How to Identify Snake Holes in Your Yard—and What to Do After

Story by Rabekah Henderson  –  22h • 4 min read

As backyards spring to life in the warmer weather, signs of animal life—like small holes in the ground—appear too. While some holes are home to rodents, turtles, or insects, some are actually snake holes.

Snakes can take up residence inside of abandoned rodent holes and stay there to find shelter from harsh elements. But trying to decide what’s a snake hole and what’s not can be tricky. Here’s what you need to know about snake holes in your yard (and why you shouldn’t be too scared by a hole or two!).

What Does a Snake Hole Look Like?

Not all snake holes look alike. This is because snakes aren’t actually the ones digging these holes. Instead, snakes move into holes that have been dug—and then abandoned—by rodents, insects, and even turtles.

This means that snake holes will vary in size and shape depending upon the animal that originally dug them. Some holes will be perfectly round and only an inch across, while others will be larger and more jagged. If you’re trying to decide whether a hole has a snake in it or not, look for either discarded snake skins or snake feces, which typically look like thick brown liquid with a chalky white end.

Snake Hole vs. Rodent Hole

While there’s a good chance a snake hole was once a rodent hole, there are a few things you can look out for when trying to determine what type of critter currently lives in a hole you’ve found.

  1. Snake skin:If you see discarded snake skin near a hole, it’s likely a snake hole, not a rodent hole.
  2. Snake feces:Snake feces are a brown paste with white chalky ends. If you see this near a hole (or just inside it) it’s likely a snake hole.
  3. Signs of digging:Claw marks and small piles of freshly dug dirt point to a hole being a home for rodents, not for snakes. This is because snakes can’t dig the holes themselves—they only move into them once they’ve been abandoned.

Types of Snakes that Could Be in Your Yard

There are a variety of snakes that could be in your yard, and most of them are likely harmless. Here’s a quick primer of the common snakes in North America.

  • Rat snakes: Rat snakes are 3 to 5 feet long and found across the eastern and midwestern United States—they’re one of the most common “suburban” snakes. They’re typically black, gray, or black and yellow, and they eat small rodents and birds.
  • Garter snakes: The garter snake is another widespread, harmless snake. They live throughout North America and are typically between 18 and 30 inches in length. They prefer wet and forested habitats.
  • King snakes: Like rat snakes, king snakes are often 3 to 5 feet long, but they can be up to 6 and a half feet long. They’re found throughout the United States, and some subspecies can be quite colorful, such as the scarlet king snake.
  • Milk snakes: Milk snakes range in size depending on where they live—typically, milk snakes in the southern United States will be larger than those found in the Northeast or Upper Midwest. Like king snakes, milk snakes come in a variety of colors, like orange, red, and brown. They’re often confused with their poisonous lookalikes, the coral snakes.
  • Corn snakes: Corn snakes can be found in the southeastern United States, and they prefer to live in wooded, overgrown areas. Corn snakes are typically 2 to 6 feet long, and they’re bright red and orange.
  • Cottonmouth snakes (venomous): Cottonmouth snakes get their name from their bright white mouth, which opens when threatened. They live near water in the southeastern United States. They’re brownish-gray and 2 to 4 feet long.
  • Copperhead snakes (venomous): Copperhead snakes live throughout the eastern United States, and they can survive in a variety of habitats. Copperheads are dark brown with hourglass-shaped markings, and they’re 2 to 3 feet long.
  • Rattlesnakes (venomous): Unlike many other snakes on this list, rattlesnakes prefer the arid conditions of the American Southeast, though a few species can be found east of the Mississippi. Rattlesnakes can be up to 8 feet in length, and they’re typically brown with markings.

What to Do About Snake Holes

Once you’ve determined that the hole in your yard is, in fact, a snake hole, here’s what you can do.

  • Leave them be: This is the best choice for most snakes and snake holes you’ll find. Snakes rarely attack unless physically provoked, and they’re great for backyard pest control, as they keep pesky rodents at bay. If you can, let snake holes be.
  • Fill them back in: If you’re dealing with venomous snakes—or you’d really prefer to keep snakes away from your home—you can fill the holes back in with dirt. But keep in mind these can be easily re-dug by the animals that dug them in the first place.
  • Cover them: To ensure filled-in snake holes stay filled in, consider covering the tops of the holes with a small patch of burlap or chicken wire.
  • Call a professional: If you have a repeated problem with venomous snakes, call a wildlife or pest control expert to keep dangerous snakes at bay.

How to Prevent Snakes from Being On Your Property

Many common North American snakes have adapted to make a home just about anywhere. Because of this, it will be hard to completely prevent snakes from ever slithering into your backyard, but you can make it less inviting to them by keeping your grass mowed and clearing away brush, overgrowth, and piles of leaves.

However, keep in mind that the majority of snake species (90%, in fact) are nonvenomous and do a lot of good for the ecosystem: they keep small rodent and insect populations from getting out of control, they provide biodiversity, and they maintain an important part of the food chain.

Read the original article on The Spruce.


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