It is not uncommon this time of year to encounter a slithery visitor in gardens, landscapes and backyards.
There are several species of snakes that are happy to live their lives in backyards, but one of the most common is the Eastern Garter Snake. Named for the three light stripes that run along the length of its black, brown, gray, or olive body. The Garter Snake is sometimes nicknamed the “garden snake” because that is where unsuspecting gardeners often encounter them.
The stripes running vertically along the length of the snake’s body resemble the once stylish sock garters worn by men. While it can be startling to encounter a snake while weeding or planting, if their presence can be tolerated, garter snakes are doing the gardener a favor.
They feed on worms, slugs, insects, and small mammals that may otherwise be feasting on the garden plants and flowers. The Garter Snakes are easily handled and easily picked up.
Garter Snakes are most active during the day and on sunny summer days are often found basking on rocks, sidewalks, decks, or patios. On hot days and when sleeping, they retreat to sheltered areas such as under foundations, rocks, logs, stumps, or porches.
The Common Water Snake, on the other hand, is not a snake that should be picked up without the expectation of a strong bite. The coloration of this snake may be reddish-brown, brown, gray, or black with bands or blotches across it.
This snake prefers streams, creeks and other bodies of water, and can sometimes cause it to be mistaken for a Northern Copperhead or a Water Moccasin both venomous snakes are not found in Northwest Ohio.
There are no repellents that effectively work to keep snakes away. Snakes enter areas inhabited by people in search of food and shelter.
The easiest thing you can do is make your home and yard less appealing to them is by removing their food sources like rodents. Do not leave pet food out and store animal feed in tight containers. Snakes like cool damp places to hide. Seal entry points into your crawl space or basement which are greater than ¼ inch in diameter.
Make sure door sweeps and window screens fit tightly. Cover vents and drains that lead into your home with galvanized screening.
Snakes also find shelter under scrap metal, wood piles, trash, and other debris.
Keep your yard area free of possible hiding places, including tall grass and weeds which can attract prey for snakes. The best approach, aside from sharing the garden with them, is to eliminate denning and sleeping sites (rock or log piles) and shoo them away from basking areas. They are rarely aggressive and adapt to human’s activity quite easily.
Other common non-venomous snakes found around the home are the Midland and Northern Brown Snake, Eastern Milk Snake and Gray Rat Snake.