Myth Busters: The truth about how to keep snakes away from your house

They can be annoying or downright dangerous.

Don’t shoot the messenger. But if you’ve forked out a fortune to snake-proof your home, you may have wasted your hard-earned money.

Many Aussies go all out installing anti-snake barriers and splashing out on expensive chemicals and products, all so they can sleep easier knowing they’ve done their bit to protect loved ones from a visit from Australia’s most unwanted houseguests.

However, most expert snake catchers will tell you that many of the most popular methods of keeping those much-feared slithery reptiles away simply don’t work.

“There is nothing you can do to 100% guarantee snake proof your home or back yard,” says Australian “snake hunter” Mark Pelley. “Snake proofing is actually a myth and not possible to be achieved. Australia is home to snakes just as much as it is to our people.”

“While there is a lot of fear and hype, snakes do NOT go out of their way to harm people,” adds Pelley in his snake hunter blog. “In fact the opposite is true, snakes try to avoid people as they are incredibly shy creatures.”

Usually, snakes make their way through our yards or properties in search of food, shelter, water or protection from the elements, says Pelley.

As warm weather rolls in for summer, we debunk some of the more common snake-proofing repellents – and tell you what actually does work, according to Hoser and other snake experts:

What doesn’t work

Ammonia

Many articles say that snakes can’t stand the smell or fumes of ammonia and recommend soaking a rag or cloth in ammonia, then putting it in an unsealed plastic bag. But Northern New South Wales snake catcher Bridget Thomson, who routinely catches brown snakes for a living, gave the following advice to the ABC recently:

“Ammonia was suggested, so I soaked bags and placed them around the house — snakes are meant to hate the smell — and I watched one slither right over the top of the bag.”

Solar-powered snake repellent devices

Thomson also had this to say about those solar-powered products that sit atop stakes in the ground and are available in many Australian hardware outlets.

“Manufacturers claim they work by emitting a vibration into the surrounding soil that scares snakes away. In my opinion they’re a waste of time.”

Backing up Thomson’s view, the article also quoted Northern New South Wales property owner Becky Beale who had bought solar-powered devices in a bid to keep snakes at bay.

“When I discovered snakes wrapped around them on two different occasions, I figured we wasted our money,” Beale reported.
“I’ve also tried natural oils like peppermint, clove, tea tree and, nope, it hasn’t bothered them.”

The jury’s out on these common anti-snake tricks too

Researchers at Curtin University, in Perth, are currently studying the efficacy of snake repellents but in the meantime, snake hunter Pelley testifies that he has previously caught snakes on properties many times with all of the below “precautions” present on the premises:

*Snake “proof” fencing
*Solar snake repellents
*Spraying the house with chemicals from a pest controller
*Other mechanical, electronic devices which “prevent” snakes.
*Purchasing blue tongue lizards to put in the garden to “get rid of snakes”
*Purchasing “special” plants that deter snakes

So what does actually work?

As much as we all love a good quick fix, ensuring that your property is as snake-resistant as possible means exerting elbow grease and vigilance to get rid of the resources and conditions that snakes are looking for:

Banish any mice or rats hanging around

Snakes are often attracted by the presence of mice and rats, which are one of their biggest food sources. You can try the usual methods of getting rid of rodents, from setting traps to safely baiting them (keeping the bait out of reach of any pets and children). When you’re confident the rodents are gone, clean up the areas they’ve frequented and get rid of any nests, mouse poo or smells.

Clean up your yard

From bricks and rocks to weeds and leaves, so many common items found in gardens can make perfect hidey holes for snakes. Now is the best time to get in and clean up all the places snakes could be hiding. Move piles of rocks and logs, mow your lawn, tidy up your gardens and get rid of the weeds. Be sure to remove overgrown vegetation near your fence line. And don’t leave sheets of metal or other building materials lying around. If there are fewer places for snakes to hide, there’ll be less chance of them hanging around.

Get rid of or move large areas of water

We already know snakes can swim but it turns out they actually enjoy it because it’s an easy place to find prey. This includes water sources such as ponds, pools, puddles and even birdbaths. Try cleaning up the areas around your water features, getting rid of any unnecessary water sources such as buckets of water, or moving ponds and birdbaths further away from your house.

Block up any holes

Each year, we hear about snakes being found in toilets, roofs and even in people’s beds! This is because snakes can squeeze through the tiniest of holes. Have a look around your property and make sure there are no holes in your roof or screen doors. Cover up any pipes that lead directly into or out of your house, and keep an eye out for holes in your bricks, floors, or garages that could provide an easy access point for snakes. Snakes love rock retaining walls in particular, especially where there are holes or access to water, so cover any gaps with concrete.

Watch out for doorways

Snakes can sneak in under gaps between your front door and the floor, so seal up any gaps. The same goes for doggy doors.

Rethink creepers

Climbing vines can add great character and country charms to the outside of your home, but snakes are great climbers and they will see these as inviting ladders to your rooftop. From there, they could easily find their way inside.

Have you ever found a snake in your house or yard? Do you have a way to keep snakes away?

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