Rattlesnakes! If you live in the western part of the United States, chances are you've had to watch out for them in your backyard and thought about how to protect your family. One of the most important things you can do to protect your home and family is to rattlesnake proof your yard. It's a task that requires planning, hard work, and constant diligence. With a little help though, it's something that you can get done on a spring afternoon and you'll look like a badass on Monday morning around the water cooler when you tell your friends how you spent the weekend.
This weekend while visiting my friend Bill, he showed me what he was doing to protect his yard from rattlesnakes. As a Marine he was used to doing what needed to be done to protect himself and his squadmates. Today he uses those same basic skills to help him get through tough projects like protecting his house and family from rattlesnakes and other dangerous critters!
Rattlesnake Proofing Your Yard Starts With Looking for Ways To Get In
The first step towards rattlesnake proofing your yard starts with doing a site survey and taking the time to look for ways that rattlesnakes might get in. If you already have a fence, make sure to look for holes as well as debris that might be leaning up against the fence. Whether you already have a fence or not, you are almost certain to have holes or gaps at the bottom that are easy for the rattlers to sneak under.
Build a Rattlesnake Proof Barrier For Your Fence
There's really no such thing as a rattlesnake proof fence - but you can make it so it is extremely difficult for rattlesnakes to get through. If you don't have an existing fence, then you'll want to follow this advice but build the wire mesh to at least 36" high so that snakes can not climb over. For those with large yards, consider simply creating a "rattlesnake free zone" that is large enough for your kids to play in that also protects your back door and other key areas of the yard. This will help reduce costs compared to fencing in your entire space. In our case, we selected a wire mesh, but any material that has a smooth surface will work well since the rattlesnake will not be able to climb it if there's no way to grip.
Plant the barrier at least 12" under the ground so that it is sturdy and helps to eliminate the possibility of rattlesnakes being able to infiltrate through holes in the ground.
Check all gates and gaps between the fence and your home. These should similarly be protected and you'll want to consider building a concrete slab beneath the gate with flashing to make it rattlesnake proof by eliminating any gaps there too.
Eliminate Food and Water Sources that Attract Rattlesnakes
Generally, if you see a rattlesnake in your yard, it is looking for food or shelter so the biggest thing you can do is to get rid of any food sources. This includes rodents that might be living in your yard and bird feeders that are accessible from the ground, as well as making sure to not leave pet (or human) food outside for extended periods. Similarly, make sure to also keep garbage can lids closed tightly so they can't get in there.
You should also eliminate places where water can pool including leaky facets and areas of the yard that may be over watered. In addition to attracting snakes, it will also attract rodents, frogs, and other vermin that are prey for rattlesnakes.
Look for Places Where Rattlesnakes Can Hide In Your Yard and Get Rid of Them
Rattlesnakes like to hide in brush, bushes, rocks, wood piles, tool sheds, pool pump houses and pretty much any other place they can get into. While we hope that the work you just did with reinforcing your fence will keep the snakes away from your yard - these are clever creatures and there's always a chance that they can get through.
Keep Your Grass Cut Short So You Can See Rattlesnakes in Your Yard
Should a rattlesnake make it past your fence, you'll want to make sure you can see it moving. You'll especially want to make sure you don't accidentally step on it! By making sure that your grass is well maintained it makes it easier for you to avoid a rattlesnake should it make it's way past your defenses.
Check Doors, Windows and Vents to Your House For Gaps
If you've properly installed your fence and eliminated hiding spots in your yard, chances are that you can avoid any possibility of having a rattlesnake enter your house. However, this is always a possibility. Luckily, by checking your doors, windows, vents, and other openings to your home it not only helps make it rattlesnake proof - but also helps eliminate the chances of other critters getting in too.
One of the big things to check here is to look for gaps below doors and especially so in the case of you garage door as well as the door from your garage to the house. While you have a great rattlesnake-proof fence protecting the yard, a rattlesnake can sneak into your garage where there's probably plenty of space to hide.
Educate Your Family on How to Deal with Rattlesnakes
Despite all your diligence with making your home rattlesnake proof, there is no substitute for sitting down with your family and discussing what to do if you see a rattlesnake in the yard or in your home. Make sure your children know never to approach the rattlesnake and to back away slowly if they find one by surprise. You should also have them know who to call in the case of an incident. This includes animal control for help removing the rattlesnake from your house and also for medical help if something goes wrong.
If you suspect someone has been bitten by a rattlesnake - call the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 for immediate assistance.
If you Have Pets, Consider Training Classes for Them on How to Avoid Rattlesnakes
Most communities in areas where rattlesnakes live have classes for dog owners. If your dog or other pets will be wandering around in the yard unattended or go on walks with you through natural areas, rattlesnake encounter training for dogs is something you should absolutely consider.
If You See A Rattlesnake In Your Yard - Remain Calm
In the event that you see a rattlesnake in your yard or home, it is important to remember to remain calm. If you encounter the snake outside, send children, pets and scared adults indoors immediately and give the snake plenty of space to move without feeling threatened. If you have eliminated attractors and hiding places during your rattlesnake proofing efforts then the snake will likely just move on.
However, if you feel that it might be trapped since you did such a great job rattlesnake proofing your yard then you should call a professional. Depending on your community, this might be animal control or police.
Even though you might be frightened when you see a rattlesnake for the first time, it is important to remember that most rattlesnakes simply want to be left alone. Generally, unless they are frightened or feel threatened, they will not strike unless acting in self-defense.
Where Do Rattlesnakes Hide?
Rock crevices are the best places to find rattlesnakes hiding. This includes spaces between landscaping bricks as well as in long grass and under bushes. In hot summer days, rattlesnakes are looking for the same thing you are - to cool down and avoid the direct sunlight.
What Attracts Rattlesnakes?
Rattlesnakes are attracted by food, water, and places to hide. The best way to rattlesnake proof your yard is to remove these things that can attract the snakes.
Are There Any Good Rattlesnake Deterrents?
There are two ways to look at the issue of rattlesnake deterrents. The first and easiest as well as most effective deterant for rattlesnakes is simply removing those things that attract them. However, if you've already done that, there are other things you can do to deter rattlesnakes from your yard. This includes rattlesnake repellants though most studies show that these repellants are both highly toxic to pets and children as well as simply being ineffective at repelling the rattlesnakes from your yard. However, there are some home remedies such as spraying doorways and other parts of your home with amonia or even soaking a rug or blanket in ammonia to help deter them from exploring spaces you'd prefer them not to.
How Can You Repel Rattlesnakes?
Repelling rattlesnakes is ultimately a different question that implies you already are facing a rattlesnake that is in your yard. In this case, as mentioned above, ammonia in a spray bottle as well as clove oil or cinnamon can be effective at repelling most types of snakes including rattlesnakes. However, you should always be extremely careful not to go anywhere near a rattlesnake in your yard without proper protection and training in how to repel one properly.
Do Rattlesnakes Climb Walls?
Some species of rattlesnakes can climb trees (such as the black-tailed rattlesnake) but most rattlers are not good at climbing trees. Rattlesnakes are even less adept at climbing walls since they lack anything to hold onto on a smooth surface. However, other species of snakes can climb walls and if you have a fence or wall with grooves, rough textures and especially one that isn't very tall, rattlesnakes may be able to climb over or use adjacent rocks, trees, and bushes to help climb over the wall or fence and into your yard.
Make Sure to Do Regular Maintenance to Maintain Your Rattlesnake Proof Yard!
Just like the work Bill's friends did to protect their base from unwanted intruders in Iraq, it's important that you maintain your yard so that it remains rattlesnake proof. Make sure to check the fence at least once a week and after any storms to ensure that no gaps have appeared and that there is no vegetation growing on the fence that a snake can use to crawl up it. If you do this, you can relax knowing that your family is protected!