Archive for Wednesday, August 15, 2001

Some tips to help combat snake problems at home

August 15, 2001

Many people are embarrassed about it, so they say they're just nervous. But they'd immediately identify with the Kansan who this year wrote to wildlife expert Charlie Lee:
"I know that snakes are good rodent catchers, but I don't want them in some areas. My wife is deathly afraid of them. Is there anything that will keep snakes away?"
Lee's answer had to be both no and yes.
"You can't buy a deterrent that will do the job. I hear a lot of people talking about trying moth balls or one of the commercial products that have moth balls as their major ingredient. Unfortunately, when researchers tested that idea in a room containing snakes, they found the products had absolutely no effect on where the snakes went," said Lee, who's a wildlife specialist with Kansas State University Research and Extension.
So, the best approaches remain the traditional ones:
If you're petrified, exclude snakes with something they can't climb, such as a 36-inch high fence of small metal mesh (screening) or solid galvanized tin.
If you really are just nervous, practice "negative habitat management." Or, just learn to appreciate snakes.
"All animals need four things: food, cover, water and space. If you don't provide the things that meet snakes' needs, they'll tend to look elsewhere," Lee said.
In the Plains states, snakes think food means insects and/or small animals which includes everything from bird eggs and tiny toads to wood rats and other snakes.
Many products to reduce insect numbers are available at garden and discount stores and even supermarkets. .
"But if you're going to keep rodents and similar varmints away over time, you may need to practice negative habitat management for them, too. For example, mice and rats are always going to be attracted to your yard if you have bird feed, cat or dog food, or small grain crops available," Lee said.

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