A Guide to Black Snakes - House Method (2023)

Finding various critters and small animals while working on yourlawn and gardenis expected. However, coming across a snake can be shocking. Many snakes in the U.S. can be dangerous, and some can even grow to become an infestation if left unattended. However, think twice before calling an exterminator if you encounter a small, black, white-bellied snake. This species is called the black rat snake, or itsscientific name pantherophis obsoletus, or elaphe obsoleta, and it can be handy to have around.

What is a Black Snake?

Also known as the western black rat snake, eastern rat snake, or by its more common name, the black snake is a non-venomous snake native to the central and eastern sections of the United States. Also known as “pilot snake” or “chicken snake,” it’s often confused with a black racer snake – another non-venomous snake. Black snakes live in various habitats, from rocky hillsides to low-lying plains, forests, and abandoned structures. Their favored prey is small rodents, birds, bird eggs, frogs, lizards, amphibians, chipmunks, voles, and other small mammals. They have slick, shiny black bodies with white chins and bellies.

Interesting Facts About Black Rat Snakes

  • They get their name from their favored prey: These snakes take their name from their favorite food, rats. Similarly, they get their nickname “chicken snake” for being found around chicken coops.
  • They’re shaped like a loaf of bread: These snakes are not shaped like a cylinder. Instead, their bellies meet the rest of their bodies at an angle, giving them a bread loaf shape.
  • They do not hibernate: While most snakes hibernate, these snakes brumate. This process is similar to hibernation but still allows for a partial activity like drinking water or becoming temporarily active if it becomes warmer.
  • They’re one of the longest snakes in central North America: On average, they grow to a length of four to five feet but are known to be as large as up to eight feet long. This length makes them one of the longest snakes in the United States. They’re also the largest snake species found in Georgia.
  • They’re copycats: They will imitate other venomous snakes by “rattling” their tails to scare away predators. This tendency has resulted in people confusing them for other, more dangerous species.
  • They’re excellent climbers: These snakes are known for their impressive climbing ability and can quickly slither up trees, rocks, and even structures. Unlike other climbing snakes that require tree branches, black snakes are powerful enough climbers to ascend the trunk of a tree directly.
  • They emit a musty smell: If threatened, they emit a pheromone with a thick musk; this is a defense mechanism to deter predators.
  • Black snakes are not an endangered species: Black rat snakes arenot an endangered species. They have the current status of “stable,” meaning they have a solid and active population.
  • They can swallow objects larger than their head: They’re very adept swallowers, able to swallow objects much larger than their head. They’re also known for eating things that smell similar to or resemble prey; this often occurs with artificial eggs made of porcelain or wood designed to stimulate egg laying in chicken coops. However, they’re also known to swallow objects like golf balls and glass bottles.

Myths About Black Rat Snakes

  • They keep other poisonous snakes away: Having one of these snakes around your property will not reduce the chances of other, more dangerous snakes. This myth comes from the confusion between them and racer snakes; racer snakes will occasionally kill and eat other snakes.
  • They lead other snakes to safety: This myth is where they get the nickname “pilot snake,” as they pilot other snakes to safety during the winter months. While it’s not true that they lead other snakes to safety, they’ll occasionally brumate alongside other snakes, such as the timber rattlesnake or bull snake.
  • They Mate with Copperheads: This myth is also untrue. They do not possess the ability to mate with copperheads. However, their young sport similar blotches to copperheads that disappear as they age and shed their skin.

Are Black Rat Snakes Dangerous?

Black snakes are constrictor snakes, meaning they use constriction, or suffocation, to kill their prey and are not venomous. So comparatively, they do not pose the same danger to humans as copperheads or cottonmouths. Furthermore, they’re typically non-aggressive and avoid contact with humans. However, like all other animals, they can become aggressive when cornered or afraid and have been known to bite when humans get too close. Even from non-venomous snakes, all snake bites are serious and should be seen by a physician immediately, as bacteria can fester in the wound resulting in severe infection.

Do Black Snakes Make Good Pets?

These snakes are among the most common and popular pet snake breeds in the United States, right behind the North American corn snake. Due to their docile nature and low-temperature requirements, they’re a popular choice for new snake owners. They’re known for their ease of care and gentle disposition but are not the most affectionate. Also, snake owners will need a large terrarium to house them comfortably due to their large size and love of climbing. They’re also beloved as pets due to their long life spans, living 10-15 years in the wild, and even longer in captivity.

Where Are Black Rat Snakes Found?

These snakes dwell in rocky hillsides, forests, plains, and flat farmland. However, they live in unattended structures such as barns, dilapidated homes, abandoned vehicles, and trash or debris piles. They primarily hunt rats and mice, so they will be naturally drawn to locations housing them; this results in them often living in or around human structures. Black rat snakes also have a habit of getting into places they shouldn’t, such as rafters, lofts, or upper support structures of barns.

They’re found all across the central and eastern portions of North America. They’re most common in North Carolina, Louisiana, and South Carolina, but they can be found inthe New England area.

Due to their docile, skittish nature and love of hunting rats, many homeowners enjoy having them around and find their presence helpful. Farmers are known to place these snakes in and around their property fornatural pest control.

When is the Black Rat Snake’s Mating Season?

Black rat snakes emerge from brumating in late spring or early summer. After several weeks they will begin to look for mates. After mating, female black snakes will look for a safe, secure area to lay their eggs. The eggs will incubate for about two months, after which they will hatch. They’re not the most doting parents, as once the baby snakes have emerged from their eggs, they’re on their own. Thankfully, the hatchlings emerge around a foot long and are more than capable of taking care of themselves. These baby snakes are often confused with copperheads due to their temporary coloring but turn more black as they age.

How to Keep Black Rat Snakes Away From Your House

While many homeowners find these snakes helpful aspest deterrents, others prefer to keep them away from their homes. Thankfully, there are several humane ways to keep them well away from your property.

  • Eliminate their food supply: The main reason most animals hang around your home is access to shelter or food. You can deter them by removing these elements. Keeping your property clear of trash and debris is the best way to prevent mice and snakes.
  • Eliminate hiding places:Similar to food, removing access to an accessible shelter will help prevent snakes from taking up residence. Ensure access to all sheds and barns is removed by keeping them closed and filling any holes or gaps that snakes could enter through. Furthermore, snakes enjoy hiding in woodpiles, trash piles, and compost heaps, so sealing firewood, removing trash, and keeping the compost in secure bins will remove snakes’ places to hide.
  • Keep a clean lawn and garden: An overgrown lawn and garden attract unpleasant pests and snakes. High grass is an ideal hiding spot for snakes to hunt and nest. Keeping neatly cut grass will ensure your backyard is a less attractive place for them to hide.
  • Utilize snake repellent: There are manycommercially available snake repellents. Most of these repellents are safe for children and pets.
  • Spray clove and cinnamon oils: You can create an all-natural snake repellent by mixing clove and cinnamon oil. Add this mixture to a spray bottle and douse your backyard and home perimeter.
  • Use garlic and onions: Garlic and onions contain sulfonic acid, which snakes find intolerable. You can mix garlic and onions with salt or sand and sprinkle it around the perimeter of your home to deter them.
  • Ammonia and vinegar:Snakes have an acute sense of smell, finding extreme scents repulsive. Ammonia and vinegar are some of the most effective and safe natural snake repellents, as they keep snakes away without the use of harsh chemicals. Mix either in a small spray bottle and apply around the outside of your home, lawn, or garden. You can also pour vinegar into a swimming pool if you frequently find snakes swimming inside.

What Do I Do If I Encounter a Black Snake?

If you encounter a black snake in the wild, it’s always best to leave it alone and keep your distance. If it notices you, it will likely flee to safety. If threatened, it will begin releasing a musky odor and, if agitated further, will coil up and bite. If you find one of these snakes in your home, the best solution is to:

  1. Remain calm.
  2. Avoid making sudden movements or loud noises.
  3. Identify the type of snake if possible.
  4. If the snake is not dangerous, open a nearby door and sweep it outside.

If you’re unsure of the snake species, the snake is inherently dangerous (such as a rattlesnake), or if the snake is too large to sweep outside safely, it’s best to call animal control or pest control to remove and relocate the snake safely.

Final Thoughts

North America is home to over 50 snake species, many venomous, so spotting one on your property can cause concern. However, the black rat snake thankfully does more good than harm. It acts as a natural means of pest control, and with a timid and non-aggressive nature, this sizable snake poses little threat.

Renowned for its impressive climbing abilities, above average size, propensity for brumating with other snakes, and ability to imitate rattlesnakes, the black rat snake is quite the character. It’s no surprise that they’re beloved as pets, as their quirky nature and ease of care make them ideal for new snake owners.

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How do I get rid of black snakes in my house? ›

Ammonia and vinegar are some of the most effective and safe natural snake repellents, as they keep snakes away without the use of harsh chemicals. Mix either in a small spray bottle and apply around the outside of your home, lawn, or garden.

Is it good to have black snakes around your house? ›

A: They are part of the food chain. They help control some of the other pests and animals that could be around in that area. Plus, they're not venomous so they're not going to harm people or your dogs or cats you may have at home. They are good for rodent control and other pest control.

How do I get rid of snakes around my house? ›

How to Keep Snakes Away from Your House
  1. Replace grass or mulch with gravel. Snakes can't move or hide easily on gravel and other hard surfaces.
  2. Remove bird feeders, birdbaths, and other sources of food and water. ...
  3. Keep pet food inside. ...
  4. Trim bushes and trees. ...
  5. Reconsider water features. ...
  6. Install snake-proof fencing.
7 Mar 2022

What do you do if a snake comes in your house? ›

If you discover a snake in your house, act as soon as possible, for both the snake's and your peace of mind: Remain calm and avoid disturbing the snake or driving her into hiding. If possible, carefully open a nearby door and use a broom to gently herd the snake outside.

What do black snakes hate? ›

Garlic & Onions: The sulfonic acid in garlic and onions (the same chemical that makes us cry when we chop onions) repels snakes. Mix these with rock salt and sprinkle them around your home and yard for effectiveness.

What smells do black snakes hate? ›

There are many scents snakes don't like including smoke, cinnamon, cloves, onions, garlic, and lime. You can use oils or sprays containing these fragrances or grow plants featuring these scents.

Are black snakes good luck? ›

Black snakes are omens of good fortune. Like most good fortune, they are inconspicuous and rare. So, when a specimen presents itself, it behooves one to take notice.

What time of year do black snakes breed? ›

NESTING: Mating generally takes place in the spring, with 10-14 eggs laid in June or July. Eggs deposited beneath rocks or in manure piles, rotting vegetation, stumps or logs generally hatch in August and September.

Do black snakes come out at night? ›

In the spring and fall they are moving around and sunning themselves during the day, while in summer they are more active at night. As the cold weather sets in, black rat snakes tend to gather in large numbers and share winter dens, with members of their own and other species.

What attracts snakes to your house? ›

6 Things That Are Bringing Snakes Into Your Home
  • Mice.
  • Leaf piles.
  • Landscaping rocks.
  • Dense shrubbery.
  • Gaps in your home's foundation.
  • Bird baths.
10 Jun 2021

What chemical kills snakes instantly? ›

Calcium cyanide is a good chemical for killing snakes taking refuge in burrows, while there are several gases that sometimes work in fumigating dens.

Do snakes return to the same place? ›

Relocating snakes short distances is ineffective because they will likely find their way back to their home range. If you have one snake in your yard, that means there are others around!

Where do snakes usually hide in a house? ›

Snakes will hide behind the refrigerator, under the oven, under your bed, or inside cabinets. Snakes will avoid human activity. Some of the most common areas of the house to find a snake include crawl spaces, basements, garages, and attics (can snakes climb?)

Can snakes climb walls? ›

The answer is that yes, some species of snake are excellent climbers, and can climb walls. But not just any wall. The snake must have something to grab ahold of and push off of. Not even a rough surface will do - snakes can't "stick" to walls the way insects, rats, and lizards often do.

What time of day are snakes most active? ›

Snakes are most active at night and during early morning and late evening hours, the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension says. One of the most common species of snakes isn't venomous at all.

What scent will keep snakes away? ›

You can take advantage of this trait by using scents they dislike, such as cinnamon, clove oil, and eugenol. These are the only scents recommended by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to repel snakes.

Will vinegar keep snakes away? ›

The verdict? White vinegar may repel snakes – perhaps they hate the smell. However, it's a good idea to have a back-up plan in the (quite likely) event that it doesn't work.

Where do black snakes like to hide? ›

In addition to hiding in tall grass, snakes will hide in yard debris. Tall grasses and shrubs are two ideal hiding spots for these reptiles. They also tend to hide away in storage sheds, piles of wood, or in fallen branches and limbs.

Do mothballs keep black snakes away? ›

Mothballs are commonly thought to repel snakes, but they are not intended to be used this way and have little effect on snakes.

Do black snakes keep other snakes away? ›

Myth #1: They keep poisonous snakes away

Having a black snake won't guarantee that there are no other snakes around. The black racer snake in North America does occasionally kill and eat other snakes. Black rat snakes, however, aren't known for snake killing.

Why do black snakes come around your house? ›

Snakes enter a building because they're lured in by dark, damp, cool areas or in search of small animals, like rats and mice, for food. Snakes can be discouraged from entering a home in several ways. Keeping the vegetation around the house cut short can make the home less attractive to small animals and snakes.

Will black snakes harm you? ›

Black snakes are not venomous nor aggressive, but if threatened or cornered they may bite as a last resort. Black snakes are also excellent swimmers. The most intimidating feature of black snakes is their size as some can reach eight feet in length.

What the Bible says about snakes? ›

In Christianity, a connection between the Serpent and Satan is created, and Genesis 3:14-15 where God curses the serpent, is seen in that light: "And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and ...

Does one snake in house mean more? ›

Remember snakes do not usually live in colonies, so you could have a solitary snake. Just because you saw one, there is no need to panic and think that you have a house infested with millions of snakes.

What month does snakes go away? ›

Do snakes come out in the fall? Snake activity picks up as temperatures fall in late summer and early autumn before they go into hibernation, which can be as early as September or as late as December. On warm days, snakes in brumation sometimes come out of their dens to bask in the sunshine.

Where do black snake lay eggs? ›

The female usually lays her eggs in a pile of rotting vegetation or manure or in a rotting log. After a period of around 60 days, baby black snakes measuring around 12 inches in length hatch from the eggs.

Can black snakes climb up walls? ›

A snake's body isn't sticky or tacky. It can't suction itself to a wall, as certain types of lizards and mollusks can. Instead, snakes climb walls by wedging themselves into gaps and crevices, so that they don't fall. They then use their immensely strong core muscles to push themselves along.

Can snakes enter a house through the toilet? ›

According to experts, unfortunately, it can happen. Not only can snakes come up through the toilet, but other critters like rats, squirrels, and tree frogs can too. However, this is not a very common occurrence, so you can breathe a sigh of relief.

What smells are snakes attracted to? ›

Snakes are carnivorous in diet. Some feed on insects; some on fish; and, most feed on rodents and other mammals. In order to present a "food lure", an odor of insects, fish, or rodents would have to be present.

What are snakes most attracted to? ›

They love overgrown vegetation and grass, and often burrow through loose topsoil. Snakes need moisture to stay cool and hydrated during hot summer days. They're attracted to puddles, wet grass, sunken spots, and other stagnant water. Water like this also tends to attract rodents and insects, which snakes can eat.

What is the best homemade snake repellent? ›

Snake Repellent when coming into Contact Face to Fang - Cinnamon oil and clove oil are natural snake repellents and a mixture of these can work really effectively in driving away the snake. Equal parts of both the oils should be mixed and put into a spray bottle. Shake well and spray on the snake.

What is the best product to get rid of snakes? ›

The Best Snake Repellent — Reviews
  • 1) Ortho Snake-B-Gon Snake Repellent Granules.
  • 2) Victor VP364B Way Snake Repelling Granules.
  • 3) Exterminators Choice Snake Defense Spray.
  • 4) Nature's Mace Snake Repellent.
  • 5) Safer Brand 5951 Snake Shield Snake Repellent.
  • 6) SerpentGuard Snake Repellent.

What liquids do snakes hate? ›

Vinegar. Vinegar is effective at keeping snakes out of bodies of water like ponds and swimming pools. So, if you find yourself with a snake problem and they're getting into these areas on your property, put some vinegar in to help keep them out.

How do you keep snakes away at night? ›

Avoid nighttime trail running.

Snakes also hunt at night. Their heat sensors allow them to detect pray unseen this way. You don't want to step in between a snake and its dinner. However, if you must run at night, run with both a buddy and a headlamp.

Can snakes climb into beds? ›

"A snake may burrow into bedding to seek warmth. If you have a vent under or near your bed, snakes will likely hide there for warmth and to feel safe." And since snakes are such skilled hiders, the first sign that one is cozying up under your bed may come from your ears tipping you off that they're hiding out.

How long can a black snake live in a house? ›

Pretty any snake can last 4-5 weeks without eating, and most can survive for two months.

What kills a black snake? ›

Black rat snakes are most vulnerable to predators when they are young and on the smaller side. Foxes, raccoons, owls, and hawks commonly eat them. Adult black rat snakes have few known predators other than humans.

Will black snakes bite you? ›

Black snakes are not venomous nor aggressive, but if threatened or cornered they may bite as a last resort. Black snakes are also excellent swimmers. The most intimidating feature of black snakes is their size as some can reach eight feet in length.

Should I be afraid of a black snake? ›

Humans shouldn't be afraid of black snakes as they are not dangerous. They may bite, but only when provoked or cornered. The black snake is a popular breed of snake to be kept as a pet. Western rat snakes are calm, shy, and docile when handled from a young age.

Does bleach keep snakes away? ›

The smell of bleach will repel snakes and if they drink it, it can kill them. However, you're more likely to cause harm to yourself, your pets, your children and your soil by using bleach than you are to deter snakes with it.

What attracts snakes into your house? ›

Snakes enter a building because they're lured in by dark, damp, cool areas or in search of small animals, like rats and mice, for food. Snakes can be discouraged from entering a home in several ways. Keeping the vegetation around the house cut short can make the home less attractive to small animals and snakes.


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