The heat is on and the cold-blooded reptiles we love to hate are on the move through our landscapes. Scorned throughout history, snakes in Florida are most active through the warm seasons and are present throughout the state.
The reason they are prevalent is because their food sources are prevalent. Snakes eat insects, lizards, frogs, toads, mice, rats, birds, and other snakes. Because we all have the food sources that attract them, we all have snakes in our yard at one time or another. Some of them we can discourage from living in our yards by cleaning up our yards. Some of them are probably going to live there anyway.
The good news is that you may never see the snakes. If you are not a gardener or an outdoor person, maybe you don’t won’t ever know about the snakes in your yard. Should you encounter a snake, you will need to identify it.
We have 50 species of native snakes in Florida, and only 6 of them are venomous. Generally, they want only to be away from you. But there are rare times – very cold weather for instance – when they might wander into a garage. They are cold blooded animals just looking for warmth. At that point, you might want to be able to identify them.
Do not be brave.
Venomous or not, snakes should not be confronted. Almost all snakebites occur when the human tries to catch or kill the snake. And no snakebite is good. Snake mouths are dirty places because along with the live animals listed, they also eat carrion, or dead animals. If a snake bites you, you will need antibiotics as well as antivenom.
Even dead snakes should not be handled. The cottonmouth or water moccasin jaw can still bite for a couple of hours after it is dead, even if the head is severed. It’s a reflex.
Keep things clean.
Clearing your yard of weeds and brush will help reduce the presence of the food for snakes, and therefore reduce their visits. Make sure citrus is picked when it is ripe. Rats will eat out citrus fruit.
Snakes do not want to move indoors. The same cannot be said of animals like rats, squirrels, or raccoons. All find the warmth of attics or other spaces appealing. They also have to sharpen their teeth and will chew on wiring, which can easily cause fires.
Keep doors closed.
Keep your garage door closed, especially during cold weather. Keep plants, weeds, and mulch away from your house.
For help in recognizing the snakes that are your neighbors, check these sites: https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/florida-snake-id
This post was written by Master Gardener, Becky Wern. For more information about Becky and her colleagues, please visit our page about the Duval County master gardener volunteer program.