People will sometimes swerve deliberately to run over snakes, or when a surprise encounter happens between a human and snake, the snake is often killed. People who kill snakes mostly do so out of fear. But that fear is seldom justified as most snakes, even venomous ones, provide far more of a benefit than they do a danger.
Snakes are beneficial animals.
Thirty-two of thirty-eight snakes in South Carolina are harmless, and most are in fact beneficial. Statistically, non-venomous are the snakes that people most often encounter.
Both venomous and non-venomous species feed on large numbers of rats and mice, thereby helping to prevent the property damage and disease transmission potentially caused by rodents. The offhand killing of snakes allows rodent populations to grow to unsafe levels.
What Do I Need To Do If A Snake Is In My Yard?
Because of habitat loss many snakes now need to live among humans, often in urban areas. Snakes can live in every type of habitat and at some point you will likely find one near your home. If you see a snake in your yard, it is rare that you will need to do anything. Most snakes, when encountered, prefer to escape as quickly as possible and will do so if left alone. Even rattlesnakes will avoid humans, if given the chance.
Snakes… Look, but Do Not Touch
Snakes rarely bite people, but when they do it is often in response to being picked up, poked at, or otherwise disturbed. The best way to avoid being bitten is to give snakes the space they need and allow them to move on their own. Even non-venomous snakes will bite if harassed. Most snakes will display warning signs by rattling, hissing, or by vibrating their tail. A snake behaving in this manner may bite in self-defense, if not left alone.
Snakes Are Cold-Blooded Animals? Try Again!
While snakes are referred to as being “cold-blooded” animals, they are actually ectothermic, meaning they maintain a body temperature about the same as their surroundings. In order to warm up, they must rely on externals sources, like a sunny spot on the deck or a warm rock. Sometimes snakes are caught off guard when a warm day suddenly turns cold or when their body is quickly chilled, such as when crossing the cold pavement. If you stumble across a snake in this condition, it may react slower, or even be incapable of leaving the situation.
Being a Good Neighbor- Help, Not Harm
Many people think that snakes are incapable of feeling pain. However, snakes have pain receptors just like humans. If a snake is injured after being run over by a car or hit with a lawnmower, it is in need of medical assistance the same as any other any animal suffering from such injuries. Many rehabilitators, exotics veterinarians, and herp specialists are trained and willing to provide medical and supportive care to injured wild snakes. Snakes have their place in the environment, as do all wildlife, and there are ways that we can help them live as nature intended.
Assisting Snakes Across The Road.
If you encounter a snake on the road, and it is possible and safe, help it across in the direction it is heading. Often, simply walking towards it will be enough to cause the snake to slither away. But if you must, use a long stick and gently tap the road just behind its tail to encourage it to travel across. This ensures that both you and the snake will not be injured.
Safe Capture of Non-venomous Snakes.
Occasionally, snakes will make their way inside of homes and buildings. If a non-venomous snake enters your house or another inconvenient area, it can be removed without killing it. Corner the snake, tip over a bucket or trashcan near it, and gently sweep it in with a stick or a broom. Once you have contained the animal, you can release it on another part of your property, or find it a new home in an appropriate nearby location.
Do Not Remove A Healthy Snake From the Wild.
Snakes, like turtles, suffer from illegal collecting. Removing even one snake from the wild to turn into a “pet” can have a negative impact on a population. If you do want a snake as a pet, check with a reputable reptile dealer, or even better, rescue one needing a home from a local reptile rescue group.
Do Not Ever Use Glue Traps.
Glue traps are an inhumane way of capturing any small animal that happens to move across its surface. While mainly used to catch mice and other rodents, snakes, birds and various small animals can also become affixed to the sticky surface. If these animals are lucky enough to be found alive, they often have serious injuries resulting from their struggle to free themselves. So, forget the glue traps! There is no better way of controlling the mouse population around your home than that of a resident snake!
A Case of Mistaken Identity
Many non-venomous snakes are often killed when mistaken for a venomous snake. Both venomous and non-venomous snakes have a place in nature, as do all animals, but one non-venomous snake that is commonly mistaken for its venomous cousin is the corn snake.
Corn snakes, also nicknamed “the farmer’s friend” due to their large consumption of small rodents, have the misfortune of being similar in coloration to the venomous copperhead. How do you, from a safe distance, identify a corn snake from a copperhead?
Corn snakes have long, orange bodies with large, black-edged red blotches down the middle of the back and slender heads. On the belly, there are alternating rows of black and white marks, resembling a checkerboard pattern.
Copperheads are reddish, brown with a series of darker hourglass markings down its back and a broad, triangular shaped head. Its head is usually a bright copper color and its belly is pinkish, not black and white like the corn snake.
Regardless of whether it is a copperhead or corn snake, don’t kill it to identify it. Simply maintain a safe distance and move away from it, so that it will move away from you.