How To Get Rid Of Garter Snakes Once And For All? Tried & Tested Ways

Arpitha Rajendra
Feb 18, 2023 By Arpitha Rajendra
Originally Published on Oct 27, 2021
Edited by Jade Scott
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San Francisco Garter Snake

Garter snakes are a cold-blooded species.

Garter snakes or Thamnophis sirtalis communicate using complex pheromonal systems. The pheromone scented trails allow them to follow other snakes.

Snakes as small as garter snakes can be scarier than big ones. Why?

Well, big ones don't slip through holes and don't just slither into your homes and yards without being noticed. Garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis) are small-medium-sized reptiles that are usually harmless to humans.

They are classified within the Thamnophis genus. They are an endemic species of Central and North America, and Thamnophis species occur across Canada's subarctic plains through to Costa Rica.

These snakes weigh around 0.3 lb (140 g) and measure up to 18-54 in (46-137 cm) in length. They are also closely related to the Nerodia genus of water snakes.

The Eastern garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis) was the first species of garter snake to be identified by Carl Linnaeus, a taxonomist, and zoologist in the year 1758. These snakes occupy most parts of North America.

These small creatures can adapt to different habitats, have varying diets, and live closer to water bodies, which is why they have a wide range of habitats. Snakes in western North America are more aquatic compared to species in the eastern part.

If you want to know how to get rid of garter snakes, there are several key bits of information to consider. Even though they are a form of natural pest control in your yard or garden, they can and do get out of control.

For years it was believed that garter snakes were non-venomous snakes, however, recent research in the early 2000s showed that they do produce neurotoxic venom.

This venom cannot really cause dangerous damage or kill humans as the venom is produced in small amounts, is mild, and the snakes cannot deliver it effectively. So, in reality, they are quite harmless except for causing bruising and swelling.

These cold-blooded creatures are prey for otters, egrets, hawks, crows, cranes, and other snakes. Their gums are larger than their big teeth and their Duvernoy's gland's secretion is mildly toxic.

Evidence suggests that tetrodotoxin-resistant levels in these snakes and newt populations are linked, which indicates a co-evolution between the prey and predator.

If garter snakes feed on newts that are toxic, they can retain the toxins for weeks in their liver. This will make garters both venomous and poisonous at the same time.

The population of these snakes has declined, which is a result of people collecting these snakes as pets in a large number. Even with the introduction of predators like American bullfrogs, and pollution in aquatic regions, however, garters are still common in their natural ranges.

Since 1969, the San Francisco garter snake or Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia, however, has been listed as Endangered. The population decline of the narrow-headed garter snake or Thamnophis rufipunctatus is mainly due to crayfish predation.

Garter snakes swallow their prey in one piece.

These venomous snakes often feed on what they can find and whenever they find it, and food can either be abundant or scarce. These snakes sometimes eat eggs but mostly feed on live small animals.

If you enjoyed reading these facts about how to get rid of garter snakes once and for all, then make sure to read some more interesting facts about how to get rid of skunks and how to get rid of sugar ants here at Kidadl.

Are garter snakes bad to have around?

No, not really. Garter snakes in your garden or yard mean that they will feed on pests and insects and control the population of pests harming your plants. However, having these shy and withdrawing snakes around your yard could mean that they could bite you or you may accidentally step on them.

Garter snakes are one of the most common snakes across North America ranging across Canada to Florida. A lot of people keep these snakes as pets and as garden snakes.

Some of you might love having these pet snakes in your yard while others might fear them. There are around 35 garter snake species and all of them have stripes on their slim bodies.

These venomous snakes are harmless to humans. Garter snakes eat animals as they are natural carnivores and prey on animals on land and near water.

Garter snakes eat small mammals, small rodents, small insects, worms, salamanders, fish, frogs, tadpoles, grasshoppers, slugs, and snails. The venom in these venomous snakes paralyzes their prey but they would not ruin any plants in your yard or garden.

As they are small in size they will mostly be easy to handle and these snakes rarely bite. Garter snakes come in different colors, stripes, and albino breeds too.

Garter snakes have live births, which means that they will not lay eggs in your yard or garden. They are shy so be mindful of their habits as the snakes may hide in holes.

When disturbed, garter snakes might coil and then strike, however, on a typical day they will only flail their tail and hide their head. They will also discharge a musky-scented secretion called malodorous that is secreted from a gland closer to the cloaca.

Although they are not dangerous when handled, they can discharge feces, musk, or urates when handled and some snakes do this for many years. Garter snakes kill and eat quite a lot more than other snakes, producing waste more frequently.

You will need to clean out the property surroundings more often to clean the smell. The smell of their feces is unpleasant and they also shed their skin as they grow.

Garter snakes are beneficial in many ways for providing pest control, however, these snakes can also be a threat to small children and pets who frequently play in the yard or garden.

There are a lot of people with a fear of snakes and they would definitely want to get rid of garter snakes. So, if you want to know how to get rid of garter snakes from your garden or yard, do read on...

Eastern Garter Snake on Log

Why are there garter snakes in your yard?

The reason why garter snakes (believed to be non-venomous and unlikely to bite) are in your garden or yard is garter snakes like the environment on your property and snakes may resonate with the surroundings of their habitat. They might have even found places to hibernate around your property.

Although garter snake species feed on small prey on land and near water and provide pest control on your property, too many of these harmless garden snakes on the property is not safe.

The property around your house might offer the right conditions and many places for the snakes to hide.

Garter snakes get attracted to grassy and moist areas, even if near lakes and streams, that can be present around your home. Garters also like regions with a lot of food and vegetative covers such as if there are piles of debris lying around like logs, rocks, leaves, or boards.

There can also be insects, rodents, and other food sources for them to eat, which is what attracts these venomous snakes near your house.

It is known that these snakes hibernate in winter and they travel a huge distance to form a community with their kind inside a den. They have a reputation for being great pets if kept in an aquarium with water.

Children can hold these snakes under the supervision of an adult. You can feed them some worms, insects, fish, and tadpoles.

Breeding in captivity is also possible. Breeding starts when they produce pheromones to attract a mate. The pheromone produced by females has a strong smell, attracting a lot of mates.

After mating with a male, the female snake carries the sperm until fertilization. She fertilizes the eggs inside her body, producing live young ones.

You can also provide them with tall, dense grass and make your surroundings safe for your reptile friend. If you find a snake in your garden or yard and want them to stay, try not to disturb or harm them.

Garter snake species can also enter your house yard unknowingly while trying to catch prey. After garter snakes species come out of hibernating, they actively look for hiding places with good shade and garter snakes are one of the first snakes to come out in summer.

They not only try to hide around the house but they can also enter your house if their need for food and shelter are met inside.

There can be small, humid, and dark areas around the house with crevices, gaps, holes, and cracks.

Garter snakes are very good climbers and get up on your ceilings or chimneys, and can even crawl in through sewage pipes. You can get rid of snakes by trying a few different methods.

How to get rid of garter snakes in the yard?

The best way to get rid of garter snakes without killing them or causing them harm is by mowing your lawn and trimming the bushes, cleaning your yard, getting rid of any source of snake food, using snake repellent, and placing snake traps around your home. You can also get chickens, build a snake fence, or relocate the snake.

These snakes (believed to be non-venomous) provide great pest control for a short time but turn into pests themselves after a while. There are several methods to get rid of or keep these snakes away if you want to try to remove them yourself before you call a professional.

Garters love tall bush and grass and will move into overgrown dense vegetation to avoid exposing themselves.

Therefore, it is necessary to trim the bushes and mow the grass well. Garters will slither away due to less cover and the sound of the mower.

Garter snakes might also be hiding in any big junk piles on the side of the garden you forgot to clean. Organic matters like dead leaves, decaying logs, and debris are favorites of garter snakes. You need to get rid of such things around your yard so it remains fresh and dry.

You can set a snake trap to catch these snakes and then release them far away from your house. Make sure to handle the snake, if you need to, carefully to avoid a bite.

Traps can be placed within dense foliage where the snakes lay by placing bait like eggs, lizards, or rodents. Try and place the trap where you have seen the snakes.

Garter snakes around your house are probably enjoying a variety of pests like rodents, lizards, and insects. You can get rid of these pests to get rid of snakes.

You can use pest control, and although it won't wipe out all the pests, it will do so to an extent where the snake has no choice but to look for another place for dinner.

Chickens can pose threat to these snakes because chickens chase these venomous snakes away. However, chickens might even eat one or two snakes. You can also use other natural predators like pigs, cats, hens, and guinea hens.

Even fox urine is a great repellent of snakes. Natural snake repellents such as different oils can be used. As oils are safe to use you can spray the oil in the places where you have previously spotted the snake.

You can also install a snake fence. A snake fence is generally a few inches or feet tall around your property to keep the snakes away.

Oftentimes the angle of the fixed fence makes it difficult for snakes to crawl into your yard. However, the fencing method can be expensive. Alternatively, you can also use glue traps to catch the snakes.

If you find the snake in a body of water then it is safe to use a long stick or hook, like those which are usually used for skimming the pools. Before going ahead to remove the snake from water, make sure it is a harmless one otherwise you might need to call a professional.

If you are still unable to get rid of snakes you can call a professional to help catch the snake as they might have larger traps and be better equipped for dealing with snake removals.

How to keep garter snakes from coming into your home?

Some methods to keep garter snakes from coming into your home include cutting your grass short, removing any pests around your house, using snake repellent and essential oils, using a top surface around your house that is most hated by garter snakes, or manually catching and releasing them into the wild.

To keep these snakes away so that they do not enter your house and to get rid of garter snakes in house areas, you need to look for signs to identify whether it is a snake problem or not, and if possible you need to identify the snake to confirm that they are harmless.

Some of the signs indicating that garter snake species are making your property their home are:

Slithering Tracks: Sand, dust, foliage, or earth can show these tracks.

Smell: Garter snake species produce a strong smell and if you do smell this around the property then it is likely a garter snake problem.

Looking for snakeskin and snake holes: By inspecting around your house for snakeskin you will know if there are snakes around.

Effluence: This might look like a bird dropping but can include the feathers, skin, and hair of their prey.

Once you have identified the presence of snakes in your yard, you can use some methods to keep them away from your house. Some methods and natural products to keep these snakes from entering are:

Smoke: Snakes are highly sensitive to smells, fumes, and odors. They particularly hate smoke. You can dig out a fire pit and let it smoke for a few days. Using leaves and moss to cover the embers also increases its effect.

Sulfur: Snakes dislike powdered sulfur a lot. When using sulfur do wear a mask because sulfur smells. You can place the powder around your property and house. When the snake slithers on top of it their skin gets irritated and they won't come back.

Cinnamon and clove oil: Oil repels snakes. Mix both the oils in a spray bottle before spraying on the snake itself. Stay alert because snakes slither away from the source of the spray.

Naphthalene: Many commercially produced products have naphthalene as a common ingredient. Naphthalene is also present in mothballs. Snakes are irritated by the odor produced by this chemical. Naphthalene is not harmful to snakes but can be fatal to pets and children if ingested. Either use with caution or avoid this method if you have pets or kids.

Onions and garlic: Sulfuric acid in onions and garlic will repel snake species. You can mix rock salt with onions and garlic, and then you can sprinkle them across your yard and house for more effect. You can mix essential oils of clove or cinnamon with garlic and spray it in cracks, crevices, and holes.

Lime: Mix a snake repellent by combining lime with peppermint or hot pepper and then pour it around your house and property. Snakes dislike the odor of this mixture.

Ammonia: Snakes also dislike the odor or smell of ammonia so spray this in areas where you have previously seen the snake in your yard. You can also soak a rag or cloth in ammonia and put it into an unsealed container and put this in the places where snakes possibly live to repel them.

Vinegar: Vinegar can be used to repel the snakes around areas with water and moisture including swimming pools. Vinegar can be poured around the water body or swimming pool, making it a natural repellent. A mesh fence can also be used around pools to keep snakes away from water.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestion for how to get rid of garter snakes once and for all, then why not take a look at how to get rid of raccoons or common garter snake facts?

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Written by Arpitha Rajendra

Bachelor of Engineering specializing in Aeronautical/Aerospace Technology, Master of Business Administration specializing in Management

Arpitha Rajendra picture

Arpitha RajendraBachelor of Engineering specializing in Aeronautical/Aerospace Technology, Master of Business Administration specializing in Management

With a background in Aeronautical Engineering and practical experience in various technical areas, Arpitha is a valuable member of the Kidadl content writing team. She did her Bachelor's degree in Engineering, specializing in Aeronautical Engineering, at Nitte Meenakshi Institute of Technology in 2020. Arpitha has honed her skills through her work with leading companies in Bangalore, where she contributed to several noteworthy projects, including the development of high-performance aircraft using morphing technology and the analysis of crack propagation using Abaqus XFEM.

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