Temperatures are dropping, and so is snake activity. Every year, we are asked this question and field hundreds of comments wanting to know when the rattlesnake-phobic can once again breathe a little easier.
Even more common, starting in September, people are surprised that snakes are still active. We get comments like “this late?” and “I thought they were hibernating?!”. The answer is of course a little more complicated, but the answer is easy to find.
When do snakes go away in the winter?
According to hotline activity as an indicator of snake activity, snake activity drops dramatically around the second week of November. While snakes can still be found on the surface here and there, this is effectively the end of “snake season”.
This question can be best answered by looking at the average activity on our relocation hotline. Since this is driven purely by chance encounters by homeowners and businesses, it’s a good indicator of how many snakes the general population could expect to not see snakes out there.
But I heard that snakes are active all year?
Yes they are, but to a much lower extent. You may be told that there is no such thing as “snake season” because rattlesnakes can be found any time of year. While it is certainly true that in the right conditions a snake might make an appearance, it’s not necessarily useful for this discussion.
If a snake is found at your home in the winter, it has likely been there for awhile.
Here’s a better, more detailed article about When snakes “go to sleep” for the winter”:
Now that evening temperatures are in the 50s for most of the major metro areas of Arizona, with cooler temperatures on the way, rattlesnake behavior shifts yet again. Throughout October into early November, rattlesnakes are on the move, eventually settling into their chosen winter den. For many homes, this den can be the garage.
This is also when many of our seasonal residents (aka snowbirds) fly back to their winter Arizona homes to wait out the snow in our perfect weather. If this is you, you may want to pay special attention.
Why do rattlesnakes go into garages?
Rattlesnakes go into garages for a simple reason: to them, it’s just a cave. Not just any cave, but one that’s slightly warmer than the surrounding areas due to the proximity to a larger, heated cave (your home). This cave is also loaded with golf clubs, various boxes of holiday decorations, and dozens of boxes mentally labeled “stuff I’ll deal with later”. When there’s easy access, why wouldn’t a snake use it for a winter den?
How do I keep rattlesnakes out of my garage?
Fortunately, this is relatively easy – it just takes some attention at the right time. That time, as you might imagine, is right now.
The biggest single thing you can fix is won’t cost you a thing, because it’s a behavior change. That is: keep the garage closed as much as possible. Yes, the temperatures are perfect right now and it’s the ideal time to pull those Christmas decorations out even though it’s barely October and the HOA will throw a fit: keep it closed unless you are actively coming and going from the garage. During the early evening and just after dark, rattlesnakes are very actively moving, and if you accidentally leave the door open, even just a little, you’re all but inviting them in.
You can also check the seal on the garage door to see if it’s doing the job. What’s the easiest way to tell? Look at inside corners on either side of the garage door. If you see leaves and debris blown in from outside: congratulations, your door seal is bad. Or you can just look at it (this is the rubber bumper that comes in contact with the garage floor). If it’s frayed, rodent-chewed, or missing the edges so that it doesn’t come into perfect contact with the floor, your favorite garage door company should be called to be replace it. The best part? You’ll not only not see a rattlesnake in there this year, but fewer scorpions and other stuff, too.
Last of the big things to do: clean up the garage. I know, it’s been on the list for years, but if the possibility of a rattlesnake in the garage isn’t a motivator, what is? Rattlesnakes want to stay in a den where they can rest without disturbance, meaning that they need places to hide. A garage with no places to hide is not useable, so let’s do that. That doesn’t mean you need to clear it out, just arrange it differently. Replace old cardboard with plastic storage boxes (with lids), stored right on the ground, without space in between. Pull everything away from the wall a bit, and create space wherever possible.
Things you can do to keep rattlesnakes out of the garage:
Keep the garage door closed as much as possible, never leaving it open after dark.
Check and replace, if needed, the rubber seal at the base of the garage door.
Re-organize items stored in the garage to eliminate as many hiding places as possible and create space.
Move stored items away from walls 10+ and avoid loosely-placed items, especially in corners.
Have your garage and property inspected by a professional to get insight on specific features that should be addressed, and look for signs of resident rattlesnakes.
Avoid using products like poisons, glue traps, and snake-repellents (these don’t work and give false peace of mind – you want to remain aware)
How can I tell if a rattlesnake is already in the garage?
Here’s an easy trick we’ve learned over the years to tell if a rattlesnake is using the garage, even if it’s hidden somewhere in the back, with relative accuracy. Check the corners! Rattlesnakes don’t just crawl into the back of the garage and stay put – there is actually quite a bit of lateral movement. This staging behavior often puts rattlesnakes in the corners nearest to the garage door. Even if temporarily, this can leave distinctive tracks that can indicate whether or not a rattlesnake may be elsewhere in the garage.
In every garage, these corners have dust, leaves, and various stuff. This dust is very useful – a rattlesnake will leave a circular print in the corner, pushing larger debris to the edge. If you see this pattern, it could mean that a rattlesnake has either visited the garage recently or is still in there. If you see it between November and February, the odds of a rattlesnake visitor are higher.
How long are rattlesnakes in garages?
Though we can find rattlesnakes in garages all year, typically this period of cool weather that the rest of the world calls “winter” is when it happens. You can expect that rattlesnakes will be where they intend to spend the winter by about the second week of November. Rattlesnakes will start to explore and make small movements outside by late February, through early March. By April 1, it’s most likely that any rattlesnakes hiding in the garage over the winter have gone out to do all the stuff they do in the spring.
What about the rest of the yard? How do I keep rattlesnakes away?
Avoid using wire ties or plastic zip ties wherever possible. Instead opt for a more permanent and removable solution, like self-tapping screws.
Why should you avoid using zip ties or wire on your iron fence? Simply: it’s less effective and can damage the fence. The reason we know the zip tie method has issues is why we’re there to begin with: more often than not, it’s because there was a rattlesnake in the yard. Obviously, something isn’t working as it should.
Some installers or DIY guides may suggest using zip ties or wire. They may say that these are cheaper options and easier to take on and off. But in reality, this isn’t the case. Plastic degrades quickly in the Arizona sun, and wire ties can rust through in a few years, leaving large gaps in fencing that can easily allow a rattlesnake entry into your yard.
When is it justifiable to use wire ties?
There are some circumstances where this is simply the only option. Fence that can’t take a screw, like chain link or rebar, need to be wire-tied or welded. Some HOAs also require wire ties – if this is a regulation in your community, send them the video below and see if you can get that one changed.
Here’s a short video showing some examples and further explanation.
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.