Are snake repellents effective?
There are countless products and solutions advertised, claiming to magically repel all snakes with various chemicals, plants, and remedies. Unfortunately, it is usually a little more complicated than this. Snakes are animals, and therefore cannot be entirely predictable. Each individual and species may have different tastes and behavioral patterns. However, there are some products that do lower the risk of a snake infestation by mitigating some pull factors. These products have varying efficacy, so this article will detail which are effective and which are less so.
Herbal remedies – usually ineffective
There are countless opportunistic remedies advertised that are said to use certain plants to repel snakes. Unfortunately, on the whole, these remedies do not work, and the solutions are not written by professionals. Any wildlife control expert will tell you that there are no plants that actively repel snakes, as otherwise, every house would have it, and snake infestations would be eradicated as a problem. If anything, extra plants in your backyard could have a negative effect, as they would provide a damp, shady space for snakes to hide. Instead of purchasing new plants in an attempt to repel such snakes, instead, focus on the plants you currently have. If they are overgrown and provide lots of shade, consider trimming them so snakes are less likely to reside there. By doing this, snakes will have less cover, and so will be less likely to move around, for fear of predation.
Ultrasonic sound machines – ineffective
Whilst these are often very effective at repelling birds, ultrasonic sound machines have absolutely no effect at all when it comes to repelling snakes. This is primarily because snakes rely on purely vibrations to hear sounds, which is entirely different to how mammals and birds hear. Snakes use their underbelly to detect vibrations and adapt accordingly, and as a result, pitches do not really exist. Therefore, whilst snakes may detect a sound coming from your ultrasound machine, it will not cause any sort of discomfort, as it will just feel like another noise. The harmful pitch, whilst affecting other animals in the vicinity, will simply pass the snake by. Ultrasonic machines are also notoriously unreliable, and it is very difficult to tell if they are working or not. The whole point of ultrasonic machines is that they cannot be heard by humans, and as a result cause no discomfort. However, this is a problem if you want to check whether the machine is working or not. You cannot tell if it is on or off! As a result, we recommend that ultrasonic machines should be avoided when it comes to snakes, especially as they are advertised at often high prices, and end up doing nothing at all.
Rope and other coarse surfaces – usually ineffective
Surrounding your house with rope and other coarse materials is a widely advertised method but has questionable results. This relies on snakes deciding against traveling over ropes, whereas in the wild they travel over a wide variety of surfaces. Their scales and smooth skin is specifically designed for traveling over surfaces that would be otherwise uncomfortable, so it is hard to imagine snakes being deterred purely by some rope. If anything, ropes may make your backyard more dangerous. Not only might they trip you, or visitors, up, they also may provide a habitat and hiding place for snakes. In short, this method causes a lot of trouble with very little gain.
Chemicals e.g. sulfur, mothballs – ineffective
Sadly, whilst many claimed snake repellents have appealing packaging and may use a lot of official and professional sounding vocabulary, the vast majority are ineffective and should be avoided. Mothballs are often advertised, but the clue is in the name: these are designed for moths, not snakes. Sulfur, as a chemical, can be very dangerous and could cause a lot of harm to yourself and
the natural environment. Avoid this too.
Mongoose urine and kingsnake musk – Somewhat effective, but a license is necessary.
These two substances are the only remedies that have seen some positive results in the repelling of snakes. Unfortunately, they can be dangerous and hard to acquire, so one needs a license to use them. Nevertheless, your local wildlife control company will likely hold such a license, and you can pay them to come out and administer such remedies in a way you see fit. It can be expensive, however, and is best used in commercial settings.
The most reliable repellent is by removing possible hiding spots and habitats from your backyard. Snakes thrive in long grass, so make sure your lawn is regularly mown, and consider removing rock features that snakes may use for sunbathing. By keeping a well-maintained garden and yard, you dramatically reduce the risk of snakes much more than you would by spraying chemicals or buying more plants.