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6 Types of Snakes You Might Find in Gardens (Pictures)

Depending on where you live, there is a chance that at one point you might encounter a snake in your garden or yard. For some people, this is the worst case scenario while others may feel indifferent or even excited about seeing a snake in their garden. In this article, we will be discussing all things snakes in gardens! 

Collage photo snakes in gardens

6 types of snakes found in gardens

The types of snakes you will find in your garden are going to be different depending on where you live, of course. We will cover a few of the most common types of snakes that people find in their gardens in the United States.

1. Garter snakes

Common garter snake hanging
Common garter snake | image by lostinfog via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Garter snakes, commonly called “Garden snakes” by some, are incredibly common snakes across most of the United States. There are several species of garter snakes in the US, all of which are harmless.

Garter snakes play a crucial role in controlling insects, slugs, and even small rodents in gardens. Their adaptability to various environments, from grassy lawns to wetlands, makes them a common sight for gardeners. 

2. Rat snakes

Eastern rat snake
Eastern rat snake | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Rat snakes, like the Eastern Rat snake, are formidable predators of rodents, as the name would suggest. These non-venomous constricting snakes can grow to impressive lengths of up to six feet, aiding in rodent control around garden areas.

Species of rat snakes occur all over the Eastern US, south of New York. They are amazing climbers meaning you might see them scaling trees in your yard. 

3. Ringneck snakes

Northern ringneck snake on the ground
Northern ringneck snake on the ground | image by Cody Hough via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0

Ringneck snakes are small, beautifully marked snakes known for their distinctive ring of color around their necks and bright red or yellow bellies. These harmless creatures are skilled hunters of small insects including slugs, making them valuable garden companions. While they may be secretive and mainly active during the night, you might find them if you are moving pots or plants around in the garden.

4. Black racers

Black racer coiled in grass
Black racer coiled in grass | credit: Everglades National Park

The Black racers are smooth and slender black snakes that are found throughout much of the United States outside of the Southwest. They are completely harmless. Black racers are most active and commonly found in the heat of the day, where you might see them basking in your garden before darting off as you get close. They eat rodents as well as other small vertebrates like frogs, lizards, and sometimes even other snakes.

5. Blind snake

Western blind snake
Western blind snake | image by Ashley Wahlberg (Tubbs) via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Blind snakes are small, nocturnal creatures with slender bodies, often mistaken for earthworms upon first glance. They find a thriving habitat in gardens, where they have access to a rich supply of their primary diet consisting of ants and termites.

Blind snakes are generally small, often measuring just a few inches in length, although this can fluctuate between different species. Their petite size allows them to effortlessly navigate through soil and confined spaces, which is central to their underground habitat.

Despite their name, blind snakes are not completely blind. They have rudimentary eyes covered by translucent scales, which allow them to distinguish between light and darkness, aiding in their subterranean navigation. 

6. Copperheads

Copperhead snake in a defense position
Copperhead snake in a defense position. | image by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Copperheads, native to the eastern US, can sometimes turn up in gardens. You’re more likely to encounter one of their non-venomous cousins, but you can never be too careful. They are venomous, but like most other venomous snakes, are only dangerous when they are threatened.

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Copperheads are masters of camouflage and are more likely to be found in leaf litter around your garden. They eat small vertebrates like mice, lizards, birds, and sometimes small snakes. 

Pros and cons of having snakes in your garden

Depending on how you feel about snakes, there can be many pros to having snakes in your garden! But we will start with the cons first.

Cons of having snakes in your garden

  • Fear: If you are afraid of snakes, knowing that they could be in your garden can obviously be anxiety-inducing and can make it difficult to feel fully at ease while working in the garden.
  • Safety concerns: While snakes, even venomous ones, are not prone to strike or bite people or pets, they may bite if they feel threatened. This can be especially concerning if you have pets or children who do not know to leave snakes alone or are prone to getting into things. In serious circumstances, a snake bite from a venomous snake could lead to injury or even death.
  • Loss of livestock: If you keep chickens or ducks, there is a chance that snakes could make a meal out of young chicks or ducklings or sneak into coops and steal eggs. 

Pros of having snakes in your garden

  • Natural pest control: Many snakes are excellent sources of pest control. Most snake species feed on rodents which can damage gardens and even spread diseases, so having snakes around to keep pest populations in check is beneficial for all! Not to mention, snakes like ringneck snakes feed on slugs, which are notorious for eating many garden plants. 
  • Tick removal: As mentioned above, snakes often prey upon rodents or other small mammals. Mammals are excellent hosts of parasites like ticks. Every time a snake eats a prey item in your yard that is infested with ticks, it’s removing ticks from your garden!
  • Biodiversity: Having snakes in your garden is a great way to promote biodiversity in your own yard. Snakes, like other animals and insects, serve an important purpose in their environment and help promote a healthy ecosystem.

How to keep snakes out of your garden

If you do not wish to have snakes in your garden, there are a few things that you can do to help prevent snakes from making your garden their home.

1. Remove shelter spots

Garter snake on plants
Garter snake on plants | Image by Harvey Boyd from Pixabay

Snakes are ectotherms, meaning they need to change their behavior to regulate their body temperature. This means that they need to take shelter when it gets too hot or too cold.

If you remove potential shelter spots from your garden, this will make it less appealing to snakes that may wander through your garden. Remove wood and brush piles, debris, and planters from your garden, as these are all places snakes may shelter in.

2. Remove food sources for prey items

There’s a chance that snakes are coming to your garden because there are many prey options there for them. For example, if you have food waste in your garden or even plants or vegetables that are attracting things like mice, rats, or voles, then you may also be attracting snakes that want to hunt these animals. So if this is a worry, consider removing these food sources. 

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3. Get rid of standing water

Snakes may be attracted to standing water to come for a drink or even cool themselves off in puddles or ponds. Standing water can also serve as a shelter for snakes. Not only that but standing water can host snake prey items like frogs, drawing certain snakes to gardens with these features. 

What to do about snakes in your garden

Captured garter snake
Captured garter snake | image by glenngould via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

If you have snakes in your garden or suspect that you might, there are some things you can do (or not do) to avoid potentially unpleasant situations. Keep in mind though, that snakes are far more afraid of us than we are of them and are not out to hurt us. 

1. Nothing

If you maybe don’t love the idea of snakes in your garden but also know that snakes aren’t bloodthirsty monsters out to hurt you or your family, then you really don’t need to do anything at all. Snakes are afraid of humans, so they probably will make themselves scarce when you or others are in your garden. 

2. Educate yourself and family

Knowing the local snake species in your area what they look like and their normal behaviors can go a long way in putting your mind at ease, and also preventing any potentially dangerous interactions with snakes.

Know which snakes are harmless, and which snakes have the potential to be dangerous if bitten. Teach children to leave wildlife alone and to let adults know when they see a snake.

3. Call in a professional

If you have a venomous snake in your yard and you don’t feel comfortable leaving it there, always refer to a professional for any snake trapping or removal. If you try to remove a venomous snake from your garden by yourself, you are putting yourself (and the snake) at serious risk. In states where venomous snakes are common, there are typically services for having professionals come to your home to remove snakes. 

Samantha Smith B.S.

About Samantha Smith B.S.

Samantha is a wildlife biologist with degrees in animal behavior and environmental biology. Most of her work has been with reptiles, however she has also worked with birds and marine organisms as well. She enjoys hiking, snorkeling, and looking for wildlife.