Ask a Question
Notify Me On Question Update
Email this Question
I was surprised when I recently spotted a snake in my yard. Aren't they most active in the fall?
Rate This FAQ
Utah snakes are active in both spring and fall, but have been surprisingly active this spring. The unsettled weather forces snakes emerging from hibernation into homes and other dwellings as they attempt to escape unseasonably cold temperatures. The following is one of many recent snake encounters.
Corrine had just returned home from delivering freshly baked bread to the neighbors. The oven door was slightly ajar to dissipate heat from the oven. As she approached the oven to close the door, she noticed movement. Upon closer investigation, she came face to face with a 16-inch garter snake. Neither she nor the snake expected the encounter, however, Corrine was the only one screaming.
Snakes are probably the most feared and misunderstood creatures known. Utah is home to 27 species of snakes. Of these, 23 are non-venomous. Because of this, chances are high that when Utahns encounter a snake, it will be non-venomous. The most common non-venomous snakes in Utah are three species of garter snakes commonly referred to as water snakes (although Utah has no true water snakes), the rubber boa and gopher or bullsnake.
Snakes are reptiles and are considered cold-blooded, which means they maintain body temperatures approximately equal to that of their environment. When environmental temperatures drop below 50 F, snakes seek shelter in areas where the temperatures are maintained above freezing. Suitable shelters may be found under rocks or rock piles, in holes, below ground, in or under tree stumps, wood piles, debris or man-made structures. These locations may be used for temporary shelter or for winter hibernation. Some snakes will use the same sites as dens year after year for hibernation. Several hundred snakes may also occupy the same denning sites. This is when problems can occur.
Non-venomous snakes cause no direct damage to humans, structures or pets. They actually assist in controlling local insect and rodent populations. Some non-venomous snakes eat other snakes, even venomous ones. Occasionally, snakes enter buildings and other structures for shelter or food. To reduce these encounters, consider the following tips.
The best way to reduce problems with snakes is to make the area unattractive to them. Snakes require food and shelter, and if these are not available, they will not be attracted to the area. Keep lawns cut, weeds and vegetation thinned and remove wood, rock and debris piles. Removing these and other potential snake or rodent hiding places will also help reduce food supplies.
Snakes may enter buildings in search of food and shelter. The best way to exclude them from buildings is to close possible entrances. To do this, check the foundation for cracks and openings larger than one-fourth inch, and fill these openings with caulk or concrete mortar. Metal screen or hardware cloth can also be used to close these openings. Pay special attention to areas where pipes or wires enter the building. Check around doors and windows for openings and make repairs. Consider using screens around doors and windows to reduce the chance that a snake may enter through these areas. These modifications can also help exclude rodents and insects.
Consider exclusion methods when building a new home. Also consider site location when building. If you build near a permanent water source such as a river, stream, lake, pond or wetlands, you will increase your chances of non-venomous snake encounters. Consider snake habitat and food requirements when landscaping.
If snakes continue to frequent an area after modifying the habitat, it may become necessary to trap and remove them. Keep in mind that snakes are protected in Utah and that they should not be killed without proper cause. The best way to remove snakes from buildings is to use long capture tongs, a pole or a stick, then place the snake in a container for removal. It is not recommended to capture snakes by hand.
A pile of damp burlap bags can be used to attract and assist in removing snakes from an enclosed area. Place the pile of bags in a cool, dark place and cover it with a dry bag to keep the other bags damp. Snakes will be attracted to this area to escape the heat of the day. Remove the bags and snake(s) with a large flat shovel in the middle of the day when snakes are more likely to be inside.
Glue boards may be used to capture and remove snakes. Attach three or four rat-size glue boards to a piece of plywood (16 x 24 inches) or staple them together. Since snakes generally move along walls, place the glue boards along an inside wall or along the foundation. When a snake slithers along the glue board, it will become attached and the glue board can be removed. To avoid close contact with an agitated snake or if you are squeamish about getting too close, consider fastening a wood extension handle to the glue board plywood base before placing the trap. To release a snake caught in a glue board, take it to a suitable area, place the glue board flat on the ground, and pour vegetable oil on the snake. The vegetable oil will reduce the tackiness of the glue, allowing the snake to free itself.
Contact your local county Extension office to receive a copy of Extension bulletin WD-007 ANon-venomous Snakes,” or contact Terry Messmer at 435-797-3975 for further information.
Submit Your Suggestion
Other Questions In This Topic
- When should I be pruning my roses?
- I have many large 20-25 feet scrub oak trees on my property. I would like to thin and prune them from the tops in order for them to look like the lower scrub oak I have seen in the area, about 10-15 feet. How low can I cut them from their tops without injuring them and what is the best time of year to do so?
- I live in South Jordan. 4 1/2 years ago I started watering my yard with gray water (irrigation) due to the cost of water. Since that time I have lost 6 red twig dogwoods, 7 blue arctic willows,3 spireas, a pine tree and a Japanese maple. Everything else does not look good (other trees, bushes and perennials). In the spring it all starts out green but by June everything has brown edges on yellowing leaves and the trees have several dead branches. Could the gray water be the culprit? Everything was at least 6 years old, lush, and healthy until I changed my water. I am afraid I will lose everything else this summer if I don't find a cure for this. I could you use some answers. Thank you.
- My vinca minor has numerous yellow leaves this year. My husband keeps dumping water on it, thinking it needs more since it is yellow and at some instances brown. Are we watering it too much, or is it missing a nutrient that needs to be added? HELP!
- When is the best time to plant my grass in the spring? And how much fertilizer should I put on if any?
- I live in rose park and am selecting trees to add to my backyard. I have full sun and dark rich soil. I want a good shade tree but am not sure what would be best. I have been looking at different types of maple trees but am wary about their growth rates. Are there any trees that you could recommend?
- I notice groups of about 4 or 5 pine needles buried into the flower beds and am wondering what type of bug is pulling them into the ground in the fall. They do not get ther naturally because of the way they are sticking out of the ground. Half buried. I am just wondering what creature this might be and do I need to do something about it?
- We live in West Jordan in an area with very clay soil. We would like to plant some low-lying evergreen shrubs in a narrow strip between our RV pad and a short vinyl fence. Do you have any plant recommendations that will work in our soil and don't require a lot of maintenence?