Are these snake holes?

“Is this a snake hole?”

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.

Is this a snake hole? Nope! But it doesn’t mean a snake doesn’t find it to be useful.

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.

Also not a snake hole.

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.

Is there evidence that a snake has been using the hole (see above)? If not, the answer is likely no. If you do see evidence of snake activity, it’s important to remain calm and contact Rattlesnake Solutions to address the snake issue and a professional rodent expert to address the rodents.

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.

Fastest, easiest, cheapest, and most effective way to get rid of packrats

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 best way to get rid of packrats – poison free.

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?

  1. 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.
  2. Use a rake or other tool to completely pull off the debris on the top and open it up.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

How to keep baby rattlesnakes out of the yard

Recent changes in ambient humidity has triggered the start of baby rattlesnake season! Across the state, mama rattlesnakes are tucked away in shaded, damp areas to give birth to babies (they do not lay eggs as is commonly believed). After spending some quality time with mom, the babies are all set to head out into the big world to figure out how to be a rattlesnake.

The behavior that often brings rattlesnakes into an area is a little different for these new little guys, and as a homeowner you should know what you can do to keep baby rattlesnakes away.

This means two big things for homeowners who wish to keep baby rattlesnakes away. First, baby rattlesnakes can show up at any place, any time, without a reason. Second, it becomes even more important to reduce access and opportunities for rattlesnakes in general.

First, let’s learn a bit about baby rattlesnakes. Here’s a Q&A session we did last year that should cover the basics. This post is all about what homeowners can do to prevent baby rattlesnakes from showing up on the patio, however, so we’ll rely on our previous work to talk about how cute they are:

Baby rattlesnake questions and answers

Baby rattlesnakes are wanderers

We often discuss the behavior of rattlesnakes that brings them into yards. Things like moisture-rich pool equipment areas or an unsealed garage (aka, cool cave) are often taken advantage of by rattlesnakes for the opportunities they provide.

Baby rattlesnakes, on the other hand, have no such experience. After they leave their mother (a week or so after being born), their instinct is to wander wide and far searching for what will eventually be its lifelong home range.

As they kick the tires of life, they’re making frequent movements. They will need to eat, find reliable places to get water, and map a variety of spots to stay during different times of year. As babies, however, they have no idea where these things are, so they have to find them.

That means that you can easily find baby rattlesnakes in places where there are no real reasons for them to be there. We often find them in busy parking lots, sidewalks, and shopping centers. At homes, they can be anywhere, often ducking into temporary cover situations regardless of if they can truly survive there or not.

This can also present some challenges with the typical prevention methods because baby rattlesnakes are small. How small? Our testing has shown that any space as small as a third of an inch in diameter can allow entry of baby rattlesnakes:

What you can do about it to keep baby rattlesnakes away:

  1. Keep cover situation, even stuff you plan on throwing away the next day, up off the ground and to a minimum. This includes pool toys, shoes,temporary construction debris, and that stack of Amazon boxes.
  2. Create a barrier to keep wandering baby rattlesnakes out of the yard entirely.
  3. Double up on landscaping efforts to make sure as few shaded and cool areas as possible are available.
  4. If you have rattlesnake fencing installed or are thinking about getting it, make sure that it is done in such a way that it keeps baby rattlesnakes out as well.
Baby rattlesnakes are really cute, though maybe not so much in your slippers at 2am.

Baby rattlesnakes are making a map

As these little newborn rattlesnakes wander around the world searching for all the stuff that makes a rattlesnake happy, it’s not without purpose. Each time they get it right, whether it succeeding in finding food, water, or a spot to hide away, they’re taking note.

Just like you do when you’re on vacation and remember good and convenient spots to get food, coffee, and wifi, baby rattlesnakes are in the map making business. This is why it’s more important now than ever to take action to make your yard less attractive to rattlesnakes. If you’re providing a resource, you may have a repeat guest for life.

This mother rattlesnake and her babies were collected from a house in Phoenix

What you can do to keep baby rattlesnakes from adding your yard to favorites:

  1. Remove as many attracting features as possible. Start with the easy stuff you can do in just a few hours, then move on to larger and more complicated items.
  2. Cut bushes back from walls and use a garden hose to flood any rodent burrows you find, especially near the house.
  3. Contact a garage door company and make sure the seal at the base of your garage door is sealed up.
  4. Have a professional rattlesnake prevention specialist come inspect the property to find signs of baby rattlesnakes and identify attracting features.
  5. Avoid using snake repellents (they don’t work and give false peace of mind)

Above all else, be mindful and keep your eyes open

The random nature of encounters when it comes to baby rattlesnakes mean that every homeowner, hiker, or visitor to places where rattlesnakes can be found should be paying attention.

Baby rattlesnakes are born with a single rattle segment. That’s cute, but it won’t make a sound until its second shed skin, several weeks after it is born. It may try and rattle anyway, but you won’t hear it. That means the courtesy buzz that tells you when you’re getting too close is off the table. You’ll have to rely on your other senses to keep you safe.

This does not mean you should be fearful, thankfully. All it takes is to go back to basics of rattlesnake safety:

  1. Always wear shoes when going outside at night, even to take out the trash or get something you left in the car.
  2. Keep a charged flashlight near all exits. Never walk around after dark without it.
  3. Talk to your kids and visitors just to make sure we’re all on the same page 🙂
  4. Consider having your dog trained to avoid rattlesnakes.
  5. Keep your shoes inside.
  6. If you’re camping or hiking, keep your stuff up off the ground or in the tent whenever possible. Bring some slip on shoes for those midnight walks to the bushes.

Baby rattlesnakes should be considered, but not feared.

Though this isn’t the point of this post, it should always be mentioned that baby rattlesnakes are not more dangerous than adults, contrary to popular belief. Various myths, like that they don’t know how to control their venom or are extra aggressive, have been debunked over and over again. You’ll still keep hearing them, however, because these myths are beloved parts of our culture. A relatively new bit of rattlesnake BS is that they love to breed in pool noodles (not true, FYI). But don’t worry; put those myths on the shelf alongside your neighbor’s bigfoot sighting and your aunt’s miracle diet claims.

We’ll leave you with some articles that can help you keep rattlesnakes away and be more informed. Don’t worry about baby rattlesnakes, but be aware! A few changes to your day to day can keep everyone safe.

Keeping baby rattlesnakes where they should be is a matter of preparation.

Let’s Talk Toads – How to Keep Your Dog Safe

The rain is finally here, and with it, come the toads. Many people are surprised to learn that the hottest region of the country is home to a variety of amphibians. One of them, the Sonoran Desert Toad (or Colorado River Desert Toad if you prefer) is famous. It’s the one of “toad licking” fame due to a highly toxic poison that can cause some interesting effects (never do this, seriously, you can die).

But more often, people learn about these toads because of the unfortunate fact that they kill dogs quite often. Even though we’re “Rattlesnake” solutions, we want to address this aspect of local wildlife and help where we can.

Know which toads can hurt your dogs

The first thing you can do is to simply learn the difference between toads that can hurt your dog, and toads that don’t.

The only one you really need to worry about are the large Sonoran Desert Toads, which are usually easy enough to spot. They’re huge, like a big green nerf football bouncing around out there.

This big guy is a Sonoran Desert Toad. You don’t want your dogs anywhere near them.

They’re not the only toads around, however. More commonly-seen are the smaller Red-Spotted Toads. As the name implies (herpetologists are not creative), they are usually red or orange spots on the body. They’re not as dangerous as the larger Sonoran Desert Toads, but could indicate problems. They, like the larger dangerous versions, need water, and their presence could be an indicator that you have good stuff in the yard that could attract poisonous toads.

This little Red-Spotted Toad isn’t a Sonoran Desert Toad, but could indicate other issues.

Eliminate water sources wherever possible

As you can imagine, life in Arizona is tough for squishy amphibians. It makes it much easier when we supply water. Drip systems, backyard pools, leaky hoses, and more become perfect little spots for toads to take a dip.

One of the things we see quite often while doing rattlesnake prevention work are the number of drip and watering systems that either go nowhere or are watering plants that don’t need them. If you’re watering your Saguaro or other native plants – stop it 🙂

You could also change the time of day that you water the plants. Water in the early morning, just before sunup, to avoid pooling and still allow for the least amount of evaporation possible. This can help reduce the amount of muddy pools, which toads love, sitting out overnight where your dogs can find them.

It’s worth taking an hour or two to go through the yard and evaluate every drop and water opportunity. Ask yourself:

  1. Is this drip necessary?
  2. Is this using more water than it should?
  3. Do I like this plant enough to keep it if it increases potential risk to my dogs?

Fixing the accidental water sources

Other than intentional water sources, there are those incidentals that also attract toads. Perhaps the most common are leaky hoses. If you’re like most of us, the area directly under your favorite hose is damp. In some cases we see, it’s a full-on little pond! Unlike watering the flower bed, this is entirely useless and should be addressed. It may cost a little bit to have a plumber address it, if it’s needed, but remember: the goal here is to keep your dog alive, not minor savings in water costs or aesthetic needs. To that end: it’s absolutely worth it to get any drips fixed.

Another class of accidental water in the backyard are drips from the AC unit. You can usually fix this easily enough one of a few different ways, depending on your situation:

  1. Change the pipe angle or add to it to divert water away from areas where it can create damp patches.
  2. Use a tall bucket or other catch to let it collect and evaporate without creating a wet spot in the dirt.
  3. Use a large, flat stone (or similar) to make a hot surface that evaporate drips as they land.
  4. Get creative 🙂 you can add a bit of pipe or tubing to use this “free” water in any number of ways, like piping it over into a hanging garden, or hanging birdbath.

Get your dog trained to avoid toads

Even though toads kill dogs quite often, let’s look at what’s really happening: the dogs start it. Toads are just sitting there like a squishy bouncy chew toy, and what dog will pass that up? A well-trained one will!

Similar to rattlesnake aversion training, where a dog learns that rattlesnakes aren’t little buzz buddies to play with, dogs can be trained to avoid poisonous toads.

We won’t go into details here, but we recommend talking to our friends at Rattlesnake Ready, who do it better than anyone in our opinion. Rattlesnake Ready has a Toad Avoidance training program that is both economical and effective, and is a no-brainer if you have a dog and live where these potentially-deadly toads can be found.

Beagle dog sitting with white background

Have any toads removed humanely

When you do see a toad? They’re not exactly the kind of thing you can just put out in the desert and expect it to survive … so what to do?

Just like with snakes, you can call us 24/7 for toad removal at 480-237-9975 in Phoenix or 520-308-6211. While we’re there, we’ll search the property to see if we can find any other toads, and give advice on how to fix whatever issues caused them to be there to begin with.

Hope for the best, plan for the worst

It’s 2am, your dog isn’t coming in from the late-night pee break. You put on the slippers and head out into the yard to discover your pup chewing on a toad. What do you do?

What you can easily avoid here is the confusion and panic of trying to search for whoever is open and asking what to do. If you live where toads can be found (or snakes, for that matter), whatever planning you can do in advance is the best thing you can do and make the difference between your dog living or dying.

Carve an hour or two out of your day to search for 24 hour emergency veterinary hospitals. Call them, find out the pricing, protocol, and work out the plan from start to finish in advance. The difference in how well your dog can be treated, and how you feel during the very scary experience, can be very different if you’re enacting a plan rather than panicking in the dark.

Find a 24 hour emergency vet long before you think you actually need one. It can make the difference between life and death for your pets.

Be proactive – have your yard inspected

During the monsoon season each year, our rattlesnake removal crew sees a lot of toads while on the search for hidden reptiles. The fact is: toads kill just as many dogs, or more, than rattlesnakes … so it’s good for everyone involved to extend this service to help homeowners keep dogs safe from toads as well. Email toads@rattlesnakesolutions.com to learn more about what we can do to keep toads out of the yard.

Releasing kingsnakes to control rattlesnakes is not a good idea

Here’s the video version of this post is that’s your thing.

A common request from homeowners and something I see people comment about quite often is the idea of capturing, buying, or importing kingsnakes and gophersnakes to release in the yard as a means to control rattlesnakes.

Kingsnakes, as you may be aware, are famous for making meals of venomous rattlesnakes. They completely harmless (even to kids and dogs) and even nice to look at. Because of their rattlesnake-eating preferences, many homeowners are more than happy to see a kingsnake cruising through the yard.

So why wait for nature to bring the kings to your yard? Can’t you just buy one at the pet store and let it go? How about someone in town who’s caught a wild one and does’t want it? Why not bring in a bunch of them to release and then never see a rattlesnake again? Unfortunately, it’s a lot more complicated than that.

It’s increasingly common to see requests like this on Facebook and Nextdoor, where communities of rattlesnake-averse homeowners compare snake experiences. “You don’t want that kingsnake? Bring it to my yard!”. There are also suggestions (and admissions) of buying kingsnakes from the petstore to release. Please, never do this.

Releasing kingsnakes into your yard is not a good idea and almost certainly will not help your rattlesnake issues.

Bubble burst: if your yard has sufficient food sources and resources to support a kingsnake, you already have one. The population and distribution of kingsnakes (and other snakes) is a complicated balance of predator and prey, intraspecies dynamics. It’s like pouring water onto a flat surface expecting it to pile up; the kingsnake you release will almost certainly just wander off, not to be seen again.

If you have rattlesnakes in the yard, you also have kingsnakes already hunting them. You may not see them very often, but moving around unseen is kind of a snakes’ thing. You could release as many kingsnakes into the yard as you want. If there isn’t sufficient food for them, they’re out!

Worse, unless you live in the same area as it’s used to so that it can resume its life, your new pest control idea will probably die out there.

Even worse than that, if you’re bringing kingsnakes in from other areas, you run the risk of spreading parasites and disease to the existing group of kings — your efforts to have more kingsnakes have a chance to make you have no kingsnakes.

Having other snakes in the yard is the best way to attract kingsnakes.

What can you do to get more kingsnakes in the yard?

There is one way 🙂 but you’re not going to like it. Get more rattlesnakes! Really though, prey opportunities are the best way to attract any snake to the yard. Unfortunately, you can’t really do that without also attracting the snakes you don’t want around, too.

It seems the idea of introducing kingsnakes to your yard to keep rattlesnakes away just isn’t as helpful as it may seem. Just stick to the basics of keeping snakes out of the yard and if a kingsnake shows up to help, that’s great! But she doesn’t need any help.

This goes for Gophersnakes and Bullsnakes too. These snakes, by the way, don’t actually eat rattlesnakes like the saying goes … but that’s for another article.

What can “snow birds” do to keep rattlesnakes away?

Arizona’s perfect weather in the shoulder seasons makes it an ideal place to spend the winter for seasonal residents. Affectionally referred to locally as “snow birds”, each year, they come and go. With their return to roost in the fall come the flurry of rattlesnake removal calls.

What do rattlesnakes do when we’re away?

Rattlesnakes make use of unoccupied homes.

One of the apparently largest factors in rattlesnake activity (or lack of it) is simply your presence. Just our activity on the property can alter their behavior so they take greater care to avoid meeting us.1 So when you leave, it’s to be expected that wildlife will quickly move to reclaim the space. Even a few months can make quite a difference. We have learned this from 10 years of rattlesnake removals and working with property managers – a unoccupied home can greatly affect the chances of future rattlesnake encounters.

So what can we do to reduce our chances of having rattlesnakes move in?

What can you do to keep rattlesnakes and other wildlife from squatting on the property while you’re away? Aside from the easy stuff (covered here in our 5 Things you can do right now to see fewer rattlesnakes guide), there are a number of things you can do both before you leave, while you’re away, and prior to your return.

Before you leave:

Rattlesnake Fence Install
Get preventative barriers in place before you go.
  1. Physical barriers are the best bet. Get rattlesnake fencing installed. If you already have it, make sure that it’s in top form and there are no holes, gaps, or damage that needs attention.
  2. Get rid of any debris – piles of construction stuff, roof tiles, those bricks by the side of the house, or deflated pool toys, etc.
  3. Ditch the lantana! Get to any last-minute landscaping choices before you leave. The fewer places snakes can hide, the better.
  4. Fix it! Repair any holes or gaps in the building, foundation, flashing, grill islands, or anywhere else that could become a summer home for snakes.
  5. Avoid making a cave. Make sure the garage is sealed up tight and in great condition.

While you’re away:

Regular activity in an area helps keep snakes away.
  1. Keep up on maintenance. This might cost some money, but making sure the services to maintain the yard are still in place can help keep rattlesnake activity away. A well-maintained yard that’s occasionally visited by people is less attractive than yards that are not.
  2. Get it checked out. Have someone knowledgeable about wildlife come do an inspection mid-way through your absence to identify any potentially problematic areas before they fully develop. You can also just ask a neighbor or a property manager to walk the property.

Before you return:

A well-maintained property is less likely to have rattlesnakes in int.
  1. Have the yard inspected. A few days before you come back, it may be a good idea to have a property inspection performed to make sure that any snakes that may have moved in while you were away can be found and removed.
  2. Do a once-over maintenance. Even though you may have keep the landscapers and pool guys coming the entire time, it’s a good idea to do a final touch-up just before you arrive. Rather than waiting until you get there, if you can get this done in advance, that will help eliminate the chances of displaced rattlesnake encounters.
  3. Read up on local snakes. Many of our snow bird residents actually come from those far-off summer destinations, so knowledge of the native wildlife is still a work in progress. During that long drive (passengers!) or wait at the airport for your return, brush up on knowledge of what may live in your yard and how to identify it.

Once you return:

Look for any visitors who may have moved in over the summer.
  1. Walk the property. While everyone is unloading the car, get right to it: walk the entire property and do a check to see if anyone else is there. If you do find a snake, call to have it relocated ASAP.
  2. Be on guard. For a week or so after you come home, be more cautious than normal and make be aware that the new activity in the area may change the behavior of wildlife, including rattlesnakes. That also goes for the return of your neighbors.
  3. Check the fence! Make sure that your rattlesnake fence is still tight and without damage. Rodents and other animals can sometimes dig or create problems even while you’re gone, so do the same inspection you did before you left to make sure it’s still good to go.
  4. Get to the big maintenance. For which items to focus on and lay out your time, refer to our How To Keep Snakes Away From Your Home – The Ultimate Guide
  5. Jump in the pool! This has nothing to do with snakes, but you’ve probably been thinking about it for a while so go for it.

Welcome back! Keep the education going.

The more you know, the safer your yard will be. Not only will you be better equipped to make your yard less attractive to snakes, but your behavior if you do see one will be better. Here’s a rather long presentation full of information that would be a good once-over when you get back to help you feel better about the whole situation.


  1. Meghan Beale, Stephane Poulin, Craig Ivanyi, Gabriel Blouin-Demers 2016.  Anthropomorphic Disturbance Affects Movement and Increases Concealment in Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes (Crotalus atrox) Journal of Herpetology, Vol. 50, No. 2, 211-221, 2016.

Arizona pool owners: avoid making a rattlesnake guest house

Over the past decade and many thousands of rattlesnakes captured in the backyards of Arizona homes, a few trends have emerged. Most notable: there are certain areas of all yards that seem to attract rattlesnakes more often than others.

Perhaps the biggest offender on this list of rattlesnake-attracting features are pool filter systems. Throughout the year, especially during the spring and late fall when rattlesnake behavior is driven by access to their dens, pool equipment areas seem to house rattlesnakes more than any other yard feature.

Why does pool equipment seem to attract rattlesnakes?

Every home with a pool has a corner of the property where the filter, pump, heater, and other pool mechanisms are hidden away. These items themselves aren’t useful to rattlesnakes – in fact, I would suspect that the constant vibration and smells could be disliked by them. However, there are some pretty great things here if you happen to be a rattlesnake:

  1. Privacy – They are often tucked away, obscured by a wall, and seldom visited compared to other areas of the yard.
  2. Comfortable – They often become the default storage area for materials for unused roof tiles, pavers, and deflated pool toys.
  3. Opportunity – The vibration and moisture from the equipment can help turn any rodent burrow into a deep cave system.
  4. Fast food – rodents easily make homes in the soft dirt and create burrows under concrete base slabs.

More or less, these issues stem from the fact that most designers make an effort to hide the mess of pipes and noisy equipment away from the rest of the yard. As a result, common problems that would otherwise be addressed immediately. Rodent activity, discarded pool toys, materials waiting for bulk-pickup day, and others are often put here and forgotten, inadvertently creating the perfect situation for rattlesnakes to find a home.

The base of this concrete slab had an old rodent burrow under it – widened by vibration and erosion from the equipment, it became a perfect hideaway for a rattlesnake.

How do I keep rattlesnakes out of my pool equipment?

Fortunately, this is relatively simple. All you need to do is treat this part of your property the same as you do the rest of it.

If you follow our other articles and social media content, you are already quite familiar with how to keep rattlesnakes out of a yard (if you’re new, our Ultimate Guide to Keeping Snakes Out of Your Yard is a great place to start).

If you are diligent about addressing rodent issues that appear in the visible parts of your property, extend that effort to the hidden pool pump stuff as well. If that inflatable shark you haven’t floated on since the first 5 minutes it came out of the box is just deteriorating behind the filter, throw it away. Likewise, find a new home for the old roofing tiles, the broken pool net, etc. Keep this area as clean and well-maintained as you would any other part of the property.

This yard was absolutely beautiful and perfectly-maintained, but a years-old rodent burrow went unnoticed in the pool filter area, and this Western Diamondback Rattlesnake found it to be a perfect winter home.

Above all, make sure that the concrete (or other material) base slabs have no tunnels or erosion under them. These tunnels seem to be exceptional homes for several behavioral phases of rattlesnakes throughout the year, and one of the top situations we remove snakes from each year.

So, the next time you’re in the backyard doing your normal maintenance, give the pool guy a break from a possible rattlesnake encounter and take care of those hidden-away areas, too.

How high does a snake fence need to be?

One of the top questions we get about rattlesnake fencing, is HOW HIGH DOES SNAKE FENCING NEED TO BE?

These questions aren’t only from homeowners, but also in regards to regulations from homeowners associations and planned communities who unfortunately often enforce sub-sufficient standards for snake fence installations.

The quick answer: 3’ high. In this post I’m going to show how we got to that answer, and why it’s so important to do it right, that if it’s done wrong, you probably shouldn’t install snake fencing at all.

If you prefer, here’s the video showing how high a snake fence needs to be, including details of our experiments:

How high should a snake fence be?

A quick recap on this topic: rattlesnake fencing is a physical barrier that is designed and installed in such a way that it prevents rattlesnakes from getting into an area. The exact specifications of how to do this effectively are what our group has developed over the past decade to create the standard this type of work. 

Snake Fencing installed to the correct height of 36″

That being said, rattlesnakes are thinking, and unpredictable animals, so these standards need to be based on their behavior and their physical capabilities more than anything else.

And a quick disclaimer: this design is intended to exclude rattlesnake species native to the desert southwest, and while it has a level of varying effectiveness on other types of snakes, there is nothing that will exclude all types of snakes in all places all of the time. If someone promises you that, throw that contact in the trash.

So, back on topic: how high does a snake fence need to be. The question really is: how far up a smooth surface from the nearest foothold can a rattlesnake climb?

Rattlesnakes can and do climb many things: trees, bushes, piles of rocks, anything with sufficient texture and grip opportunity can be used to climb. However, smooth surfaces without protrusions are not climbable by rattlesnakes. Concrete or metal walls are impassable to rattlesnakes as long as they’re high enough to keep them from getting their head over the top. That’s why smooth steel mesh of the right gap size is the perfect material to use when installed at the right height.

From testing and observations, we notice a couple of things about how rattlesnakes attempt to climb smooth surfaces:

First, the structure of their body prohibits them from climbing straight up more than about 1/3 of their body length, unless additional support is offered.

Second, if there is stabilizing support, like a tight corner or a rock to push against, they can climb higher, to about half of their body length.

That means that we need a fence that is as long as half of the body length of the largest rattlesnake in any given area, with some additional buffer to eliminate any variability in height or extraordinarily rare and large individuals.

That means to exclude a 4’ rattlesnake, which is a very large adult, you’d want a minimum height of 30” – or half the length of the snake with an appropriate buffer of 6”.

To exclude a 5’ rattlesnake, which would be an exceptionally rare monster-sized snake in the desert southwest, you’d want 36” – or, again, half the snake length with a 6” buffer.

In almost all cases, 30” high will be just fine, and we have certainly installed quite a few fences where this is appropriate in Phoenix. However, as a regional standard, 36” is our recommendation as of 2020.

In the desert southwest, the largest rattlesnake you will see is a Western Diamondback in the 5’ range. Most are much smaller – around Phoenix and Tucson, where we work, a 4’ rattlesnake is a very big snake, but most top out around 3’. These sizes are based not only our thousands of documented captures and survey work, but all available published data, peer-reviewed literature, and basically anyone that measures them rather than eyeballing it. If you live in parts of Texas or the Southeast where rattlesnakes can get into the 6’ range, just use the same formula stated above and you’ll be covered.

A very large rattlesnake in Arizona is 4′ long, and some can get a little larger.

To test all of this, we conducted some simple experiments.

First, we constructed a box with an adjustable floor to create varying heights of mesh to test. The box has two settings: The 24” height that is required by many HOAs, and the 36” height as per our standard. There is black duct tape along the top and sides to remove any sharp edges that could possibly injure the snakes, or deter them if they get up that high.

We put a wifi security camera on it and left the room. The quality is pretty bad, but for recording 24-hour video for days at a time, this is what we had available, and is more than enough to see what happens. 

Next, we need some snakes. 

The first snake is a huge snake from out of state that’s the largest diamondback we could get our hands on, and represents the largest possible rattlesnake you could encounter in Arizona … measuring at exactly 5’ long, nose to tail, excluding the rattle.

A 5′ long Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

First, he went into the 24” box. It took him a little bit to figure out which direction to go, but when he did, he easily climbed out of the 24” height mesh. We repeated this several times and with each instance, he escaped more quickly than the last time. It’s clear that 24” tall fence will not keep a 5’ rattlesnake out of a yard.

Next, we tried the 36” height. The snake stayed in the box for a period of 5 days, moving often and trying to climb up and out at the corners as had previously worked so well with the 24” high fence, but was unable to escape. Eventually, it curled up in a corner and stopped trying, at which time we ended the test. From this, we can see a 36” tall fence can repel a rattlesnake up to 5’ long.

Next, we repeated the experiment with a more typically-sized rattlesnake that homeowners could encounter, at 4’ long. 

We placed her in the 24” high box, and waited.

It took her quite a bit longer, but she was eventually able to just get her nose over the top and pull herself up and over. Had the mesh been another 6” higher, this 4’ rattlesnake would not have been able to climb over.

When tested in the 36” box, she stopped trying quickly and spent most of the 5 day period of the test sleeping in the corner. 

As expected, a 36” height effectively repels a 4’ snake as it did the much larger 5’ snake, unholding the standard and underlying mechanics that we explained previously..

So the conclusion? 36″ is the correct height for snake fencing.

The 24” height that is so often required by HOAs and installed by do-it-yourselfers and pest control guys is not sufficient to protect your yard from rattlesnakes. To do the job effectively, you want a minimum of 30”, with a standard, recommended height of 36”.

Very importantly: a rattlesnake fence that lets some rattlesnakes in, is more or less an effective rattlesnake trap. In situations where a property can’t be protected correctly, either using the right materials or correct standard, it’s probably best to just do nothing at all and allow snakes that may find themselves in the yard to be able to leave. In many cases, the reasons why someone is not able to install a fence to the correct standards lie in the HOA regulations of the community.

It’s not at all that HOAs don’t care about their residents’ safety; quite the opposite in-fact, it’s just that exactly how high these snake fences should be isn’t really written down anywhere, or available as more than rough opinion, so decisions are often made that reflect aesthetic preferences over functional ones. But, in our experience, most communities are more than happy to adapt regulations based on solid reason, which is what we are providing here.

And to wrap it up: a few closing notes on the subject of fence-climbing rattlesnake that are important but don’t quite fit into the height question:

  • Rattlesnakes can’t climb straight up a concrete or block wall like a slug; it’s physiologically impossible, their bodies just don’t work that way, and they can’t belly-crawl up a flat surface anymore than you or I can.
  • It’s not always a matter of what they can do, but what they will do. Even with fencing installed, it’s a good idea to try and keep food, water, and shelter opportunities for them within the protected area to a minimum. With the right snake fence installed, you’ll have the best protection you possibly can, but I’d still not invite them over to perpetually test it. To illustrate this, what I often say is: when I go to the grocery store, if I really wanted to, I could maybe find a way to climb onto the roof somehow, but I don’t need to, so I don’t. If they went crazy and decided that the roof is where they’re going to store all the food from now on, I’m going to trying a lot harder to do something that I previously didn’t even care about doing. So, even with the fence installed, stick with best practice for rattlesnake prevention, too.

And lastly, keep in mind that everything discussed is for rattlesnakes specifically. There are some very good climbers, like Gophersnakes, Coachwhips, and kingsnakes, that can do fun things like climb straight up rough stucco walls – so seeing one of these snakes in a rattlesnake-fence protected area is not an indicator that the fence has failed in some way. I realize that many people choose to install rattlesnake fencing with the intention of not seeing any snake at all, because let’s face it, most people don’t like snakes, but we want to draw a big distinction between snakes that might look scary, and snakes that pose an actual danger to people and pets.

Some snakes, like this Sonoran Gophersnake, can climb surfaces that rattlesnakes can’t – so even if it looks scary to some people, it’s a very different situation than a snake that can actually injure people or pets, and not an indication that snake fencing is not working if seen.

That’s it for now, be sure to take a look at our other snake-fence videos. In particular, the one that addresses mesh-size and baby rattlesnakes. And as always, if you have questions about rattlesnake fencing, leave them in the comments and get you the best answer we can. If we get enough of a similar question, we’ll work on another video just like this one. Be sure to get on our Facebook page for a lot more information as it happens.

House at the end of the street? You’ll see more snakes than your neighbors.

Even in rattlesnake-heavy areas, all things being equal – some houses are much more prone to snake encounters than others.

Based on 8,000+ call records to our 24/7 rattlesnake removal hotline, some minor differences in the placement and features around your home can make a huge difference … and unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about it.

The biggest of these environmental factors is just the placement of your home. Many residential developments share a block wall behind rows of houses, with the end being open as drainage or access. In this incredibly common situation, the homes found at the end of the block wall will likely see many more snakes than other houses on the street.

These block walls also help provide shade, and brush and debris often accumulate here as well. Some communities even edge these walls with piles of rock, which makes a very enticing situation for snakes and their prey.

Think of that wall as a funnel. Snakes (and other animals) traveling through the area can’t climb over it and are forced to go one way or the other. At the end of the wall, the first home “catches” any snake first. They either continue around the wall to the backyard or keep moving straight. For this reason, snakes are more often found in the yards of the first home, and the second home to a lesser degree.

Snakes often follow walls, which can lead them right into yours. In this photo, a rattlesnake has come in through the front gate of a home with poorly-installed snake fencing, allowing easy access from the gate in the front.

After the second home, the chances of rattlesnakes in the yard tends to decline rapidly. A rattlesnake found at the 4th or 5th home in line had to first travel through multiple yards and pass up whichever opportunities are present.

I live on the corner! What can I do about it?

The first thing you can do is to make it so that when a rattlesnake does come around that wall, it won’t find anything that will make it want to stay. Get familiar with our guide to keeping your yard snake-free, and don’t be afraid to go a little bit overboard. Anything that you can do to deny resources, food, water, shelter, and access will help the snakes keep moving down the street (sorry, neighbors).

This is also why it’s extremely important if you are considering rattlesnake fence installation for your home, that the side gates are properly secured. Even with low view fencing in the back, rattlesnakes are just as likely to just come through the front gate, where they can get “stuck” in the yard. (this is the reason why rattlesnake fence installation is an “all or nothing” solution – anything less is just a snake trap).

Consider keeping the trash cans in the garage instead of in the side-yard, if the side-yard is on the side of the property bordering the opening. Our rattlesnake removal team has removed countless rattlesnakes from this exact situation. The less cover, the better.

If the edges of the property are lined with deep rock piles, as is often the case in newer communities around the valley, your chances of seeing a snake just went up. Do everything you can to prevent bushes and weeds from growing around the edges, along the wall, and create an open space between the wall and the open desert behind it. Much of this is likely managed by the HOA, so be sure to mention to them that you are concerned for your safety and provide reasoning, and you may be given permission (or they will do it).

And as always, the single best thing a person can do to stay safe around rattlesnakes is to learn everything they can about them. Get the dogs snake aversion trained, learn how to identify the snakes in your area, and be informed and ready for the inevitable encounters.

When do snakes “go to sleep”?

One of the biggest questions we get each November, when homeowners are surprised that snakes keep showing up in their social media feed: When do snakes go to sleep?

For snakes, that answer can be complicated. Snakes don’t really hibernate in the winter in the sense most of us are familiar with. Instead, they go into a state called brumation. During brumation, snakes live in their dens, but they’ll come out to bask in the sun on pleasant winter days. 

What brings them up during winter days can be a variety of things, and isn’t really as simple as a sunny or warm day. In fact, they seem to prefer cooler temperatures and avoid maximum sun exposure in the low desert.

Rattlesnakes in the Phoenix and Tucson areas can generally be found at the dens from October through March. When people see them basking outside of their dens, it sends waves of panic through news outlets, who report that snakes are coming out earlier that year. They say the same thing every year, even though snakes emerge right on time.

Their move towards dens (ingress) and out of dens (egress) is prompted by average temperatures, and other factors. If there are a few warm days in January, rattlesnakes might come out to bask and be spotted by people, but they are not starting their spring activity yet. They know not to leave their dens completely before temperatures have stabilized. 

Garages are common places to find rattlesnakes in the wintertime. To them, it’s just another cave!

What makes a rattlesnake den?

Rattlesnakes choose very specific dens with steady temperatures during the coldest months. In the wild, these include large rock piles and caves with deep access. They know what’s best, even choosing the direction that the entrance faces. 

On properties, rattlesnakes commonly den in garages, under foundations, and in decorative rock features. Unfortunately, snakes don’t know what human houses are! That garage or hole looks like the perfect cave, and your heater makes it nice and warm. 

On certain days, you’ll find rattlesnakes outside of their dens, basking in a mixture of shade and sunlight that brings their bodies to a comfortable temperature. They might be under a bush, between rocks or in the corners of a patio. This can be very surprising for homeowners.

Rain, too, can get snakes moving even on the coolest of days. In our area, rain is rare, and a drink is always welcome. A cloudy, drizzly day in the mid 60’s in January is an excellent day to see rattlesnakes on the surface.

Any opening into the foundation or interior areas of a wall can be used by rattlesnakes, like this baby Western Diamondback Rattlesnake that was found near a home in Tucson.

If you see one snake between November and March, there may be a higher possibility that more might be denning in the same area. Rattlesnakes can den communally without many territorial problems. If you see a snake in the area during the winter months, it’s important to be very careful and watch for other snakes. In our warm climate, those dens are usually small, with just a few individuals. You’ve probably seen photos online of holes with hundreds of rattlesnakes pouring out of holes in the ground, but that’s not how it looks in Arizona.

Rattlesnakes may return to the same den year after year. This can be interrupted when construction or landscaping changes the area, destroying the den that the snake is trying to find. In that case, the snake will wander to the next best area. Homeowners frequently see rattlesnakes on their properties after construction begins. 

What to do in the winter to keep your home rattlesnake free.

If you live in a desert area, it’s still important to watch for snakes in the winter. 

  • Look where you’re walking.
  • Make sure to check your yard before letting young children play outside. 
  • If you’re having landscaping changed, or if construction begins in your area, keep a watchful eye out for wandering snakes. 
  • Go down the checklist of our big rattlesnake-avoidance guide to make sure your yard isn’t a rattlesnake magnet.
Rattlesnake Fence installation is the best way to keep rattlesnakes out. Winter is often the best time to have it installed, with shorter wait times and often-cheaper prices.

If you see a snake, call us at ——-. One of our removal experts can relocate the snake and check your property. Something you may also want to consider is having a Rattlesnake Fence professionally installed in your yard. No matter what, when the snakes “wake up” in early March, you’ll want to be ready for it.