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We moved in our current house on a grassy hill (in Silicon Valley, CA) last September, and was invaded by two garden snakes within two weeks this October. I have small children, one of them is ten months old, and I hate snakes. Anyone could please help out with solutions to keep them out of my garden and house, so we can enjoy our lives?
It will be greatly appreciated!
First of all, as a fellow mother who also worries about her small kids, garter snakes are not poisonous in the unlikely event that your kids get close enough to one to get bitten. They're very shy and not usually very aggressive. The absolute worst outcome is just a readily treatable infection. You will, of course, take them for medical treatment right away if they do get bitten, but they're actually probably in more danger from the Black widow spiders that are also probably hiding back there than the snakes. The only venomous snakes I've personally encountered here in California were rattlesnakes and they usually give you lots of warning. If you've got one of those in your yard, call animal control immediately since rattlers and kids don't mix!
The best way to get rid of the snakes is to make sure your back yard is not Snake Heaven. Keep the clutter down. No piles of wood or leaves, nothing they can nest in or hide under. Keep the grass mowed so they don't get comfortable hanging out in it. Also, take care of any rodent or insect problems quickly. If the snakes are migrating to your yard, they've probably got a good reason. A buffet line starring roaches and mice is one of the best.
Take a stroll around your house and inspect the foundation and the ventilation holes in the garage. If you see any holes bigger than about a quarter then you've hung up an "apartment for rent" sign for the snakes. And for heaven's sake, don't leave doors standing open! Make sure you've got a good screen door at the very least, or you may find a garter snake struggling frantically on your shiny kitchen floor. Yikes!
I won't lecture you about how beneficial snakes are but… I have a backyard wildlife habitat, and have actually tried to attract snakes to live in my yard. You just have to know what they want to attract them to your yard or to keep them out of your yard. You'll want to get rid of any of these:
Ground-level access to buildings -- under the porch, garage, crawlspace
You'll also want to determine what kind of snakes they are so that you can try to eliminate their food sources around your yard. If they eat mice, then you'll want to try to eliminate the mouse population by making your yard unattractive to mice. If they eat insects like grasshoppers then you'll want to make your yard unattractive to them.
I encourage you to go to your local library and check out some books to learn more about the snakes and what they like so that you can eliminate whatever it is that attracts them to your yard. Although eliminating what snakes like may not be practical or even aesthetically pleasing.
I asked my son about this problem. He has a snake for a pet. He said there are a few things you can do. First, make sure all outside vents, holes, and under skirting is properly sealed. Then if you don't have a cat, maybe you can borrow one. As for the garden you want a snake there. They are a great pest control help. They control mice, birds (they are scared of them and fly away) and any other sort of small critter that might be eating your garden.
Most of the time you won't see the snake. If given a chance the snake will leave. Remember they are more scared of you than you are of them. Please don't kill it just because it is a snake. Think where we would be without them. The mice and such would take over and we will have no food.
Get a cat! We own 3 cats, which live mostly outside. They do a terrific job of keeping mice and other rodents (snake food) away from the house and yard. And the kids adore having pets!
Sprinkle mothballs around where the snakes are and they will go away. I had them here in my yard near out deck and this method worked. Just be careful with mothballs and children!
Go to your pharmacy store and buy Sulfur powder. Sprinkle this powder at all door entrances (like a line). And you need to re-apply after some time or after a rain. Sulfur keeps snakes away. Living in Malaysia, where we have all sorts of tropical snakes, sulfur is proven well.
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