Garter snakes, sometimes called garden snakes, are small nonpoisonous snakes that live in your yard. There are different varieties, but the most common have subtle colors. Usually they have dark but soft hues of black or green, with a yellow or red set of stripes running the length of their backs. They are skinny and can grow up to three feet long. Garter snakes eat small rodents, earthworms and insects.Because they are not poisonous, you can leave them alone, or you can follow a few steps to eradicate them from your yard.
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Things You'll Need
- Lawn mower
- Pruning shears
- 2 by 4 boards
Mow your lawn. Keep it two inches or shorter. Garter snakes, like other snakes, like to live in longer grasses. It makes them feel safe and hidden from their prey as well as from other predators.
Trim the foliage. Bushes, shrubs and low-lying trees act as hiding places for garter snakes. Even though your lawn is now cut short, the snakes will still use these plants to hide from predators and from you. Either remove these plants altogether, or keep their branches trimmed, using pruning shears, six inches from the ground.
Remove the snakes' diet. Garter snakes eat other small pests that are naturally found in your yard; remove their food source to make them look elsewhere for a meal. Call an exterminator to treat your yard for insects and for mice. As it is impossible to keep every bug from your home, the snakes will likely return, but a temporary removal of the food source should be enough to make the snakes move on.
Use deterrents. Garter snakes rely primarily on their sense of smell and taste to hunt. It is believed that mothballs are unappealing to a garter snakes' taste and smell. Scatter mothballs around your yard, or bury them an inch or two down in the ground. The snakes who still insist on coming to your property after you have removed their hiding places and their meals will be discouraged from staying because of the smell. Mothballs are toxic and should be kept away from children and house pets; mothballs can also poison ground water, so do not use them if you have well water.
Introduce predators. Cats eat snakes. Think about an outside pet, such as a cat, to hunt the snakes. If you choose to get a cat, however, do not use mothballs.
Tips & Warnings
- Getting rid of garter snakes is a multiple-step process. Not every step is required, but when all done together, the likelihood of eliminating the snakes is greatly increased.
- If you have a fence around your property, add an extra measure of protection by placing boards to block snakes from visiting from other yards. Place 2 by 4 boards around the base of your fence, laying them horizontally. Snakes can still get in if they really want to, but this should deter them.
- A garter snake bite is nontoxic. It does, however, hurt and will cause irritation. Use extreme caution when handling these snakes. Wear heavy duty protective gloves whenever your hands will be near or in contact with the snakes.
- As garter snakes eat the other small pests in your yard, you may want to consider just leaving them alone. By removing this natural predator, you are removing something that is keeping the insect and rodent population in balance. There is a good chance you will see an increase of these pests once the garter snakes are gone.