Searching for snakes in a crawlspace

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July 26, 2021

By

July 26, 2021


A chipmunk on the wood beams stares down a snake under a bird feeder in the author’s backyard. PHOTO: JUDY BLACK, BCE

A chipmunk on the wood beams stares down a snake under a bird feeder in the author’s backyard. PHOTO: JUDY BLACK, BCE

QUESTION:

Hi Judy. I was conducting a termite reinspection and found snakeskins in the crawlspace. I told the homeowners about it, and they really want me to get out any snakes that might be in there. I didn’t see a snake, but rat snakes (Colubrinae) are pretty common around here. Any suggestions on how to approach this?
—Seeking Nifty Answers, Kindly Explain

ANSWER:

Thank you, SNAKE, for conducting a comprehensive termite reinspection. It’s important to the entire industry that we do a great job on those reinspections, so it’s wonderful that you are realizing how important it is to get into the crawlspace.

Snakeskins in a dark crawlspace will certainly get your heart pumping, even if you are fairly sure it’s a nonvenomous rat snake. Before you do anything, though, make sure you have the proper licensing in your state to perform snake work. It may be under a wildlife category, not general household pest control.

I’m of the “live and let live” mentality, generally speaking, with snakes and other wildlife when they are on the exterior of the home. But wildlife inside the home is a whole different ball game.

I would think of this in four phases:

  1. Get rid of the food source. As their common name suggests, the primary food for rat snakes is rodents. Set traps in and around the home to see whether you have an active rodent issue. Monitoring bait blocks also might be useful.
  2. Get rid of any harborage/den material, such as wood or other debris. Don’t forget about bird feeders. They can attract rodents to the dropped seeds, which then attract snakes.
  3. Seal up entry points, for both snakes and rodents. Most rodent-proofing material also will keep out snakes.
  4. Address the snake situation. You noted you didn’t see any snakes during your inspection, but I’d still recommend a comprehensive search for them inside.
    If you find them — and are trained to remove them — get them out of there. A snake stick (snake tongs) is your best bet. Don’t forget to wear your personal protective equipment (PPE). Keep in mind the time of year, as well. If it’s winter, you are unlikely to find that well-hidden snake in its hibernaculum.

If you are confident you found a snake entry point but did not find a snake, you could install a one-way device, similar to those used with bats, for a couple days. This would allow the snake to exit if all other entry points are sealed.

Last, but not least, I often am asked about snake repellents. If you have resident snakes, repellents are less likely to have an impact. But if the snakes are merely “passing through,” repellents may discourage them from taking up residence.

Email your questions about insect identification and pest management technologies to pmpeditor@northcoastmedia.net. Your questions most likely will be printed and answered in one of Pest Management Professional’s upcoming columns.

About the Author

BLACK is a PMP Hall of Fame member (Class of 2019) and VP of quality assurance and technical service for Rollins Inc. She may be reached at jblack@rollins.com.

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