Snakes in the Garden

Snakes in the Garden

By Michael Jenkins

As the weather warms up, all sorts of critters are becoming more active and more visible, and thus we’re seeing more of them in our gardens. While seeing birds, squirrels, and the like can be a wonderful and fun reminder that spring is here, there are some other creatures that might be less welcome at first. These include snakes. Most gardeners have an occasional encounter with a snake—the conditions we create in our gardens are often ideal snake habitats—and while snakes may evoke fear or anxiety in some people the reality is that most snakes in North America are harmless to humans.  While there are venomous snakes around and you should learn to identify them, many of the snakes you encounter can actually be beneficial to your garden space. Let’s dig in to learn a bit more about snakes, your garden, and the role snakes play.

Will Snakes Eat My Plants?

Let’s start off with a big, obvious question: will snakes eat the plants in your garden? The reality is that all known snakes are carnivores—meaning that they eat other animals—and as such they’ll leave your plants alone. It’s easy to imagine a snake taking a bit out of an almost-ripe tomato; after all, everything else in the garden seems to! However snakes will leave your plants alone, as they have other things they eat. While their diet varies from species to species and location to location, in general most of the snakes found in North America eat insects, small animals, and occasionally other snakes. They can thus be a benefit to your garden—a single snake can eat an entire colony of grasshoppers or mice in a summer!

What to Do If You Find a Snake in Your Garden

The first thing to remember if you find a snake in your garden is “don’t panic!” Snakes by and larger do not seek out confrontations  with humans unless they feel threatened, and the majority of snakes will attempt to flee at the sight of a human. Stay calm and move away slowly. Try to get a look at the snake if you can do so in a way that is safe for both you and it. If the snake is venomous, you may want to contact an animal control specialist about removing it to a safer place for both of your sakes’.

So what if the snake you find is non-venomous? Well, in that case you can just leave it where it is. If you’re active in your garden, it will most likely move to a quieter place on its own in a day or two, or learn to stay out of your way. As we mentioned above, snakes are  beneficial to the garden in many ways and as long as they’re not venomous they’re no danger to you. If you have pets or small children, keep an eye on them if there’s a benign snake about as they may attempt to “play” with the snake and thus cause it harm.


If You Just Don’t Like Snakes . . .

Snakes are creatures that spark fascination in some people and anxiety or even fear in others. If you’re one of the latter, we understand! It’s absolutely OK to contact animal control or a pest removal service about taking the snake away someplace else. This is your garden, and you deserve to feel comfortable here. However, we do suggest you give it a day or two as snakes very often move on their own when they realize there are larger creatures around.  And please don’t harm or kill the snake—they’re just trying to live too and they’re important to the health of the ecosystem around you!


So, the reality is that snakes live in many of the same places we garden, and that our gardens can create ideal conditions for snakes. While some snakes are dangerous to humans, the majority are not and can actually benefit our gardens and help keep our plants healthy and pest free. The best thing to do is learn to recognize venomous snakes, react calmly if you do see a snake in your garden, and then take an appropriate action to keep both you and the snake healthy and safe.

Do you have snakes in your garden? What kind? What do you do when you see one? Let us know your experiences and any tips you have for living and gardening with snakes!

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