It was a sight I hoped I’d never see: a writhing ball of baby snakes on my property. This wish—born of a deep, primal phobia—is one of the reasons I live in the mountains at 8,000 feet. Black bears, fine. Mountain lions, okay. But snakes, giving birth to more snakes, under a pile of boulders near my front porch? I swear I’d rather swim with a school of sharks.
At least my snakes—good old garters—aren’t poisonous. And they do make short work of our perpetual mouse problem. But in Waco, Texas, in the past month, bigger, uglier legless reptiles have been winding their way into people’s houses. In one instance, a woman walked past a three-foot-long rat snake curled around the lamp on her nightstand.
She told reporters from the Waco Tribune that she thought the snake was a “belt.” Cops from the local sheriff’s department came out and removed the “tightly wound” reptile.
Not long after, another family reported hearing “screeching” in a bedroom closet, after which they opened the door and saw another three-footer squeezing the life out of a rat.
In both instances, police said the snakes slithered inside after emerging from hibernation with the warm spring temperatures. They came through open doors and windows, when no one was looking. Already in the past month, police said they responded to “10-to-15” reports, including ones of snakes hiding behind stoves and TVs, snakes curled in the corners of windowsills, and snakes perched on top of car gas tanks, riding around, one presumes, to the mall.
I have no idea why I find it strange that any creature would seek out a cool, dry shelter that also happens to be a human dwelling. But in case you live in one of the states where snakes are becoming habituated to urban development, here are a few tips from the Humane Society of America for how to “snake proof” your dwelling. (Warning to snake fearers: This may gross you out.)
According to the Humane Society website, snakes usually enter buildings at ground level, some fitting through tiny cracks or holes no more than one-eighth inch wide. (Are you kidding?!) So if you do embark on a snake-proofing project, start from the ground up.Closely inspect the foundation. Snakes like to slither in through unsealed wire or pipe conduits, or basement windows or doors that do not seal tightly. Seal these openings—plus others at or near ground level—immediately. (If you’ve already found a snake in your house, remember what size he was and look for openings large enough for the snake’s head to pass through.) Some snakes are also good climbers, and trees, shrubs, stone walls or chimneys may provide access to the roof. So be sure to check for openings around the eaves and roof. Inspect the space behind concrete porches, steps, and decks, which all attach to the house. Once the entire exterior has been inspected and one or more openings have been discovered, decide which opening is likely to be the main snake entrance. Seal all the openings except the suspected main entrance. On that opening, install a one-way door for snakes.
In the Waco Tribune story, a police officer Sanchez theorized that much of the fear of snakes is rooted in the element of surprise.
Snakes blend in to their natural environment, and once seen, the startle factor can be high — injuries involving an encounter with a snake frequently involve people hurting themselves in their haste to get away from them, Sanchez told a reporter.
“City snakes,” meanwhile, may just be more noticeable because of the urban background.
“They’re still here, they just don’t have a place to go,” Sanchez said. “So you see them more often.”
Do you live in an area affected by snake season? Tell us about your most memorable encounter in the Comments.
Wildlife in the Urban Jungle