Eek! What to Do When There’s a Snake in the House

Eek! You just found a snake in the house, or maybe in your yard. But now there’s only one thought on your mind: Make it go away!

Everyone loves summer, including snakes—which means that you will be seeing more of them as the weather warms up. To help prepare you for any slithery encounters, ReptiFiles teamed up with David Jensen of Wasatch Snake Removal. Dave is extremely knowledgeable about wild snakes, and especially rattlesnakes, so it was a pleasure to interview him for this post!

What to Do When You Find a Snake in the House/Yard

1. DON’T bother it.If you have a snake in the house, remember that they have an introvert bubble just like some humans.

Remember what your parents used to tell you—”If you don’t bother it, it won’t bother you.” This is very true with snakes, who are naturally shy, introverted creatures and prefer to avoid encounters with humans. When they do encounter a human, their first instinct is to get away.

If the human continues to bother the snake by poking/getting in its space/etc, it may hiss or rattle (in the case of a rattlesnake). This is the snake’s way of saying, “You’re making me uncomfortable. Please get out of my bubble.” Snakes are actually quite polite. Biting is a last-resort defense mechanism.

But in movies, snakes are super aggressive and chase people… FALSE. This is a myth perpetuated by the media. Forget everything Hollywood has taught you about snakes—especially from Indiana Jones movies.

2. DON’T kill it.

Garter snakes in the backyard

Garter snakes. Photo credit: Pixabay

Snakes play a critical role in their local ecosystems, making sure it stays balanced and healthy. They are mid-level predators, meaning that they eat certain animals as well as can be eaten by other animals. (Humans, for reference, are top-level predators.)

Dave explains the reason why not to kill snakes beautifully:

“Snakes are the best defense against rodents and the diseases they carry. Unlike birds of prey, which eat only adult rodents, snakes crawl into rodent burrows and eat the young before they can reproduce, eliminating hundreds of thousands of potential vermin that are vectors for diseases like rabies, hantavirus, tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, tick-borne encephalitis, plague, and a dozen other potentially fatal diseases. If you’ve never had any of these illnesses, you should probably thank a snake. Everyone should want a harmless snake in their yard to control pests.

If possible, trap the snake with a 5-gallon bucket or plastic bin. This will make Step #3 easier.

3. DO call a snake removal service.

Snake removal is typically either free or available for a nominal fee, and it’s super convenient. For example, Wasatch Snake Removal uses a snake hook and tongs to handle the animal, although they will occasionally grab it by the tail if necessary. Once the snake has been captured, it is placed in a ventilated plastic bucket with a screw-on lid for relocation.

Why do snakes go in houses/yards?

Although snakes prefer to stay hidden in order to avoid predators (birds, cats, humans, etc.), they must travel in order to find prey. The most common prey for snakes is rodents, and rodents like to live near humans because they eat the same things that we do. Therefore, you’ll sometimes find one in the house, eating the mice and rats that they find there—which is actually doing you a huge favor!

What if it’s a rattlesnake???

Rattlesnake in the backyard

Great Basin rattlesnake. Photo by David Jensen.

If you suspect that the snake might be venomous (learn the difference between venomous and nonvenomous snakes here), leave it alone and call a snake removal service immediately. Keep children and pets away from the snake. Most likely it will leave your property on its own.

Although rattlesnake bites are serious, they are always preventable. Most venomous snake bites in the US are not random occurrences—they’re the result of stupid humans messing around with venomous snakes. Most of these bite victims are young adult males, and usually alcohol is involved.

Same procedure applies to cottonmouths/water moccasins and copperheads. As long as you leave the snake alone, it will not try to bite you. 

Will the snake come back?

When wild snakes are relocated from homes and backyards, they are typically released back into the wild within a roughly quarter mile of where it was found. This is especially important for rattlesnakes, because they have friends and home dens that they will do anything to return to (a phenomenon known as site fidelity). However, Dave assures us that “once relocated, a snake is unlikely to return to the same yard [or house] where it was found.”

Great Basin gopher snake imitating a rattlesnake. Photo by David Jensen.

For more helpful tips about wild snakes, connect with Wasatch Snake Removal on Facebook or visit WasatchSnakeRemoval.com.

In addition to performing snake removal, Wasatch Snake Removal also offers site evaluations, yard inspections, snake wrangling, and educational presentations. Call them at (801) 599-0922 or via email at gotsnake@comcast.net for more information.