In the past few days, I’ve been to a multiple homes to catch rattlesnakes in garages. That’s normal and right on time. Which brings up the topic: when do rattlesnakes start moving again, and what should homeowners expect?
When will rattlesnakes come back? Our predictions, based on 11 years of relocation hotline activity:
Early February (you are here): Rattlesnakes will start to “stage”, or move closer to the entrance of, their winter dens. We will start to receive calls to remove small groups of rattlesnakes from garages, storage closets, sheds, and other out-of-the-way structures. Rattlesnake removal calls will frequently be multiple animals.
Late February: Rattlesnakes will start to appear out in the open near their selected dens. Garage removals will be more common. However, there will be an increase of calls to pool pumps, courtyards, and homes with rip rap and rock pile erosion control.
Early March: Snakes will start to make short movements from dens to hunt, drink, and engage in social behavior. They will be highly visible on the surface with peak activity occurring mid-morning before returning to the den or other nearby staging area. Mating activity is high, and multiple snake removal calls will be common.
Late March: Rattlesnake sightings will become common as they leave dens entirely. Peak activity will be between 3pm and 5pm.
April: Very high rattlesnake activity and sightings will be common. At this point they have entirely left the dens and sightings are more likely to be random encounters.
If you’re a hiker or outdoorsy type, you’re still not likely to see a rattlesnake in February. Be more watchful and aware in March, however.
Now is the best time to get to any maintenance or prevention activities you have on your to-do list. Landscaping, debris removal, fixing the snake fence, having the dog trained … get it done before the snakes show up.
Rattlesnakes often den in the garage. If you are using these last mild-weather days to get to “that” side of the garage, use extra caution.
Educating yourself is the best way to stay safe and feel better about the whole situation
As with most things, fear of rattlesnakes is mostly in our heads. Not the fear itself of course, that’s a real thing, but most of what we believe about rattlesnakes as a culture is simply false. Down to the idea that they are aggressive, or territorial (in the way that people use the word) and more, most of us just haven’t had an opportunity to learn factual information.
If you fear rattlesnakes, spend an afternoon going through these resources and watch what happens 🙂
Videos of early-spring rattlesnake captures and info:
More articles about making peace with rattlesnakes this spring:
The spring emergence of rattlesnakes is a big topic with homeowners and hikers – obviously we’ve discussed this in the past quite a lot! Here are some of those articles that can help make sense of it all.
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?
In Arizona we have scorpions, and lots of other little things that we don’t want inside our homes. A common way to deal with that is to lay down sticky glue traps in the garage and wherever they seem to be getting in. It works great for their intended target, but there are often some unintended victims.
Every year we are called to examine remains of snakes and lizards that crawled into the glue and died. While most wouldn’t care about this kind of thing, plenty of others (most likely like you, since you’re reading this) would rather the sticky stuff stick to scorpions and the leave the other critters free to go.
If it’s a venomous snake or you aren’t sure, don’t do anything yourself.
If a snake is venomous, it’s not worth the risk. Call a professional to assist. If you’re not sure if it’s venomous or not, take a photograph to send them.
How to get the snake free (no, you don’t have to touch it)
There’s a very simple answer that any house will have on-hand – non-stick cooking spray! The oil neutralizes the glue of the trap, allowing animals caught in the glue to work themselves free. Here’s how you do it:
Move the spray trap to a place where the animal can get away when it gets off the glue. If it’s a rattlesnake, don’t use your hands. Make sure it’s not moved into the sun or to a hot surface.
Lightly spray non-stick spray onto exposed glue in places where the snake hasn’t touched. This prevents it from getting re-stuck when it escapes.
Very carefully spray all around the animal, covering it in oil. Be extra careful around the head to not spray too much right onto the face of the snake if at all possible. If it is a rattlesnake or you’re not sure what it is, keep as much distance as you can. It may take a few minutes for the snake to work itself free, but there is no need to take any chances.
The snake will wriggle free and crawl off, smelling like popcorn.
Most of the time the snake will survive. Don’t worry about the snake being covered with oil. Dirt and dust will stick to the snake and it will be clean in a few days with no lasting damage.
Do glue traps even do the job?
Aside from the obvious issues of unintended victims, there’s the question of whether or not glue traps even help your situation at all. It needs more investigation, but it very well be the case that removing predators like geckos and whiptail lizards from the environment may leave you with even more scorpions and spiders than you could possibly catch in a trap.
Each year, we receive several calls during the weekend after Thanksgiving to capture and relocate rattlesnakes found in the garage or shed. The reason they are discovered? It’s that time of year to pull out the old Christmas decorations and shake out the spiders to once again staple a frayed fire hazard to the roof for a few weeks. As mentioned in another article, rattlesnakes love to use garages as winter dens. They’re warm (relatively), quiet, and free of predators. Even better, they’re often full of stuff that only gets touched once a year. Perfect!
What can you do?
Just keep the usual safety precautions in mind while digging into the holiday stuff:
Never reach into spaces that you can’t see. You may have to move boxes out to create a clear, visible space before reaching for them.
Never bring boxes with broken sides openings in them into the home, and be extra careful sorting through them initially.
If you do see a snake, leave it alone and call a professinal *ahem* to remove it safely and humanely.
Proceed with assaulting the neighborhood and local powergrid on that ladder that you really should have thrown out after last year’s incident.
Remember that rattlesnakes are just trying to stay out of the cold and are not actively trying to invade your space. If a door is left open, your shed or garage becomes just a cave to the local wildlife, so if you know you had the door open for a few days during September and October, be extra cautious.
If you do see a rattlesnake, call us at 480-237-9975 and we will be there before you can say “raisins in stuffing is an abomination”. Really though, we’re open for the holiday and can help if needed.
Out of town visiting guests may need a quick refresher
If you have family or friends visiting from cooler places where a rattlesnake showing up for Thanksgiving dinner isn’t really something that happens, it may be good to quickly let the kids (and uncle Steve) know to keep an eye out and leave any snake they see alone, no matter how many tv shows they’ve watched. It’s not common to see rattlesnakes in the open during this season outside the garage or shed situations described earlier, but as our call log proves, it does happen each year. If necessary, use the threat of a very distant possibility of rattlesnakes showing up to discourage certain family members from showing up.
This is one of the most seen rattlesnake videos on YouTube at the time (2010), with the snakes found in a garage as mentioned here. I get asked about it a lot, so here’s the story. Warning: it’s not as exciting as it may seem.
First, the video. It’s best viewed with the sound way up and watching very closely.
I got a call from a realtor who was trying to get this house rented out. It was in a desert neighborhood in North Scottsdale, Arizona, where rattlesnakes are quite common. I was told there were two rattlesnakes in the garage. I got my gear and headed out. When I arrived, I searched the entire structure outside, then inside, before going into the garage. I searched the entire 4 car garage, cabinets and all, before finally going back to the entryway to check one last closet. I took a peek inside, and there were 5 sleeping diamondbacks. I closed the door and did a second sweep of the garage just to make sure the capture would go smoothly. The rest, is as you have seen.
Of course this looks pretty scary, and I admit that I did jump back (you can hear me gasp), but I was not in danger.
First, most of the time that I spend working with rattlesnakes is in the dark. The top comment is always, why didn’t you just turn on the lights? To be simple, there was no power in the house and the door opener wasn’t going to work. Yes, I could have disengaged the chain and opened it manually, but really, I did not feel there was a need. There’s a whole part before I started the video recording where I did a systematic check of the entire area to make sure I knew where everybody was before actually moving in. There were 5 sleeping rattlesnakes in that very cold garage, and they weren’t going anywhere. Rattlesnakes strike at me all the time. No, it is not a safe situation, but I have enough experience to handle the situation.
Second, the phone adds some distance. The strike didn’t come nearly as close to me as it looks. I had a good 2 feet between the danger zone and myself at that time. The snakes, while not predictable, are not capable of some of the amazing feats they are often attributed. Mainly, once awake, they moved into defensive patterns, leaving me free to work with the bucket and capture them one at a time.
I regret having not handled them more gently. My concern was, only having one bucket, was to capture them as quickly as possible. While I am happy with the result, I should have put the phone down and concentrated more on the moment.
That night, after the video hit 150,000 views and hit the front page of Reddit.com, the news called me and wanted to come out and hear about what happened.
What happened to the snakes?
They were kept in similar conditions in my garage (in secure, buckets), and released to suitable habitat as soon as temperatures were such that they would be able to survive. They were all in just as good a mood as they crawled into the small cave I found for them to live in.
If you’re looking to move to Arizona, this question may be on your mind. Rattlesnakes seem to be everywhere in the state, so where can you buy a home and know what to expect? Fortunately, rattlesnakes are creatures of habit and where they are found tends to be fairly predictable. This is our overview of what we know about rattlesnakes and where they can be in the city, and a new tool we’ll be using to help communicate this to new Arizona residents.
Check the rattlesnake removal records!
While we will never make any information about an address or community public, we do share information based on zip code. Our removal activity log is available to the public, and is now searchable by zip code. If you’re curious about an area, pop in the zip code and you can see what kind of snake activity has occurred there. Keep in mind that zip codes can be large, so what happens at one house could be literally impossible just a couple of miles away. However, we won’t get more specific than this only to protect the privacy of our customers.
The further you are from native desert, the fewer rattlesnakes are found.
Rattlesnakes are specialized desert reptiles, which means that they aren’t great at new things. While a Sonoran Gophersnake or Kingsnake might be found deep into the valley, making use of well-watered lawns and a growing roof rat problem, rattlesnakes are different. Without the presence of native desert habitat, rattlesnakes will not be found.
If you select a home on the interior of the valley, more than a half-mile from the nearest native habitat, your chances of seeing a rattlesnake in your yard are exceedingly low. That doesn’t bar a freak happening, like a snake that hitches a ride in a truck or someone releasing one, but those aren’t meaningful considerations.
The 5-year “Snakey” scale
The easiest way to look at it would be to use this general formula. It’s based on an estimation from our experience and data collected from relocation calls over a 10 year period. It’s not exact, but can be used as a general guideline that is accurate enough to help make home-buying decisions. If you want to go deep on a lot of this, here’s peer-reviewed research using our relocation data to shows some of the reasons how and where contact zones occur.
The scale I will use here is how many rattlesnakes a homeowner may encounter per 5 year period of occupancy.For example: a score of 1.5 means that a homeowner can expect 1.5 rattlesnake encounters per 5 years of occupancy.
Score: 3on the Snakey Scale. From there, the second home or row (across the street) has a pretty high rate of encounter, but not nearly. Rattlesnakes tend to stick closer to access points. While they may be more inclined to just pop around the corner and stick to the wall, we nearly as often see them use the entire side of the first house into the second yard, and across the street as well. Homes in this situation will likely see a few rattlesnakes in a 5 year period of occupancy.
Score: 2.5on the Snakey Scale. Any home in the first street row backing up to the desert. The likelihood in these instances is that the snake could come from both sides, regardless of the placement of the wall. Fortunately this can be easliy fixed, which may dramatically reduce that figure.
Score: 1.5on the Snakey Scale. Homes across the street from the row immediately next to the edge of the desert may expect to see 1 or 2 rattlesnakes in the yard during a 5 year time period.
Score: 0.7on the Snakey Scale. Homes on the first 2 (or so) interior streets could encounter a rattlesnake at some point, but it’s also possible to not see one at all during a 5 year occupancy.
Score: 0.3on the Snakey Scale. Homes greater than 2 streets in from native desert habitat, but closer than 5 streets may see a rattlesnake in their yard at some point, but a slim majority will not.
Score: 0.1on the Snakey Scale. Homes more than 5 streets in, but less than 10, from the nearest native desert habitat could see a rattlesnake, but it’s not entirely likely. If it is one, it would more likely be due to construction, displacement, or a wandering baby rattlesnake. Around 1 in 5 homes will experience a rattlesnake in the yard in a 5-year stay.
Score: 0.05on the Snakey Scale. Homes that are more than 10 streets in from the nearest desert habitat will most likely never encounter a rattlesnake in their yard. However, it’s still a possibility, and homeowners should continue to be on guard and follow all of the available safety precautions.
Score: 0on the Snakey Scale. Homes on the interior of the city, more than a mile from the nearest native desert habitat, have almost no chance of seeing a rattlesnake in the yard. Having to cross numerous roadways, a maze of walls and fences, and limited access would make it incredibly hard for a rattlesnake to find its way there. In addition, there’s probably just nothing there that the snake would want, so it wouldn’t be all that motivated to make the journey.
But of course, it’s not that simple. Rattlesnakes are part of a dynamic system.
It should be stated about using this method, too, that there are many variables at play that have nothing to do with location. This is just a general guideline that we use ourselves when evaluating a property for likelihood of rattlesnake encounters. They can usually be mitigated by preparation and snake fencing, and ongoing education. This is also not an indication of how many rattlesnakes actually visit the property, but of how many may be encountered. If you’re a gardener, have a dog, or spend a lot of time in your backyard, you can expect a greater rate of encounter than someone who seldom goes back there.
This is also specific to rattlesnakes. Each group of snakes will have its own scale, based on what it needs and prefers. However, since they’re not harmful, we’re just talking about rattlesnakes here. However, you can use the same guide to loosely estimate similar results for other species, with the knowledge that it’s an entirely different ballgame for more adaptable species.
Additionally, this is based on natural rattlesnake behavior and excludes factors like construction or artificial placement, botched relocation jobs from the fire department, and other activity that more or less isn’t what a rattlesnake would choose to do. This list should not in any way be taken as a guarantee that you’ll never see a snake if you follow these general guidelines.
How do I know if it’s native desert, or where this scale should start from?
That can be tricky, since neighborhoods are not so black and white as described here. For instance, a 2-acre patch of desertscrub a couple miles into the city just doesn’t have the same quality or snake-carrying capacity as untouched saguaro and Sonoran desert at the edge of the valley … so be subjective.
A good rule of thumb: if you see cactus that wasn’t planted there by someone, you can count on that as being native habitat, and rattlesnakes probably live there. Especially with the presence of rodent holes, you can count on there at least being a strong likelihood of rattlesnake presence.
Watch the washes!
One particular feature to watch for are washes. To our friends moving here from outside the desert southwest: a wash is our word for “stream” or “creek”, or basically a drainage without water in it for most of the year. These areas are one of the most important features for rattlesnakes of most species, and much of their activity is centered around them. Think of washes like desert highways, where animals can travel, find food, and generally find quite useful.
In most of the neighborhoods at the edge of the desert, there are washes that snake deep into the interior of the community. This can’t be avoided – these washes are natural waterways and necessary to prevent flooding and other issues. However that does mean that these homes have a higher saturation level of contact with natural desert habitat than other neighborhoods might. In some areas, washes are common enough that there really aren’t any homes found that don’t score relatively high on our Snakey Scale. If you’re overly concerned with rattlesnakes (or snakes in general, really) the further your new home is from a wash, the better.
But, should you avoid your dream house if snakes are present? No!
Just like moving to the northeast might mean that ticks are on your list of concerns, or moving to Alaska might put bears on your radar, Arizona has snakes. For the most part, you made a pact with Arizona the moment you decided you’re moving here: snakes are here, but they might be part of your life.
If you find the perfect home, be careful not to rule it out because of snakes. For the most part, it’s just not the threat most people believe it to be. Even though the fear of them is certainly real, even that can be challenged and defeated in most cases. To either end, if you need any help to sort through it all, feel free to contact us about any area and we’ll tell you what we can. While we obviously can’t divulge any activity that’s actually happened at a house, we can advise on the general area and work with you to be comfortable … or to high-tail it to the center of the city!
Getting rattlesnake prevention done in the winter means it will be cheaper, better, completed faster and more smoothly, with the best customer service possible.
Cooler temperatures are here and rattlesnake activity is slow. Plans for your backyard that may have included preventative actions to keep rattlesnakes out of your yard are giving way for other stuff – holiday decorations or new patio furniture to enjoy Arizona’s perfect cooler season.
But don’t get too distracted – there are several reasons why the cooler months are actually the best time to take care of rattlesnake prevention. If keeping rattlesnakes out of your life is on your long term to-do list, you’ll want to read this to the end.
1. Pricing is as good as it gets – take advantage of winter discounts!
Like any business working with seasonal demand, the need for snake fence installation ebbs and flows alongside rattlesnake activity. If you know right now that keeping rattlesnakes away from your back patio is something you want to do, take advantage of this fact.
Snake fence installation companies almost always offer off-season discounts to help keep the schedule filled, and employees happy. If you wait, as most people do, until rattlesnake activity is at its peak in April – you can expect to pay full price and have less haggle room on the details. It’s classic supply and demand, and when you come in hot looking for snake fencing in December, it’s a buyer’s market.
2. Almost no waiting – Winter has the shortest wait times to have snake fencing installed, and faster completion.
Just like pricing, the winter buyer’s market means that you’ll almost certainly be waiting a lot less time to have your snake fence installed. During peak season (April or so), snake fence providers are absolutely flooded with calls. That means that they’re usually booked out to capacity, sometimes weeks in advance.
Odds are that you’re like most people, and are looking for snake prevention services because of something that happened – a scare with a rattlesnake in the yard, or an incident with a pet – and you need it done right now just to feel at ease in your own yard.
Unfortunately, if you’re waiting for such an event before taking action, you’re in the same boat with everyone else, and may have to wait in line. You can beat the rush by taking advantage of the natural winter slowdown. In most cases, if you shop for snake fence installation in the dead of winter, you can have it installed as early as the next day.
Even better – without the brutal conditions of an Arizona summer, the installers can work longer hours. That means your snake fence will not only be completed sooner during the winter months, but the actual installation time itself will be shorter.
3. Being proactive about something as important as rattlesnake prevention can make a huge difference for the safety of your family and pets
Most people tend to wait until there’s an incident before finally biting the bullet and taking action. That incident is often just seeing a rattlesnake, but more unfortunate situations are also common.
As rattlesnake fence installers ourselves, we have a front-row seat to some very scary and sad encounters that have prompted action. Too often, we are called because a dog has been bitten by a rattlesnake, or in some cases, a family member.
Just like any other type of preventative action, rattlesnake fencing installed proactively can prevent the incident that would otherwise invoke action. If snake fencing is something you know you want to do at some point, don’t wait until an accident happens to get it done.
If you live where rattlesnakes do, proper and professionally installed snake fencing is your best insurance policy, and you can save yourself a lot of stress by getting it done early. While everyone else is panicking on Facebook over a snake seen in the neighborhood, you’ll rest easy knowing you’ve already taken care of it.
If you saw a rattlesnake at your place this year, you have the best opportunity to stop a repeat of that encounter right now.
4. There is a much lower chance of a snake being trapped in the yard
Rattlesnake fencing works both ways – when rattlesnake fencing is installed initially, there’s always some chance that you already have a rattlesnake in your yard, which would now become trapped. Obviously, you’d want to avoid this.
During the cooler months, from late October through late March, rattlesnake activity away from the den is at its lowest levels. More or less, rattlesnakes aren’t traveling very much.
5. The best customer service of the year is in the cooler months
This one is just about time! You should see our rattlesnake prevention team in April – driving from house to house as fast as they safely can and making phone calls in between, trying to keep up with the flood. It’s an exciting time and we all love it, but sometimes we just don’t get to spend as much time as we’d really want to with each property.
During the slower winter months, a rattlesnake prevention specialist simply has more time to be available. As a result, you may have a more relaxed and attentive experience. It’s certainly not that someone who calls in April is any less important, but the odds greatly increase that it could go to voicemail than be answered on the first ring.
By having your rattlesnake prevention done during the winter, you’ll be one of a handful of clients at the time and will likely get even more attention from the staff. Not only that, but you’ll probably have more time to ask a lot of questions that have less to do with snake fencing and prevention, and more to do with increasing your general knowledge on the subject. As with most things, the more you know about how rattlesnakes may be interacting with your property, the better prepared you’ll be and the better you’ll feel about living in your home.
6. Rattlesnakes are never truly “gone” in Arizona.
In areas of urban conflict, we’re unfortunately not exactly on nature’s schedule for activity. Every time ground is broken on a new development, rattlesnakes there are displaced – sometimes into adjacent neighborhoods. Despite being slower, our rattlesnake relocation hotline is active and receives calls for service throughout the winter.
Most of these winter rattlesnakes are due to construction, but even smaller projects can do the same. If the neighbor a few houses down tears down the old shed, any rattlesnakes using it need to find new cover in a hurry. If the HOA decides to clear brush along the shared viewfence wall, you can expect the same. Regardless of the natural behavior of rattlesnakes, human-caused variables keep our rattlesnake relocation team active all year. There is truly no time where getting a snake fence is a frivolous effort.
The most important reason – the people you care about.
This article has some no-brainer reasons why it’s better to take care of rattlesnake prevention during the slow months. However, the biggest factor has nothing to do with cost or convenience.
The holidays and early new-year are when we most often host visitors. This is when we all get together (in a normal year, that is) to celebrate whatever needs to be celebrated, and guilt one another into eating way too much pie. It’s when we have our first backyard grill party, and invite co-workers over to watch the superbowl.
In Arizona, the cool months are the time when you’re most likely to have the people you care about in your backyard, and you will want to know they are safe. Above all else, thinking ahead and getting out in front of prime rattlesnake season will be the best thing you can do to keep yourself, your family, and your pets safe.
Summer has left us, and cooler temperatures are on the horizon. Yet, rattlesnakes are still incredibly active. In fact, the pre-hibernation flurry of activity means that encounters will be on the rise for a short amount of time.
In just a few short weeks, rattlesnakes need to eat and drink as much as they can, find mates, and travel long distances to their selected winter refuges. That can put them in conflict with people and pets, both on the trail and at home.
Here are some easy things you can do right now to get your property in shape so that any rattlesnakes that might be eyeballing your place as a winter den will keep on crawling.
1. Take care of that long-neglected landscaping project.
We all have one … that overgrown bush along the back wall that just never gets priority treatment, or that messy stack of agave that’s firmly on the “take care of that someday list”. Well, now’s the time! These may be opportunities for rattlesnakes to find the thermal protection they need to den for the winter.
Over the years, we have removed hundreds of rattlesnakes from overgrown lantana, rosemary, and others. Any plants that tend to drop a lot of leaf-litter are suspect. That deep layer of organic material retains moisture and provides thermal protection.
Time for a yearly deep-maintenance landscaping check in. The rule of thumb: if you can see the ground under a ground-laying bush from above, it’s properly maintained.
2. Make any repairs to, and clean up, the pool equipment areas.
As we’ve mentioned many times, pool equipment is a favorite rattlesnake den for the winter. Concrete pads with rodents, combined with relatively high ambient moisture and a little vibration every time they turn on and off, means the formation of caves. These caves, even though they don’t look like much, can go deep, and be the perfect home for rattlesnakes and other animals.
The back corner of the property, complete with the little wall that usually hides it, is made to forget. For that reason, it often doubles as a graveyard for deflated pool toys, pavers, and old buckets.
Spend a little time this Saturday filling in any holes you find with gravel, repairing any concrete you need to, and cleaning it out. If there are no tunnels, the area is useless for rattlesnakes.
3. Bulk pickup day!
If you’re like most of us, you have a stack of roofing tiles or pavers someone on the property. We stack them there to deal with later, maybe have them around just in case a tile breaks or … whatever. But let’s be honest with ourselves; it’s been years and we haven’t touched them.
Time to go! Especially if stored near a wall or against the foundation of the home, as they tend to be, rodents will use them. These situations where rodents create tunnels under a stack of bricks are absolutely perfect for rattlesnakes to use during the winter. Fortunately, it’s as easy to take care of as posting “free pavers! come and get em” on Facebook Marketplace.
Any other debris, too, has to go. You’d be surprised to learn how many winter rattlesnakes we pull out of situations like debris from the previous-summers kitchen remodel, old pool toys and unused stuff of all kinds. If you need a little motivation to finally kick this stuff to the curb, here it is: RATTLESNAKES WILL LIVE IN YOUR YARD IF IT’S THERE. Feel free to use that with your spouse this Saturday. You’re welcome.
4. Get snake fencing installed already.
If you live in Arizona, snake fence installations are probably something you’re familiar with. It’s a physical barrier that is designed and installed in such a way that it keeps them out of an area. If done properly by a reputable company *cough cough*, you could make rattlesnake heaven in the backyard and they’d not be able to come in.
Unlike the other items on this list, this one isn’t free. However, it is the most effective way to go, and removes the subjectivity. While everything else will have a high likelihood to decrease the chances of seeing a rattlesnake, snake fencing all-out prevents it.
If getting a snake fence installed has been on your list for awhile, right now is the best time to do it. It’s also near the end of the season, so discounts may be available. Here’s a massive and detailed guide of what to look for in a snake fence provider to help you in your snake-free journey.
5. Seal up and clean out the garage.
If someone told you about a spacious, comfortable house … kept nice and warm (or cool), secure and safe, with free food … oh, and free … would you move in? Rattlesnakes say “YES”! The house we’re talking about is your garage. Every winter and early Spring, we get many calls for rattlesnakes who’ve found a comfy garage to spend the cool months.
That stack of boxes along the back wall? That’s cover. To you the garage may be highschool yearbook and christmas tree storage, to snakes it’s a furnished condo. If possible, find another spot for storage. Especially along the walls, rattlesnakes will take advantage of easy hiding spots.
If you are storing in your garage, use plastic boxes with lids so that rodents and snakes can’t use them, too. You can also get storage shelves (easy to buy and install from Amazon and other places) so that they’re up off the ground at least 5 or 6 inches. These actions help reduce the thermal protection that is attractive to snakes.
You should also seal it up! It doesn’t take long for hot weather and rodents to make short work of the rubber seal on the garage door. If your garage door doesn’t close to allow no greater than 1/4″ at any point, you should consider calling a garage door company out to get it replaced. They may have a seal option that is made to keep bugs out, which would work just fine for rattlesnakes as well.
6. Fix any cracks or openings in the foundation
Not only for homes, but external garages and sheds, too. If there’s access under the home, animals will find it and use it. Rattlesnakes certainly do, too. If you notice that there’s a way in or under the foundation of your home, don’t wait to get it fixed.
Walk the property perimeter (this only takes a few minutes) and identify any potential issues. If you want to fix them quickly, you can get something from Home Depot to quickly seal it up. Or, have a concrete repair company make the repairs … you’ll want to get on that quickly, though.
7. Attend to the wood pile!
It’s almost firewood season! Unfortunately, rattlesnakes are excited, too. The pile of debris at the side of your house that you haven’t touched since last year is a dream scenario for rodents and snakes alike. It’s basically a free log cabin.
Fortunately, there are a couple of easy fixes here:
Use a stand or lift to keep the firewood up off the ground at least 6 inches. This will eliminate much of the thermal protection and make it useless to snakes.
Move the location of the woodpile each year. Even if it’s to the spot immediately next to it, it will help. When a woodpile has been in the same location for years, it invites rodents, often has tunnels under it, rotting material, and all the good stuff that they like.
8. Go deep! Go through the full checklist
The steps you take to keep rattlesnakes away from the yard are really not different than you’d do in other times of year, though the priority may shift to those potential den situations. If you want to do more, that’s always better. Review the Ultimate Guide to Keep Rattlesnakes Away and follow all instructions that apply.
What to expect.
If you take care of these items, and have an overall perspective of keeping habitat opportunities to a minimum, you will likely never see a rattlesnake in the winter. The spots that they choose are very specific, allowing them to survive and wait for Spring. If none of these spots are offered, your yard is simply not useful.
Usually, based on call volume to our snake relocation hotline and surveys, rattlesnakes are more or less where they intend to be for the Winter by the second week of November. That means that October will be busy. You can expect the most activity to occur in the late afternoon until about 1 hour after sunset. It’s important to keep your garage doors closed during this time, even as weather finally becomes more reasonable.
A rattlesnake in the backyard is one thing … but how about in the house, in the bedroom, and even under the bed? It happens, though, thankfully very rarely.
The thing is: rattlesnakes don’t want to be in your home. There are species of snakes that get in often, daily even, like Nightsakes and baby Longnosed snakes. Rattlesnakes, on the otherhand, for one reason or another just don’t make an effort to come inside. If I were to assume, based on how rattlesnakes handle stress and modify their behavior accordingly, the activity inside a home makes them less than ideal hiding spots.
How often does a rattlesnake get inside?
Fortunately, Rattlesnake Solutions has a very large collection of human-conflict data of this sort from over ten thousand individual encounters. It happens, but not very often.
Of all encounters we’ve documented, fewer than 100 were rattlesnakes inside the home. If you remove homes that were previously abandoned, missing entire walls, or in a condition where they should be condemned … you end up with fewer than 40. That puts the chances of a rattlesnake encounter in your home, based on snake removal records, at 0.4%. That puts it into a solid “don’t worry about it and go on with your day” category.
Most of the time, a call to catch a rattlesnake inside a home ends up with a Desert Nightsnake in our bucket. These little guys look quite a bit like a rattlesnake and are often mistaken for them.
How does a rattlesnake get into the house?
Fortunately, rattlesnakes are easy to keep out of the house. They come in the same way we do – right through the front door. Most of the time, a rattlesnake inside a house, and in fact a good portion of the other types of snakes as well, come in through a door left open.
Who leaves the door open in Arizona? Everyone, it seems, on the right cool day. Especially our midwestern friends, where it seems an open backdoor on a breezy spring day is a normal thing, tend to leave that sliding door open a bit during prime rattlesnake activity time.
On other relocation calls where we’ve captured rattlesnakes inside the home, the situation is often similar. A home with a wall partially removed during construction, a partially-completed vent removal allowing access, large gaps under garage doors or patio doors, etc. Simply, if there is access to inside the home, animals may find their way in.
What’s going on with this photo of the rattlesnake under a bed?
This photo was from an apartment complex in the North Phoenix, Cave Creek area. Mitch ran out to capture it. Upon arriving, he assumed it would be another nightsnake (which it often is) and had to run back out to the car to get his tongs and bucket after seeing this.
He was able to quickly and safely capture it. But how and why was it in there? And does the resident need to worry about more of them?
As we described earlier, it turns out that the resident left the home for less than 5 minutes, leaving the door slightly ajar. That’s all the time it takes for a wandering rattlesnake to find the cool, air conditioned “cave”, and slip inside.
This also does not mean there are others. Rattlesnakes, while being quite social in a variety of situations, are most often found at homes alone. They do not, as a popular myth goes, travel in pairs.
This also does not indicate that there are more rattlesnake encounters in the Cave Creek area … that is just true, regardless of this particular encounter.
How to keep rattlesnakes out of the house?
The best way to keep rattlesnakes out of your home is to keep doors closed and eliminate access, down to a 1/4″ space.
Sometimes that can be tricky, however. Something we have seen with homes in the valley is an issue with how cabinets are put together. This seems to be the reason behind a majority of nightsnake visits, and at least a few rattlesnakes.
If you look under the sink in your kitchen or bathroom, you’ll most likely see the pipes disappearing into the wall in an orderly, well-sealed way. Behind the cabinets, though, is a different story. The pipes coming into the home may be unsealed. That means if there are any gaps under the cabinet overhang (there most often are), there’s a direct highway from under the home to your bedroom bathroom. This may also be the cause for your scorpion and rodent issues.
The easy fix? Seal the gaps under the cabinet overhang. You could go through the trouble to pull out the whole cabinet, but without knowing for sure there’s a problem to begin with, that’s probably overkill. A Saturday afternoon with some expanding foam is all you likely need.
The other thing you should do is to take steps to reduce the overall number of rattlesnakes visiting your property. That is best done by a combination of property modification (landscaping, etc., here’s our step-by-step guide) and physical barriers, like properly sealed garage doors and rattlesnake fence installation.
So rest easy. While a rattlesnake inside the home is something that does happen from time to time, it’s nothing to be overly concerned with. No need to call the realtor or burn the house down; just keep the door closed and you’ll be just fine.
Better late than never – rattlesnakes are giving birth, even without the rain. One of the services we offer are serial property inspections, to continuously monitor properties to evaluate possible rattlesnake activity and provide recommendations to landscapers, pest control, and property managers.
We have been inspecting this particular property for many years, and this is the most interesting thing found there to date.
On the previous inspection, Greyson noted a shed skin in an area at the edge of the property. Knowing a fresh shed during this hot and dry period could indicate an estivation den nearby, he focused on that spot during his visit yesterday, and, whoa.
Here is what was found: a late-season estivation den with a mixed bag of Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes, with one having given birth in the recent past, and another in a deep blue phase (preparing to shed skin)
While this is not entirely unusual, what is different about this year is that we are seeing that rattlesnakes are having their babies later than usual, and they are doing so in their estivation dens instead of moving to their usually-preferred birthing spots.
This is likely a response to our exceptionally hot (the hottest on record) summer and near-complete lack of rain. This is similar to a recent visit to a home by Dave in Tucson (I’ll be posting this shortly as well) where he captured a total of 14 rattlesnakes.
Are rattlesnakes giving birth later this year than normal?
According to our observations and activity on the relocation hotline: yes, it appears that rattlesnakes are having babies later this year than usual. In a normal year, we start to receive our first calls to capture groups of mother Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes with their newborn babies in early July, usually hitting its peak around the first week of August, then trickling in here or there until around the first week of September. This year, it took much longer for this to be normal, only now (mid-August) has it become routine.
Likewise, rattlesnakes seen in informal surveys and in our study of rattlesnakes in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve have shown that Western Diamondback Rattlesnake and Tiger Rattlesnakes that would have likely given birth by now are still languishing in a gravid (pregnant) state at estivation dens.
While this is in no way a full representation of what’s happening out there, but does represent 10 years of data collection and informal survey observations. It should also be noted that while this is the case in the Phoenix and Tucson areas, it is unlikely to represent behavior in other regions.
Why are baby rattlesnakes being born later this year than usual?
This year makes that a little bit tougher than normal. If monsoon rain triggers pregnant rattlesnakes to give birth, what happens when there is no rain at all?
They have to give birth eventually … so what we are seeing is this: The mother rattlesnakes are staying at estivation sites (spots selected to hide away during the hottest summer months) far longer than they normally would. Rather than moving to a birthing site as they normally would, they are having their babies right in place.
This likely isn’t good for the babies, ultimately and unfortunately. They lose moisture more than twice as quickly as adults (J. Agugliaro, H. Reinert 2005). Unless we get some rain soon, that could be big trouble for this year’s babies. We’re hoping for the best, but looking at the forecast … hoping is all there is to do.
How homeowners can keep baby rattlesnakes out of the yard
Keeping the smallest rattlesnakes out of your area is a bit different than the larger ones.
First, the space they need to get in is much smaller … anything more than about a third of an inch can allow access. Second, they make frequent movements and may not necessarily know where they’re going. Unlike adults, who’ve had a lifetime to map out a homerange, babies may show up any place, any time. For that reason, physical barriers are the best bet. Rather than go too far into detail here, I’ll refer you to our guide to keep baby rattlesnakes out of the yard.
Schuett, G.W., Repp, R.A., Hoss, S.K. and Herrmann, H.‐W. (2013), Parturition in a Desert Rattlesnake. Biol J Linn Soc Lond, 110: 866-877. doi:10.1111/bij.12166
Agugliaro J, Reinert HK. Comparative skin permeability of neonatal and adult timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus). Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2005;141(1):70-75. doi:10.1016/j.cbpb.2005.04.002