deaths from their bites (though I thought I recalled hearing of one some time ago). Interestingly, I did find that deaths have been recorded from the bites of ducks, geese, and chickens! (http://www.worldwideschool.org/libr...AnomaliesandCuriositiesofMedicine/chap14.html).

    Many bites are on the hands, and many of these result from attempts to handle or kill snakes. Alcohol intoxication is a major contributing factor in human bites. One national study reports a 9:1 male to female ratio for snake bite victims.

    Pets are at a greater risk of being bitten, and with a smaller body mass (usually!) they are at greater risk of serious complications or death. However,
    http://www.vetinfo4dogs.com/dsnakebite.html is a site about treating dogs which have been bitten. This vet does not administer antivenin for copperhead bites, as they have seen zero fatalities.

    Overall, I'd worry about lots of other things around a homestead a lot more than copperheads!

    As for snake-away, I suspect that given a wide enough strip of napthalene, you could repel darn near anything! If it even works, it wouldn't be much use except for very small patches, unless you've got the budget of the US military- one website promoting the product describes how it was used in the middle east to keep vipers away.

    Wearing boots is a good idea. As for the watermelons, I can't see how they would attract snakes; sounds pretty doubtful to me. I wouldn't worry about planting them!

    Good luck with your new place!

    Jeff Hathaway
    (Sciensational Sssnakes!!)
     
  11. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    thanks for some good information Jeff.
     
  12. Jeff Hathaway

    Jeff Hathaway Active Member

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    You're welcome, gobug!

    Glad to do it; after all snake education (really people education- can't teach the d@mn snakes much at all :haha: ) is pretty much my life...

    Cheers,

    Jeff Hathaway
    Sciensational Sssnakes!!
    www.scisnake.com
     
  13. southerngurl

    southerngurl le person Supporter

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    My dogs find and kill the snakes. We have alot of copperheads. Missy killed a rattlesnake that was in the brush a few feet from us once. Slung guts everywhere, good dog! She also killed pygmy rattler or whatever. Maybe if you had a nosey dog like us. Mosts dogs are pretty nosey.
     
  14. crackerjackbaby

    crackerjackbaby New Member

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    Read with interest the suggestions on keeping snakes away from homestead. For years I have used sulfur that comes from garden centers in 5 pound bags. I put it around outbuildings, house,etc. by hand in the same way you use to mark a ball diamond in the old days.

    Have no snake problems- away from treated areas find "pilot rattle snakes" in the early spring 4 to 6 inches long, but never in treated areas.
    This remedy has been used for many years in the rural South.