Snakebites and How to Keep Snakes Out of Your Yard

Expert advice on the real risk and odds of snakebites, as well as how to keep snakes out of your yard and minimize their presence in country life.

| July/August 2017

  • Some snakes like to hide in logs.
    Photo by Michael Francis Photography
  • When confronted, the eastern hognose snake will spread the skin on its neck and head, similar to a cobra.
    Photo by Michael Francis Photography
  • A western diamondback rattlesnake in the strike position.
    Photo by Michael Francis Photography
  • Black rat snakes are somewhat common in the chicken coop, especially once wise to the presence of eggs.
    Photo by David Hart
  • Copperheads are responsible for more snakebites in the U.S. than any other venomous species.
    Photo by David Hart
  • The northern water snake is a nonvenomous water species.
    Photo by Joe McDonald
  • Three yellow longitudinal lines down an otherwise dark body can indicate garter snake.
    Photo by Joe McDonald
  • Eastern milk snakes are sometimes confused with the deadly coral snake. “Red touches black, you’re OK, Jack.”
    Photo by Joe McDonald
  • A juvenile black racer snake.
    Photo by Joe McDonald

How can a creature no more than 3 or 4 inches tall draw such a visceral emotion from a full-grown, able-bodied adult? The mere sight of a snake — even a photograph, and especially a video, of one — evokes abject terror in many of us.

As it turns out, we have a predisposition to fear snakes. Researchers at the University of Virginia believe our fear of snakes evolved throughout thousands of years. Humans who were more likely to see a camouflaged snake were more likely to avoid a bite. It was a survival mechanism.

For snake expert Tim Cole, owner of Austin Reptile Service, there’s another explanation: We are taught to hate them. Snakes are often portrayed as vile, loathsome creatures that have no redeeming value.

“Any time you see a snake on television, even if it’s in some Animal Planet documentary, listen to the music. It’s the same music you hear in horror movies when something bad is about to happen. We’ve been conditioned all our lives to fear snakes because you never see anything positive about them,” says Cole. “That fear is passed down from parents to children.”

Innate or learned, having that fear doesn’t mean we have to actually live out that fear. Nor does it mean we have to run for a shovel every time we see a snake. The mere sight of a snake should raise our curiosity more than our fear and hatred, says Cole.

“I’m amazed at how misunderstood snakes are. Too many people believe too many things that just aren’t true,” he says.

3/25/2019 9:39:02 AM

I (felt like) I had to kill a snake in my yard last summer - the first large one I had encountered in 19 years there. It was a (non-poisonous) black snake - probably 5 ft. in length - on the side of my house. I tried my best to lead it out a back fence, but it kept going towards my deck - apparently it was nesting under it. I have a small dog that spends lots of time in my fenced back yard, and only had a split second to decide what to do before it got under the deck. I was using a shovel to try to direct it out of the fence, so right before if slithered under the deck, I took its head off with the shovel. I felt really bad about doing it, but I didn't want to have to worry about my small pup getting bit while in her back yard. Hated to do it, though.

7/14/2018 9:02:51 AM

To kill poisonous snakes, a 12 gauge shotgun with dove shot works best. Better to have one that's not single shot as well because sometimes we tend to miss if we're scared as I know I have!



February 15-16, 2020
Belton, Texas

Join us in the Lone Star state to explore ways to save money and live efficiently. This two-day event includes hands-on workshops and a marketplace featuring the latest homesteading products.


Live The Good Life with GRIT!

Grit JulAug 2016At GRIT, we have a tradition of respecting the land that sustains rural America. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing to GRIT through our automatic renewal savings plan. By paying now with a credit card, you save an additional $6 and get 6 issues of GRIT for only $16.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and send me one year of GRIT for just $22.95!

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters