Each year, we receive several calls during the weekend after Thanksgiving to capture and relocate rattlesnakes found in the garage or shed. The reason they are discovered? It’s that time of year to pull out the old Christmas decorations and shake out the spiders to once again staple a frayed fire hazard to the roof for a few weeks. As mentioned in another article, rattlesnakes love to use garages as winter dens. They’re warm (relatively), quiet, and free of predators. Even better, they’re often full of stuff that only gets touched once a year. Perfect!
What can you do?
Just keep the usual safety precautions in mind while digging into the holiday stuff:
Never reach into spaces that you can’t see. You may have to move boxes out to create a clear, visible space before reaching for them.
Never bring boxes with broken sides openings in them into the home, and be extra careful sorting through them initially.
If you do see a snake, leave it alone and call a professinal *ahem* to remove it safely and humanely.
Proceed with assaulting the neighborhood and local powergrid on that ladder that you really should have thrown out after last year’s incident.
Remember that rattlesnakes are just trying to stay out of the cold and are not actively trying to invade your space. If a door is left open, your shed or garage becomes just a cave to the local wildlife, so if you know you had the door open for a few days during September and October, be extra cautious.
If you do see a rattlesnake, call us at 480-237-9975 and we will be there before you can say “raisins in stuffing is an abomination”. Really though, we’re open for the holiday and can help if needed.
Out of town visiting guests may need a quick refresher
If you have family or friends visiting from cooler places where a rattlesnake showing up for Thanksgiving dinner isn’t really something that happens, it may be good to quickly let the kids (and uncle Steve) know to keep an eye out and leave any snake they see alone, no matter how many tv shows they’ve watched. It’s not common to see rattlesnakes in the open during this season outside the garage or shed situations described earlier, but as our call log proves, it does happen each year. If necessary, use the threat of a very distant possibility of rattlesnakes showing up to discourage certain family members from showing up.
This is one of the most seen rattlesnake videos on YouTube at the time (2010), with the snakes found in a garage as mentioned here. I get asked about it a lot, so here’s the story. Warning: it’s not as exciting as it may seem.
First, the video. It’s best viewed with the sound way up and watching very closely.
I got a call from a realtor who was trying to get this house rented out. It was in a desert neighborhood in North Scottsdale, Arizona, where rattlesnakes are quite common. I was told there were two rattlesnakes in the garage. I got my gear and headed out. When I arrived, I searched the entire structure outside, then inside, before going into the garage. I searched the entire 4 car garage, cabinets and all, before finally going back to the entryway to check one last closet. I took a peek inside, and there were 5 sleeping diamondbacks. I closed the door and did a second sweep of the garage just to make sure the capture would go smoothly. The rest, is as you have seen.
Of course this looks pretty scary, and I admit that I did jump back (you can hear me gasp), but I was not in danger.
First, most of the time that I spend working with rattlesnakes is in the dark. The top comment is always, why didn’t you just turn on the lights? To be simple, there was no power in the house and the door opener wasn’t going to work. Yes, I could have disengaged the chain and opened it manually, but really, I did not feel there was a need. There’s a whole part before I started the video recording where I did a systematic check of the entire area to make sure I knew where everybody was before actually moving in. There were 5 sleeping rattlesnakes in that very cold garage, and they weren’t going anywhere. Rattlesnakes strike at me all the time. No, it is not a safe situation, but I have enough experience to handle the situation.
Second, the phone adds some distance. The strike didn’t come nearly as close to me as it looks. I had a good 2 feet between the danger zone and myself at that time. The snakes, while not predictable, are not capable of some of the amazing feats they are often attributed. Mainly, once awake, they moved into defensive patterns, leaving me free to work with the bucket and capture them one at a time.
I regret having not handled them more gently. My concern was, only having one bucket, was to capture them as quickly as possible. While I am happy with the result, I should have put the phone down and concentrated more on the moment.
That night, after the video hit 150,000 views and hit the front page of Reddit.com, the news called me and wanted to come out and hear about what happened.
What happened to the snakes?
They were kept in similar conditions in my garage (in secure, buckets), and released to suitable habitat as soon as temperatures were such that they would be able to survive. They were all in just as good a mood as they crawled into the small cave I found for them to live in.
You may notice that our social media feeds are still full of rattlesnake captures and relocations, even in the coolest months of the year. Be assured: yes, rattlesnakes are hibernating (or brumating if you prefer) in the winter, roughly from November through February. However, as we’ve explained in previous winters, they can still be found from time to time on the surface.
The biggest reason you’ll still see so much from us is because we meter our content so that we don’t blow you away with 20+ posts during the summer days, and make you think we’ve disappeared during the winter. Every call is unique and interesting, with lessons and experiences that should be shared, so we space it out. That means that many of the photos you’re seeing in the winter may have been from calls we ran in October, etc.
There are of course snakes that are still active during the winter, both by their own choice, and not. We cover some of the reasons you may see one at your house during the cooler months in a previous post, named after the most common comment we see on photos of snakes found in the cooler months. “I thought they were hibernating!“
Why would rattlesnakes be active when it’s so old outside?
One of the biggest misconceptions about rattlesnake behavior is that they are driven purely by warm temperatures. While it is true that rattlesnakes, like all reptiles, are cold-blooded and depend on external forces to get warm, temperature is just one of many factors that determine whether or not they’ll become active.
Here’s a great example that happened recently. In 2020, the Phoenix area broke several records for the hottest, driest summer in recent history. When rain finally came to the valley after more than 100 days without a drop, it was on a cold December day.
With temperatures barely breaking 50˚F, why would rattlesnakes suddenly become active? Simply: they have to, or risk death. With minimal effort, I was able to find 7 Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes on the surface hoping for rain. The first was found at just 45˚F, and the last at 51˚F. Comparing field notes for the day with a couple of knowledgeable friends, who also knew to put on boots instead of sweatpants for the day, showed similar results. Rattlesnakes, even in relatively cold temperatures, were very active. When rain fell again for a brief period on Christmas day, again, it was not difficult to find a lone Western Diamondback Rattlesnake coming out for a drink.
Just because we see rattlesnakes in the winter doesn’t mean you will.
People are often surprised that we are still able to find rattlesnakes in the winter – in fact it’s probably why you’re reading this right now. If you’re not someone that wants to run into them out there, don’t worry: it’s very unlikely that you will.
Rattlesnakes that we find in the winter aren’t in the same situation that you’d find them during other, warmer periods. They’re not out moving large distances, tracking prey, looking for mates, or any of the other behaviors that most often result in an encounter. This activity is much more specific – just coming to the surface of their den, and back down again when they’ve gotten what they need. That means that if you’re hiking on a trail and not purposefully searching situations that seem likely to house rattlesnakes over the winter, you’re not likely to see them at all.
If you’re looking to move to Arizona, this question may be on your mind. Rattlesnakes seem to be everywhere in the state, so where can you buy a home and know what to expect? Fortunately, rattlesnakes are creatures of habit and where they are found tends to be fairly predictable. This is our overview of what we know about rattlesnakes and where they can be in the city, and a new tool we’ll be using to help communicate this to new Arizona residents.
Check the rattlesnake removal records!
While we will never make any information about an address or community public, we do share information based on zip code. Our removal activity log is available to the public, and is now searchable by zip code. If you’re curious about an area, pop in the zip code and you can see what kind of snake activity has occurred there. Keep in mind that zip codes can be large, so what happens at one house could be literally impossible just a couple of miles away. However, we won’t get more specific than this only to protect the privacy of our customers.
The further you are from native desert, the fewer rattlesnakes are found.
Rattlesnakes are specialized desert reptiles, which means that they aren’t great at new things. While a Sonoran Gophersnake or Kingsnake might be found deep into the valley, making use of well-watered lawns and a growing roof rat problem, rattlesnakes are different. Without the presence of native desert habitat, rattlesnakes will not be found.
If you select a home on the interior of the valley, more than a half-mile from the nearest native habitat, your chances of seeing a rattlesnake in your yard are exceedingly low. That doesn’t bar a freak happening, like a snake that hitches a ride in a truck or someone releasing one, but those aren’t meaningful considerations.
The 5-year “Snakey” scale
The easiest way to look at it would be to use this general formula. It’s based on an estimation from our experience and data collected from relocation calls over a 10 year period. It’s not exact, but can be used as a general guideline that is accurate enough to help make home-buying decisions. If you want to go deep on a lot of this, here’s peer-reviewed research using our relocation data to shows some of the reasons how and where contact zones occur.
The scale I will use here is how many rattlesnakes a homeowner may encounter per 5 year period of occupancy.For example: a score of 1.5 means that a homeowner can expect 1.5 rattlesnake encounters per 5 years of occupancy.
Score: 3on the Snakey Scale. From there, the second home or row (across the street) has a pretty high rate of encounter, but not nearly. Rattlesnakes tend to stick closer to access points. While they may be more inclined to just pop around the corner and stick to the wall, we nearly as often see them use the entire side of the first house into the second yard, and across the street as well. Homes in this situation will likely see a few rattlesnakes in a 5 year period of occupancy.
Score: 2.5on the Snakey Scale. Any home in the first street row backing up to the desert. The likelihood in these instances is that the snake could come from both sides, regardless of the placement of the wall. Fortunately this can be easliy fixed, which may dramatically reduce that figure.
Score: 1.5on the Snakey Scale. Homes across the street from the row immediately next to the edge of the desert may expect to see 1 or 2 rattlesnakes in the yard during a 5 year time period.
Score: 0.7on the Snakey Scale. Homes on the first 2 (or so) interior streets could encounter a rattlesnake at some point, but it’s also possible to not see one at all during a 5 year occupancy.
Score: 0.3on the Snakey Scale. Homes greater than 2 streets in from native desert habitat, but closer than 5 streets may see a rattlesnake in their yard at some point, but a slim majority will not.
Score: 0.1on the Snakey Scale. Homes more than 5 streets in, but less than 10, from the nearest native desert habitat could see a rattlesnake, but it’s not entirely likely. If it is one, it would more likely be due to construction, displacement, or a wandering baby rattlesnake. Around 1 in 5 homes will experience a rattlesnake in the yard in a 5-year stay.
Score: 0.05on the Snakey Scale. Homes that are more than 10 streets in from the nearest desert habitat will most likely never encounter a rattlesnake in their yard. However, it’s still a possibility, and homeowners should continue to be on guard and follow all of the available safety precautions.
Score: 0on the Snakey Scale. Homes on the interior of the city, more than a mile from the nearest native desert habitat, have almost no chance of seeing a rattlesnake in the yard. Having to cross numerous roadways, a maze of walls and fences, and limited access would make it incredibly hard for a rattlesnake to find its way there. In addition, there’s probably just nothing there that the snake would want, so it wouldn’t be all that motivated to make the journey.
But of course, it’s not that simple. Rattlesnakes are part of a dynamic system.
It should be stated about using this method, too, that there are many variables at play that have nothing to do with location. This is just a general guideline that we use ourselves when evaluating a property for likelihood of rattlesnake encounters. They can usually be mitigated by preparation and snake fencing, and ongoing education. This is also not an indication of how many rattlesnakes actually visit the property, but of how many may be encountered. If you’re a gardener, have a dog, or spend a lot of time in your backyard, you can expect a greater rate of encounter than someone who seldom goes back there.
This is also specific to rattlesnakes. Each group of snakes will have its own scale, based on what it needs and prefers. However, since they’re not harmful, we’re just talking about rattlesnakes here. However, you can use the same guide to loosely estimate similar results for other species, with the knowledge that it’s an entirely different ballgame for more adaptable species.
Additionally, this is based on natural rattlesnake behavior and excludes factors like construction or artificial placement, botched relocation jobs from the fire department, and other activity that more or less isn’t what a rattlesnake would choose to do. This list should not in any way be taken as a guarantee that you’ll never see a snake if you follow these general guidelines.
How do I know if it’s native desert, or where this scale should start from?
That can be tricky, since neighborhoods are not so black and white as described here. For instance, a 2-acre patch of desertscrub a couple miles into the city just doesn’t have the same quality or snake-carrying capacity as untouched saguaro and Sonoran desert at the edge of the valley … so be subjective.
A good rule of thumb: if you see cactus that wasn’t planted there by someone, you can count on that as being native habitat, and rattlesnakes probably live there. Especially with the presence of rodent holes, you can count on there at least being a strong likelihood of rattlesnake presence.
Watch the washes!
One particular feature to watch for are washes. To our friends moving here from outside the desert southwest: a wash is our word for “stream” or “creek”, or basically a drainage without water in it for most of the year. These areas are one of the most important features for rattlesnakes of most species, and much of their activity is centered around them. Think of washes like desert highways, where animals can travel, find food, and generally find quite useful.
In most of the neighborhoods at the edge of the desert, there are washes that snake deep into the interior of the community. This can’t be avoided – these washes are natural waterways and necessary to prevent flooding and other issues. However that does mean that these homes have a higher saturation level of contact with natural desert habitat than other neighborhoods might. In some areas, washes are common enough that there really aren’t any homes found that don’t score relatively high on our Snakey Scale. If you’re overly concerned with rattlesnakes (or snakes in general, really) the further your new home is from a wash, the better.
But, should you avoid your dream house if snakes are present? No!
Just like moving to the northeast might mean that ticks are on your list of concerns, or moving to Alaska might put bears on your radar, Arizona has snakes. For the most part, you made a pact with Arizona the moment you decided you’re moving here: snakes are here, but they might be part of your life.
If you find the perfect home, be careful not to rule it out because of snakes. For the most part, it’s just not the threat most people believe it to be. Even though the fear of them is certainly real, even that can be challenged and defeated in most cases. To either end, if you need any help to sort through it all, feel free to contact us about any area and we’ll tell you what we can. While we obviously can’t divulge any activity that’s actually happened at a house, we can advise on the general area and work with you to be comfortable … or to high-tail it to the center of the city!
Getting rattlesnake prevention done in the winter means it will be cheaper, better, completed faster and more smoothly, with the best customer service possible.
Cooler temperatures are here and rattlesnake activity is slow. Plans for your backyard that may have included preventative actions to keep rattlesnakes out of your yard are giving way for other stuff – holiday decorations or new patio furniture to enjoy Arizona’s perfect cooler season.
But don’t get too distracted – there are several reasons why the cooler months are actually the best time to take care of rattlesnake prevention. If keeping rattlesnakes out of your life is on your long term to-do list, you’ll want to read this to the end.
1. Pricing is as good as it gets – take advantage of winter discounts!
Like any business working with seasonal demand, the need for snake fence installation ebbs and flows alongside rattlesnake activity. If you know right now that keeping rattlesnakes away from your back patio is something you want to do, take advantage of this fact.
Snake fence installation companies almost always offer off-season discounts to help keep the schedule filled, and employees happy. If you wait, as most people do, until rattlesnake activity is at its peak in April – you can expect to pay full price and have less haggle room on the details. It’s classic supply and demand, and when you come in hot looking for snake fencing in December, it’s a buyer’s market.
2. Almost no waiting – Winter has the shortest wait times to have snake fencing installed, and faster completion.
Just like pricing, the winter buyer’s market means that you’ll almost certainly be waiting a lot less time to have your snake fence installed. During peak season (April or so), snake fence providers are absolutely flooded with calls. That means that they’re usually booked out to capacity, sometimes weeks in advance.
Odds are that you’re like most people, and are looking for snake prevention services because of something that happened – a scare with a rattlesnake in the yard, or an incident with a pet – and you need it done right now just to feel at ease in your own yard.
Unfortunately, if you’re waiting for such an event before taking action, you’re in the same boat with everyone else, and may have to wait in line. You can beat the rush by taking advantage of the natural winter slowdown. In most cases, if you shop for snake fence installation in the dead of winter, you can have it installed as early as the next day.
Even better – without the brutal conditions of an Arizona summer, the installers can work longer hours. That means your snake fence will not only be completed sooner during the winter months, but the actual installation time itself will be shorter.
3. Being proactive about something as important as rattlesnake prevention can make a huge difference for the safety of your family and pets
Most people tend to wait until there’s an incident before finally biting the bullet and taking action. That incident is often just seeing a rattlesnake, but more unfortunate situations are also common.
As rattlesnake fence installers ourselves, we have a front-row seat to some very scary and sad encounters that have prompted action. Too often, we are called because a dog has been bitten by a rattlesnake, or in some cases, a family member.
Just like any other type of preventative action, rattlesnake fencing installed proactively can prevent the incident that would otherwise invoke action. If snake fencing is something you know you want to do at some point, don’t wait until an accident happens to get it done.
If you live where rattlesnakes do, proper and professionally installed snake fencing is your best insurance policy, and you can save yourself a lot of stress by getting it done early. While everyone else is panicking on Facebook over a snake seen in the neighborhood, you’ll rest easy knowing you’ve already taken care of it.
If you saw a rattlesnake at your place this year, you have the best opportunity to stop a repeat of that encounter right now.
4. There is a much lower chance of a snake being trapped in the yard
Rattlesnake fencing works both ways – when rattlesnake fencing is installed initially, there’s always some chance that you already have a rattlesnake in your yard, which would now become trapped. Obviously, you’d want to avoid this.
During the cooler months, from late October through late March, rattlesnake activity away from the den is at its lowest levels. More or less, rattlesnakes aren’t traveling very much.
5. The best customer service of the year is in the cooler months
This one is just about time! You should see our rattlesnake prevention team in April – driving from house to house as fast as they safely can and making phone calls in between, trying to keep up with the flood. It’s an exciting time and we all love it, but sometimes we just don’t get to spend as much time as we’d really want to with each property.
During the slower winter months, a rattlesnake prevention specialist simply has more time to be available. As a result, you may have a more relaxed and attentive experience. It’s certainly not that someone who calls in April is any less important, but the odds greatly increase that it could go to voicemail than be answered on the first ring.
By having your rattlesnake prevention done during the winter, you’ll be one of a handful of clients at the time and will likely get even more attention from the staff. Not only that, but you’ll probably have more time to ask a lot of questions that have less to do with snake fencing and prevention, and more to do with increasing your general knowledge on the subject. As with most things, the more you know about how rattlesnakes may be interacting with your property, the better prepared you’ll be and the better you’ll feel about living in your home.
6. Rattlesnakes are never truly “gone” in Arizona.
In areas of urban conflict, we’re unfortunately not exactly on nature’s schedule for activity. Every time ground is broken on a new development, rattlesnakes there are displaced – sometimes into adjacent neighborhoods. Despite being slower, our rattlesnake relocation hotline is active and receives calls for service throughout the winter.
Most of these winter rattlesnakes are due to construction, but even smaller projects can do the same. If the neighbor a few houses down tears down the old shed, any rattlesnakes using it need to find new cover in a hurry. If the HOA decides to clear brush along the shared viewfence wall, you can expect the same. Regardless of the natural behavior of rattlesnakes, human-caused variables keep our rattlesnake relocation team active all year. There is truly no time where getting a snake fence is a frivolous effort.
The most important reason – the people you care about.
This article has some no-brainer reasons why it’s better to take care of rattlesnake prevention during the slow months. However, the biggest factor has nothing to do with cost or convenience.
The holidays and early new-year are when we most often host visitors. This is when we all get together (in a normal year, that is) to celebrate whatever needs to be celebrated, and guilt one another into eating way too much pie. It’s when we have our first backyard grill party, and invite co-workers over to watch the superbowl.
In Arizona, the cool months are the time when you’re most likely to have the people you care about in your backyard, and you will want to know they are safe. Above all else, thinking ahead and getting out in front of prime rattlesnake season will be the best thing you can do to keep yourself, your family, and your pets safe.
Summer has left us, and cooler temperatures are on the horizon. Yet, rattlesnakes are still incredibly active. In fact, the pre-hibernation flurry of activity means that encounters will be on the rise for a short amount of time.
In just a few short weeks, rattlesnakes need to eat and drink as much as they can, find mates, and travel long distances to their selected winter refuges. That can put them in conflict with people and pets, both on the trail and at home.
Here are some easy things you can do right now to get your property in shape so that any rattlesnakes that might be eyeballing your place as a winter den will keep on crawling.
1. Take care of that long-neglected landscaping project.
We all have one … that overgrown bush along the back wall that just never gets priority treatment, or that messy stack of agave that’s firmly on the “take care of that someday list”. Well, now’s the time! These may be opportunities for rattlesnakes to find the thermal protection they need to den for the winter.
Over the years, we have removed hundreds of rattlesnakes from overgrown lantana, rosemary, and others. Any plants that tend to drop a lot of leaf-litter are suspect. That deep layer of organic material retains moisture and provides thermal protection.
Time for a yearly deep-maintenance landscaping check in. The rule of thumb: if you can see the ground under a ground-laying bush from above, it’s properly maintained.
2. Make any repairs to, and clean up, the pool equipment areas.
As we’ve mentioned many times, pool equipment is a favorite rattlesnake den for the winter. Concrete pads with rodents, combined with relatively high ambient moisture and a little vibration every time they turn on and off, means the formation of caves. These caves, even though they don’t look like much, can go deep, and be the perfect home for rattlesnakes and other animals.
The back corner of the property, complete with the little wall that usually hides it, is made to forget. For that reason, it often doubles as a graveyard for deflated pool toys, pavers, and old buckets.
Spend a little time this Saturday filling in any holes you find with gravel, repairing any concrete you need to, and cleaning it out. If there are no tunnels, the area is useless for rattlesnakes.
3. Bulk pickup day!
If you’re like most of us, you have a stack of roofing tiles or pavers someone on the property. We stack them there to deal with later, maybe have them around just in case a tile breaks or … whatever. But let’s be honest with ourselves; it’s been years and we haven’t touched them.
Time to go! Especially if stored near a wall or against the foundation of the home, as they tend to be, rodents will use them. These situations where rodents create tunnels under a stack of bricks are absolutely perfect for rattlesnakes to use during the winter. Fortunately, it’s as easy to take care of as posting “free pavers! come and get em” on Facebook Marketplace.
Any other debris, too, has to go. You’d be surprised to learn how many winter rattlesnakes we pull out of situations like debris from the previous-summers kitchen remodel, old pool toys and unused stuff of all kinds. If you need a little motivation to finally kick this stuff to the curb, here it is: RATTLESNAKES WILL LIVE IN YOUR YARD IF IT’S THERE. Feel free to use that with your spouse this Saturday. You’re welcome.
4. Get snake fencing installed already.
If you live in Arizona, snake fence installations are probably something you’re familiar with. It’s a physical barrier that is designed and installed in such a way that it keeps them out of an area. If done properly by a reputable company *cough cough*, you could make rattlesnake heaven in the backyard and they’d not be able to come in.
Unlike the other items on this list, this one isn’t free. However, it is the most effective way to go, and removes the subjectivity. While everything else will have a high likelihood to decrease the chances of seeing a rattlesnake, snake fencing all-out prevents it.
If getting a snake fence installed has been on your list for awhile, right now is the best time to do it. It’s also near the end of the season, so discounts may be available. Here’s a massive and detailed guide of what to look for in a snake fence provider to help you in your snake-free journey.
5. Seal up and clean out the garage.
If someone told you about a spacious, comfortable house … kept nice and warm (or cool), secure and safe, with free food … oh, and free … would you move in? Rattlesnakes say “YES”! The house we’re talking about is your garage. Every winter and early Spring, we get many calls for rattlesnakes who’ve found a comfy garage to spend the cool months.
That stack of boxes along the back wall? That’s cover. To you the garage may be highschool yearbook and christmas tree storage, to snakes it’s a furnished condo. If possible, find another spot for storage. Especially along the walls, rattlesnakes will take advantage of easy hiding spots.
If you are storing in your garage, use plastic boxes with lids so that rodents and snakes can’t use them, too. You can also get storage shelves (easy to buy and install from Amazon and other places) so that they’re up off the ground at least 5 or 6 inches. These actions help reduce the thermal protection that is attractive to snakes.
You should also seal it up! It doesn’t take long for hot weather and rodents to make short work of the rubber seal on the garage door. If your garage door doesn’t close to allow no greater than 1/4″ at any point, you should consider calling a garage door company out to get it replaced. They may have a seal option that is made to keep bugs out, which would work just fine for rattlesnakes as well.
6. Fix any cracks or openings in the foundation
Not only for homes, but external garages and sheds, too. If there’s access under the home, animals will find it and use it. Rattlesnakes certainly do, too. If you notice that there’s a way in or under the foundation of your home, don’t wait to get it fixed.
Walk the property perimeter (this only takes a few minutes) and identify any potential issues. If you want to fix them quickly, you can get something from Home Depot to quickly seal it up. Or, have a concrete repair company make the repairs … you’ll want to get on that quickly, though.
7. Attend to the wood pile!
It’s almost firewood season! Unfortunately, rattlesnakes are excited, too. The pile of debris at the side of your house that you haven’t touched since last year is a dream scenario for rodents and snakes alike. It’s basically a free log cabin.
Fortunately, there are a couple of easy fixes here:
Use a stand or lift to keep the firewood up off the ground at least 6 inches. This will eliminate much of the thermal protection and make it useless to snakes.
Move the location of the woodpile each year. Even if it’s to the spot immediately next to it, it will help. When a woodpile has been in the same location for years, it invites rodents, often has tunnels under it, rotting material, and all the good stuff that they like.
8. Go deep! Go through the full checklist
The steps you take to keep rattlesnakes away from the yard are really not different than you’d do in other times of year, though the priority may shift to those potential den situations. If you want to do more, that’s always better. Review the Ultimate Guide to Keep Rattlesnakes Away and follow all instructions that apply.
What to expect.
If you take care of these items, and have an overall perspective of keeping habitat opportunities to a minimum, you will likely never see a rattlesnake in the winter. The spots that they choose are very specific, allowing them to survive and wait for Spring. If none of these spots are offered, your yard is simply not useful.
Usually, based on call volume to our snake relocation hotline and surveys, rattlesnakes are more or less where they intend to be for the Winter by the second week of November. That means that October will be busy. You can expect the most activity to occur in the late afternoon until about 1 hour after sunset. It’s important to keep your garage doors closed during this time, even as weather finally becomes more reasonable.
A rattlesnake in the backyard is one thing … but how about in the house, in the bedroom, and even under the bed? It happens, though, thankfully very rarely.
The thing is: rattlesnakes don’t want to be in your home. There are species of snakes that get in often, daily even, like Nightsakes and baby Longnosed snakes. Rattlesnakes, on the otherhand, for one reason or another just don’t make an effort to come inside. If I were to assume, based on how rattlesnakes handle stress and modify their behavior accordingly, the activity inside a home makes them less than ideal hiding spots.
How often does a rattlesnake get inside?
Fortunately, Rattlesnake Solutions has a very large collection of human-conflict data of this sort from over ten thousand individual encounters. It happens, but not very often.
Of all encounters we’ve documented, fewer than 100 were rattlesnakes inside the home. If you remove homes that were previously abandoned, missing entire walls, or in a condition where they should be condemned … you end up with fewer than 40. That puts the chances of a rattlesnake encounter in your home, based on snake removal records, at 0.4%. That puts it into a solid “don’t worry about it and go on with your day” category.
Most of the time, a call to catch a rattlesnake inside a home ends up with a Desert Nightsnake in our bucket. These little guys look quite a bit like a rattlesnake and are often mistaken for them.
How does a rattlesnake get into the house?
Fortunately, rattlesnakes are easy to keep out of the house. They come in the same way we do – right through the front door. Most of the time, a rattlesnake inside a house, and in fact a good portion of the other types of snakes as well, come in through a door left open.
Who leaves the door open in Arizona? Everyone, it seems, on the right cool day. Especially our midwestern friends, where it seems an open backdoor on a breezy spring day is a normal thing, tend to leave that sliding door open a bit during prime rattlesnake activity time.
On other relocation calls where we’ve captured rattlesnakes inside the home, the situation is often similar. A home with a wall partially removed during construction, a partially-completed vent removal allowing access, large gaps under garage doors or patio doors, etc. Simply, if there is access to inside the home, animals may find their way in.
What’s going on with this photo of the rattlesnake under a bed?
This photo was from an apartment complex in the North Phoenix, Cave Creek area. Mitch ran out to capture it. Upon arriving, he assumed it would be another nightsnake (which it often is) and had to run back out to the car to get his tongs and bucket after seeing this.
He was able to quickly and safely capture it. But how and why was it in there? And does the resident need to worry about more of them?
As we described earlier, it turns out that the resident left the home for less than 5 minutes, leaving the door slightly ajar. That’s all the time it takes for a wandering rattlesnake to find the cool, air conditioned “cave”, and slip inside.
This also does not mean there are others. Rattlesnakes, while being quite social in a variety of situations, are most often found at homes alone. They do not, as a popular myth goes, travel in pairs.
This also does not indicate that there are more rattlesnake encounters in the Cave Creek area … that is just true, regardless of this particular encounter.
How to keep rattlesnakes out of the house?
The best way to keep rattlesnakes out of your home is to keep doors closed and eliminate access, down to a 1/4″ space.
Sometimes that can be tricky, however. Something we have seen with homes in the valley is an issue with how cabinets are put together. This seems to be the reason behind a majority of nightsnake visits, and at least a few rattlesnakes.
If you look under the sink in your kitchen or bathroom, you’ll most likely see the pipes disappearing into the wall in an orderly, well-sealed way. Behind the cabinets, though, is a different story. The pipes coming into the home may be unsealed. That means if there are any gaps under the cabinet overhang (there most often are), there’s a direct highway from under the home to your bedroom bathroom. This may also be the cause for your scorpion and rodent issues.
The easy fix? Seal the gaps under the cabinet overhang. You could go through the trouble to pull out the whole cabinet, but without knowing for sure there’s a problem to begin with, that’s probably overkill. A Saturday afternoon with some expanding foam is all you likely need.
The other thing you should do is to take steps to reduce the overall number of rattlesnakes visiting your property. That is best done by a combination of property modification (landscaping, etc., here’s our step-by-step guide) and physical barriers, like properly sealed garage doors and rattlesnake fence installation.
So rest easy. While a rattlesnake inside the home is something that does happen from time to time, it’s nothing to be overly concerned with. No need to call the realtor or burn the house down; just keep the door closed and you’ll be just fine.
An article has been going around showing a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake sitting high in a tree, prompting many emails and messages asking about its validity.
This is normal behavior: rattlesnakes can and do climb trees, though it is not commonly observed. There is no reason to think that the series of photos was faked, staged, shopped, or anything but a totally natural observation.
How do we know that? We see rattlesnakes in trees sometimes. A variety of species in very different areas all find some need to occasionally wander up the bark of a tree. Over the years, I have personally seen Blacktailed Rattlesnakeds, Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes, Speckled Rattlesnakes, Tiger Rattlesnakes, and Banded Rock Rattlesnakes in branches over my head. Additionally, Timber Rattlesnakes and other east-coast species have been repeatedly seen high in the trees.
An example: here’s a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake I saw just last night. It was disturbed by my flashlight and fled into the bushes … where it suddenly started to climb. It went higher and higher, and was still up there when I passed through the area again hours later. This snake decided the best escape route was: up.
Here’s a Blacktailed Rattlesnake seen on a job site by Jeff Martineau, one of our field team, as it ascended a tree. Blacktails are known to climb like this, possibly to hunt birds and squirrels.
Here’s another Blacktail, which I saw from the edge of a road high in a tree, clearly not photoshopped 😉
Why do rattlesnakes climb trees?
There are probably a variety of reasons why a rattlesnake would climb a tree, but in most cases, I would assume that it’s to access prey. If you’re able to get off the ground, a lot of potential prey items, like birds and squirrels. They may also climb to escape predators, to stay cool, or to escape potential flood water during the monsoon season.
Are rattlesnakes going to drop out of the trees?
Almost certainly not. I suppose a snake could happen to make a mistake and fall out, and if you’re walking by right at that second you could possibly have a rattlesnake falling out of a tree onto you. But that’s an extremely remote, chance circumstance that isn’t worth worrying about.
You may have heard friends from the east claim that water moccasins routinely jump from trees into the canoe, too … but we’ll just gently say that they are completely full of it. Sure, it’s possible that someone scared a snake at the right time but and there are likely a handful of “lightning strike” type scenarios where this has possibly happened, but it’s not what they “do”. It’s like saying that the handful of dogs each year who accidentally disengage a parking brake and end up rolling the car down the street qualify the statement of “dogs drive cars”. Just think it through.
Does this mean they can climb the wall and get into my yard?
Not at all. Rattlesnakes can climb if there are sufficient rough surfaces to grip, which excludes your block wall or rattlesnake fence (if it’s installed properly) While they clearly can and do climb, they’re not nearly as good at it as a snake like a Gophersnake, Kingsnake, or Coachwhip, which are built for the task. If you’ve got a secured yard without “footholds” for lack of a better term, you should not expect rattlesnakes in the yard.
Here’s a video explaining how rattlesnakes climb … or don’t … smooth surfaces.
To close: a note to those on social media who like to shout answers on topics they don’t know much about: stop it 🙂 A simple google search in advance would have shown you how often rattlesnakes are actually found in trees, and that it’s totally normal. Here are some other videos of this behavior that I’ve found out there:
Better late than never – rattlesnakes are giving birth, even without the rain. One of the services we offer are serial property inspections, to continuously monitor properties to evaluate possible rattlesnake activity and provide recommendations to landscapers, pest control, and property managers.
We have been inspecting this particular property for many years, and this is the most interesting thing found there to date.
On the previous inspection, Greyson noted a shed skin in an area at the edge of the property. Knowing a fresh shed during this hot and dry period could indicate an estivation den nearby, he focused on that spot during his visit yesterday, and, whoa.
Here is what was found: a late-season estivation den with a mixed bag of Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes, with one having given birth in the recent past, and another in a deep blue phase (preparing to shed skin)
While this is not entirely unusual, what is different about this year is that we are seeing that rattlesnakes are having their babies later than usual, and they are doing so in their estivation dens instead of moving to their usually-preferred birthing spots.
This is likely a response to our exceptionally hot (the hottest on record) summer and near-complete lack of rain. This is similar to a recent visit to a home by Dave in Tucson (I’ll be posting this shortly as well) where he captured a total of 14 rattlesnakes.
Are rattlesnakes giving birth later this year than normal?
According to our observations and activity on the relocation hotline: yes, it appears that rattlesnakes are having babies later this year than usual. In a normal year, we start to receive our first calls to capture groups of mother Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes with their newborn babies in early July, usually hitting its peak around the first week of August, then trickling in here or there until around the first week of September. This year, it took much longer for this to be normal, only now (mid-August) has it become routine.
Likewise, rattlesnakes seen in informal surveys and in our study of rattlesnakes in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve have shown that Western Diamondback Rattlesnake and Tiger Rattlesnakes that would have likely given birth by now are still languishing in a gravid (pregnant) state at estivation dens.
While this is in no way a full representation of what’s happening out there, but does represent 10 years of data collection and informal survey observations. It should also be noted that while this is the case in the Phoenix and Tucson areas, it is unlikely to represent behavior in other regions.
Why are baby rattlesnakes being born later this year than usual?
This year makes that a little bit tougher than normal. If monsoon rain triggers pregnant rattlesnakes to give birth, what happens when there is no rain at all?
They have to give birth eventually … so what we are seeing is this: The mother rattlesnakes are staying at estivation sites (spots selected to hide away during the hottest summer months) far longer than they normally would. Rather than moving to a birthing site as they normally would, they are having their babies right in place.
This likely isn’t good for the babies, ultimately and unfortunately. They lose moisture more than twice as quickly as adults (J. Agugliaro, H. Reinert 2005). Unless we get some rain soon, that could be big trouble for this year’s babies. We’re hoping for the best, but looking at the forecast … hoping is all there is to do.
How homeowners can keep baby rattlesnakes out of the yard
Keeping the smallest rattlesnakes out of your area is a bit different than the larger ones.
First, the space they need to get in is much smaller … anything more than about a third of an inch can allow access. Second, they make frequent movements and may not necessarily know where they’re going. Unlike adults, who’ve had a lifetime to map out a homerange, babies may show up any place, any time. For that reason, physical barriers are the best bet. Rather than go too far into detail here, I’ll refer you to our guide to keep baby rattlesnakes out of the yard.
Schuett, G.W., Repp, R.A., Hoss, S.K. and Herrmann, H.‐W. (2013), Parturition in a Desert Rattlesnake. Biol J Linn Soc Lond, 110: 866-877. doi:10.1111/bij.12166
Agugliaro J, Reinert HK. Comparative skin permeability of neonatal and adult timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus). Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2005;141(1):70-75. doi:10.1016/j.cbpb.2005.04.002
This question is one we hear often when we arrive at a homeowner’s residence to relocate a snake or perform an inspection. From the homeowner’s perspective, they’re likely a bit befuddled and nervous, because who wants a snake taking up residence where the kids play or where the dog likes to run around, right? Well, it’s a good question, and one I’ll answer as we explore a little bit about snakes, their behavior and where you’re likely to encounter them.
The quick answer: no, it’s not a rattlesnake hole. But that doesn’t mean a rattlesnake doesn’t live in it.
If you’ve lived in the Sonoran desert long enough, it’s likely you’ve seen many holes at the base of bushes, in the sides of wash walls, under rocks, etc. There is a lot of wildlife here, and many species have adapted to escaping the brutal temperatures of an Arizona summer day by getting out of the sun and down a hole. The hole is a refuge whereby the animal can keep hydrated (the humidity underground is appreciably higher than on the surface) and stay cool (the temperatures are appreciably cooler too).
In the greater Phoenix/Tucson areas, we don’t have snakes that dig their own holes In some areas of the country there are a few species that will (for example, in the eastern US female hognose snakes will excavate a hole to lay their eggs in). Here in Phoenix/Tucson, holes are dug by rodents, tortoises, lizards, etc. but not snakes. That said, snakes will sometimes use holes dug by other animals for refuge.
When you’re looking at a hole in your yard, how can you tell if a snake has been using it to get out of the sun/heat? Well, there are some indicators. First, rattlesnakes like to bask outside their refuges quite a bit. Depending on the substrate (ie sand, dirt, etc.) that the hole has been dug in, rattlesnakes will leave telling imprints in the substrate as evidence of their presence (similar to the footprint you leave while walking in sand). The imprint often looks like a “disk” of flattened dirt or sand, and in very clear cases you can even make out the belly scales of the snake that rested there outside the hole.
How can you tell if a rattlesnake is using the hole?
Snakes will also leave imprints as they enter/exit a hole. This looks like a flattened strip of sand/dirt that’s “raised” on the edges These edges are raised because as the snake crawls into/out of the hole, dirt and sand are pushed aside. Even in areas where the substrate isn’t conducive to leaving these particular kinds of imprints (ie gravel), it’s still possible to find evidence of snake activity. If there is grass or vegetation surrounding a hole, a snake will “flatten it out” as it rests outside the hole. Depending on the composition of the gravel, you may also see imprints as well.
Now, snakes aren’t the only animals that will leave evidence of their comings and goings into and out of holes. Lizards will often leave tail drags (they look like a line in the sand/dirt with little divots on the sides (the lizard’s hind feet)). Snake tracks are usually much wider and flatter than lizard tracks, and with a little practice it’s easy to tell them apart. Tortoises will leave very wide “slide” marks as they enter/exit, and these are easily differentiated from a snake track. Rodents will leave footprints too, but again, these look nothing like snake tracks.
How do you keep snakes from using these holes?
If you’ve seen rodent activity at a hole in your yard, it’s possible that at some point a snake may decide to use that hole as refuge. This is the best possible scenario for the snake, as it gets the cooler/more humid benefits out of the sun and may get a free meal to boot! If you see evidence of rodent activity in your yard (one big indicator is holes popping up where they didn’t exist before), your best bet is to contact a professional to address the rodent issue.
You can destroy the holes you see, but rodents also have a habit of making new ones when their old ones are destroyed. Once the rodent issue is addressed, that will also address the possible snake issue because at that point once the old holes are destroyed there won’t be any rodents to make new ones.
So s the hole you’re looking at a snake hole? If you’re in the Phoenix or Tucson areas, I can say that a snake didn’t make the hole you’re looking at.
Rattlesnake Solutions will professionally examine any holes, make a determination as to snake activity and also inspect your entire yard for further evidence of snake activity. They’ll discuss their findings with you and answer any questions you may have about snakes, holes, living in the desert, and more.
Ultimately, these holes, even though they aren’t caused by snakes, may be an indicator that your yard has things that snakes like. That means that if you’re in a contact zone with native desert, a visit from a rattlesnake or two is a strong possibility. This would be a good “shot across the bow” moment to take action to make your yard less attractive to rattlesnakes, and take care of things like having rattlesnake fencing installed.
This is a rattlesnake post in disguise. Though you’ve likely clicked through to learn all about how to get rid of a packrat nest, they’re really one in the same. Getting rid of packrat nests around your property is one of the top things you can do to immediately reduce the number of rattlesnake encounters at your property, second only to installing snake fencing.
The homeowners we talk to about their packrat problems often have had quite a difficult time keeping them to come back. They set out traps and poisons and often succeed in killing one or two, but the nests just seem to keep regenerating rodents. So, what can you do?
The issue is that getting rid of packrats has very little to do with getting rid of the rodents themselves, but eliminating the nest.
A packrat nest (also called a midden) is a collection of sticks and debris gathered by the rodent to create a protected, warm (or cool) insulated area to live and breed. These deep burrows are home to a variety of wild animals, which includes rattlesnakes. You can kill all the rodents you want, but unless you remove the nest, more will just move in.
Fortunately, this is very easy to do and any homeowner can get rid of a packrat nest in just minutes, and do so in a way that prevents them from coming back.
How do you get rid of packrats without using poison?
Use a garden hose to flood the nest from the highest point in the nest. You want the water to completely fill the nest. Turn the water to half flow or less so that you can make sure water is getting down deep and not just collapsing the entrance. You also want any animals in there to come out and not become buried.
Use a rake or other tool to completely pull off the debris on the top and open it up.
Using the same tool (or any that will do the job), spread out the debris and make sure that the interior of the nest is completely exposed.
The next day, flood the hole again, use the tool to collapse the entrance as much as possible, and either completely spread out the nesting material or get rid of it.
Watch the area and at the first sign of any rodent starting to dig it out again, do exactly the same thing.
That’s it! Super simple and effective, and free (minus the cost of some water of course). In some instances you’ll need to do this a few times for persistent rodents, but it will work in time and it’s always a better option than destructive and costly solutions. Even better, you’ll not be using poisons that can kill all kinds of non-target wildlife.