Starting in early March, rattlesnakes will again be a part of our lives in Arizona! While we’re excited, you may not be as much 🙂 Even when a rattlesnake fence is installed perfectly, things happen; rodents dig, branches fall, gates shift: we’ll make sure you’re good for Spring.
To make sure your yard is as good as it gets before things start getting all rattlesnakey out there, we’re offering a check-up and maintenance service to our Rattlesnake Fence customers through the end of February.
Inspection of rattlesnake fence, and up to 1 hour of repair and maintenance (materials included!)*
Full property inspection, checking landscaping, snake-hiding spots, to look for possible snake dens and advise on potential trouble areas
Removal and relocation of any snakes found, both in and outside of the protected areas
Spot-check garage, storage shed, etc (checking corners and walls for snake tracks and signs of activity)
Booking through the end of February for $200. (You don’t need to be there, but you’ll get more out of it if you are).
If you’re NOT a rattlesnake fence customer, we’ll add an 1-hour credit of labor and materials to an estimate for a new rattlesnake fence, good for anytime in 2021.
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.
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.
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 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.
What you can do about it to keep baby rattlesnakes away:
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.
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.
What you can do to keep baby rattlesnakes from adding your yard to favorites:
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:
Always wear shoes when going outside at night, even to take out the trash or get something you left in the car.
Keep a charged flashlight near all exits. Never walk around after dark without it.
Talk to your kids and visitors just to make sure we’re all on the same page 🙂
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.
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.
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.
You may also see a Woodhouse’s Toad or Couch’s Spadefoot Toad. These may emit a mild toxin that could make your dog drool, but it just tastes bad and won’t actually hurt your dog.
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:
Is this drip necessary?
Is this using more water than it should?
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:
Change the pipe angle or add to it to divert water away from areas where it can create damp patches.
Use a tall bucket or other catch to let it collect and evaporate without creating a wet spot in the dirt.
Use a large, flat stone (or similar) to make a hot surface that evaporate drips as they land.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com to learn more about what we can do to keep toads out of the yard.
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.
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.
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?
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:
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.
Get rid of any debris – piles of construction stuff, roof tiles, those bricks by the side of the house, or deflated pool toys, etc.
Ditch the lantana! Get to any last-minute landscaping choices before you leave. The fewer places snakes can hide, the better.
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.
Avoid making a cave. Make sure the garage is sealed up tight and in great condition.
While you’re away:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.