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How to Rattlesnake Proof a Backyard

Living in rattlesnake country can mean the occasional, or even more frequent, visits from rattlesnakes in your own backyard. Guarding against this is not always easy but there are both actions and precautions that you can take. Many of these steps will also keep out other snakes, although be aware that some snakes are good to keep around if you don't mind them, as they deter rattlesnakes.


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    Add a low level rattlesnake proof fence around the backyard. While this is not a cheap option, it does work and can reassure you that a particular zone of your home is safe from rattlesnakes. In fact, you don't need to even wall off the whole backyard - you can select an area for the children to play in, for pets to frolic in and for entertainment purposes and only fence off that part. This becomes the "safety zone". Just make sure these specifications are followed in order for the fence to be effective:
    • Use mesh that is not wider than a quarter of an inch in diameter or use solid material. Any untextured material is best because snakes cannot climb smooth surfaces as they cannot get a grip.
    • Make the fence to a minimum height of three feet.
    • Take care with corners, so as not to create a "bellyhold" (snake for "toehold") on the fence.
    • Bury the fence to a minimum of 12 inches (30.5 cm) under the ground.
    • Be careful with any gates. If you don't join the fence to the walls of your house, it is important to ensure that any gate has no gaps on the sides and sits flush with the ground. It can help to place a concrete slab directly under the gate going into the ground as a deterrent - this must sit flush with the base of the gate. This is a time when precision building is very important.
    • Maintain the fence - all gaps, holes and dirt collapses must be dealt with quickly to prevent possible entry-points from weakening the fence.
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    Remove shrubs, overhanging vegetation and any other plants from the perimeter of the fence. Do not lean anything against the fence that a rattlesnake might be able to use as leverage to crawl over.
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    Check under and around the house. Look for gaps, areas that a rattlesnake can access underneath the house and fill, plug or board off these areas. Under the house is an ideal environment for a snake, so take care to discourage this. Check the walls, the foundations, steps, etc.
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    Keep wood piles and any other materials stored in your backyard away from the home. If you already have piles, be careful when removing them.
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    Keep the rodents under control. Don't provide a tasty food source. Get rid of mice, rats and other rodents feasting about your home and you will remove a major source of rattlesnake attractant. This is especially important around areas where animal food is stored on farms.
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    Keep other food sources out of the reach of snakes. This means keeping pet food inside or covered. Garbage cans should be securely covered at all times.
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    Eliminate rattlesnake homes and nesting-sites. Potential homes for rattlesnakes should be removed from the area around your home. This includes such things as wood piles, rock piles, garbage piles, long grass, brush, undergrowth, piles of building materials, animal burrows, etc. Think about the places that would be cozy for a snake to move into and remove them. But be careful when you remove them! There may already be a rattlesnake in residence.
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    Keep lawns and fields around the house mowed. A short lawn or field is not a great place to hide and makes it very easy for you to spot a rattlesnake taking a shortcut. Be careful, however, not to provide sheltering places such as piles of timber or rocks that create safety stations for snakes crossing short grass, or you will not succeed in discouraging them.
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    Know your snakes! Some snakes can be good to have around as they deter rattlesnakes from hanging about through natural competition. Of course, this depends on your own level of squeamishness about having any snakes at all in your backyard! If you don't mind the snakes, consider encouraging:
    • Gopher snakes (they get quite irritated with encroaching snakes on their territory)
    • Kingsnakes (they kill and eat rattlesnakes)
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    Remain calm. If you do discover a rattlesnake in your backyard, keep calm. Send children, pets and scared adults indoors immediately. Wait for the snake to leave. Call for professional assistance if you are concerned that the rattlesnake may be settling in but if you have made your yard as unfavorable to a snake as possible, the snake will leave if given the chance. Most rattlesnakes will only strike if acting in self-defense. If you remain out of the way, there will be no strikes.


  • When weighing the costs of building a rattlesnake proof fence, also consider that the fence will have other benefits, such as keeping in pets and children and keeping out other snakes, and garden foraging pests such as rabbits, javelinas (peccaries), etc. A fence can also make your home look great and just think how much more tempting barbecues at your home become when your friends know that you have the rattlesnake proof backyard!
  • Many of these steps can be applied to deterring venomous snakes in other parts of the world, although naturally you will need to substitute the natural predators of snakes with ones local to your region and there may be different fence size and style needs.
  • Keep an eye on pets. Dogs are naturally curious. Attach them to a leash or provide them with a fenced-off run if your yard contains rattlesnakes. Dogs can be put through "rattlesnake avoidance classes".
  • Despite the belief that reptiles need a really hot environment, snakes are not able to survive on hot, bare surfaces for any length of time and will avoid them. Hence, creating short grass and cemented, tiled or other hot surfaces around your house will help to discourage snakes.


  • Remember that juvenile rattlesnakes can be very small and just as dangerous as adults. When constructing any barrier, keep this in mind.
  • Killing a snake does not prevent other snakes from coming to the backyard; prevention is a better cure.
  • Use of Naphthalene flakes or mothballs (Paradichlorobenzene or 1,4-Dichlorobenzene) are not effective at repelling snakes. However they can repel insects and small rodents, which do attract rattlesnakes. Depending on their use, these products may not be good for your health either.
  • If you do find a snake in your yard and it does not leave or appears trapped, call your local animal control or fire department if applicable. Do not try to kill the snake, as you may be injured.
  • Commercial snake repellents which include clove oil, mint oil, cayenne pepper, cinnamon powder or sulfur may be somewhat effective. However they are never as effective as creating a physical barrier between your yard and the snake.

Things You'll Need

  • Good quality fencing material and fence-building tools
  • Time to scout out the property for problem spots
  • Gloves, good boots and flashlight for removing existing problem spots such as timber piles etc.
  • Plant removal tools (for example, secateurs, lopping cutters)
  • Lawn or grass mower
  • Humane source of rodent removal
  • Covers for pet bowls and garbage cans

Article Info

Categories: Animal and Insect Safety