Can I snake proof my garden?
This is one of the most common questions a snake catcher receives and the simple answer is no – in most situations there is no way to snake proof a garden but there are certainly a number of steps that you can take to reduce the chances of having a snake in your garden and make it easier to see the snake if you do.
So what attracts snakes in the first place
Venomous Australian snakes are for the most part terrestrial nomads that move around seeking out food, shelter and water – by limiting the availability of these three factors you have your best chance of not encountering a snake on your property.
Food – most large venomous snakes in Australia eat rodents so dealing with rat and mice problems can go a long way to discouraging snakes. The reason that rodents are such a pull factor to snakes is that they tend to live in groups, have a distinctive smell so are easy for snakes to locate, and live in places easily accessible to snakes. Rodents are generally attracted by food sources such as pet food left out for pets, foods on compost heaps, and drinking water again often associated with pet bowls or perhaps creeks or dams.
Shelter – snakes prefer to move under or close to cover for security and also because that is where their food also tends to hide. So by keeping lawns mown short and garden beds kept clear of low undergrowth or large amounts of leaf litter you are taking one easy step to help reduce snakes. Filling holes in retaining walls, cracks in concrete paths, removing dead timber, removing rubbish, keeping wood piles at 20cm off the ground, and regular overall garden maintenance; are all going to help reduce your chances of attracting food sources for snakes as well as the snakes themselves. In the unlikely event that you still get a snake the above are going to make it much easier to see the snake and to get it removed.
Water – can be in the form of natural water sources like ponds or creeks, or could include water bowls left out for pets or pots etc in the garden that collect water. Water attracts snakes and the prey items they are feeding on so you should seek to minimise the availability of water wherever possible.
Do solar snake repellers work – or are there any chemical snake repellants?
The simple answer is no. You can often see testimonials about these sorts of products which are absolutely genuine but misguided along the lines of ‘I haven’t seen a snake since I started using this product’ and it seems that there is a simple explanation for this.
As mentioned above snakes are generally nomadic so move around a large area, and the fact they are quite cryptic means that they can be hard to see even when they are present, so reports from residents that ‘I have lived here for 5…10…20…30 years and have never had a snake here before’ generally more accurately means ‘seen’ than ‘had’. Chances are snakes have been present but the person just did not see them as the snakes were just moving through the property. So following on from the snake repeller testimonials it is highly likely that the presence of the ‘repeller’ had no affect at all and was more a placebo effect i.e. regardless of the repellent the person likely would not have seen a snake again (even though they are there) so the persons attribution of the repellent as the reason they have not seen a snake again is perhaps misguided.
Snake mesh and other physical barriers
The 6mm vermin / snake mesh is certainly impenetrable by snakes but the Achilles heel of the product is any gaps or holes around that barrier. All snakes can climb, even the dangerously venomous species like Brown and Tiger snakes, so it is not hard for a snake to climb over that barrier or squeeze under or around it. Having said that a vermin mesh barrier used correctly around a backyard, children’s playground area, or pet enclosure can certainly be a good way to discourage snakes. A terrestrial land snake that is roaming that comes upon this physical barrier is more likely to move around the barrier than try to climb over it (assuming that the factors above are not acting as an attractant to snakes) so there can definitely be a benefit to physical barriers but they should not be relied upon as ‘snake proofing’ per se.
So what danger do snake pose and what should I do if I see one?
Clearly some of Australia’s snakes are among the most venomous in the world and people can and do die from snakebite but no snake is going to attack a person for no reason. The two biggest factors that result in snake bites is trying to catch or trying to kill a snake – whether those individuals own up to that after the fact or not. A snake can only strike around 1/3 of its body length so you have to get very close to a snake to get bitten by the snake. Therefore the single best way to avoid snake bite is to move away and leave them alone. Keep an eye on the snake from a distance, have someone call a snake catcher, and then watch the snake until the catcher arrives. Removing a snake for relocation can give peace of mind but unless you manage your property correctly you have a chance of getting another snake back again.