ORLANDO, Fla.—It should not take us by surprise that as natural areas disappear in home building areas, snakes are forced to make a living in the remaining fragments of habitat, which with increasing frequency are yards and gardens in residential areas.
Florida's native snakes play important roles in the environment, serving as prey for many native animals and helping to regulate amphibian and rodent populations. Florida is home to 46 species of native snakes, and 13 of which can be commonly found in yards, golf courses, parks, retention ponds, or even in garages and houses. Only six are venomous. Those include: The Pit Vipers—Viperidae, the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, the Pygmy Rattlesnake, the Cottonmouth, Coralsnakes—Elapidae and the Harlequin Coral Snake.
As a responsible Florida resident, you should snake proof your yard. Keep your grass mowed, and keep shrubs and tree branches trimmed away from the house. Do not mow to the edge of lakes or ponds, as this will destroy important habitat for frogs, turtles, and birds—rather, warn children to stay away from the water unless accompanied by an adult and keep pets away from these areas. Installing chain-link or privacy fence is an effective solution to keep pets and children away from wetland and lake edges. You should not completely remove brush piles and vegetation from your yard because these can provide habitat for wildlife, but should keep brush piles well away from buildings and areas where children play. Piles of firewood should also be moved away from these areas, and firewood should be stored neatly on a rack. Some landscape elements, such as rock walls, may also provide shelter for snakes (and rodents), and should be kept well away from the house unless cracks are sealed with mortar. Also, be alert when playing or working in your yard to avoid being surprised if you suddenly see a snake.
You should also avoid allowing them inside your home, keep in mind that some snakes, especially small ones, may enter through an opening no larger than a pencil.
Door sweeps and garage door threshold weather strips are easy, economical ways to seal gaps under doors, but must be checked periodically to ensure that they are in good repair. Caulking or inexpensive expansion foam sealant, available at hardware stores, can be used to seal cracks in a foundation, gaps between a patio or porch and the house, holes where wiring or plumbing enters your home, or gaps around attic vents. Larger gaps can be covered with hardware cloth, crawl space access holes can be fitted with secure doors, and plumbing vent stacks or other potential roof access points can be protected with inexpensive hardware cloth.
Last April, an invasive Burmese python with a surgically implanted tracking device led Florida researchers to the largest python "aggregation" ever found in Collier County. The Burmese python problem has became such an issue in Florida, that the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission allows for the killing and removal of Burmese pythons without a permit. In fact, the FWC encourages people to remove and kill pythons from private lands whenever possible.
The following are some of the NON VENOMOUS SNAKES that are most commonly found in residential areas in Florida:
Southern Black Racer
These long, slender snakes can grow to 4–5 feet long, and have smooth gray/black scales on their backs and bellies and white chins and throats. Adult black racers are commonly found sunning themselves on lawns, shrubbery, walkways and fences, and are occasionally found in houses, particularly after rains. Racers are harmless to people and are swift and agile (as their name implies), fleeing rapidly when approached. However, if they are cornered and feel threatened, they may vigorously shake their tail and may release a foul smelling 'musk' on their captor or even strike if handled.
"Flower Pot Snake"—Brahminy Blind Snake
Brahminy blind snakes are tiny (2–6 inches), brownish-black, earthworm-like snakes with nearly invisible eyes and no distinct head or tail. These tiny snakes burrow in potted plants or flower beds, feeding on larval ants and termites, and occasionally invade houses, as their small size allows them to slip in under doors. They are completely harmless to humans and may be removed from the house by sweeping them into a dustpan and then releasing them outdoors.
Southern Ring-Necked Snake
Southern ring-necked snakes are one of the most commonly found snake species in urban areas throughout all of Florida, where they are found in leaf litter or mulch, on walkways, and sometimes in houses. They occasionally fall into pools and end up in the skimmer basket. When alarmed or threatened, ring-necked snakes coil their tail like a corkscrew and may emit a foul scent, although they rarely attempt to bite. These are shy and are harmless, preferring to spend their time under logs and rocks, where they eat earthworms, slugs, salamanders, lizards, and other small snakes.
Red rat snakes, also known as corn snakes are frequently found in urban areas throughout Florida. Due to their reddish coloration, these snakes are occasionally confused with coral snakes. Juvenile red rat and yellow rat snakes look similar and resemble red rat snake adults, albeit a dull, brownish version. Both yellow and red rat snakes are excellent climbers and are frequently found in residential areas on shrubs or fences. They are also found on occasion in garages and even in bathrooms inside the home, where they gain entrance by way of holes in walls or uncovered roof vent-pipes. These are harmless non-venomous snakes, but can be quite defensive and may emit a foul smelling musk and strike when cornered.
Eastern garter snakes are frequently encountered in urban areas throughout Florida. In urban areas, they are often found among landscape plants near houses, along the edges of ditches or ponds, and may even get into bathrooms inside a home, gaining entrance by way of holes in walls. These snakes are generally docile, but when cornered may release a foul smelling musk and flatten their heads and bodies to appear more imposing.
Rough Green Snake
The rough green snake was once among the most commonly encountered snakes in Florida, and may still be encountered in suburban settings. It is often seen sunning itself on bushes or in trees but is seldom (if ever) encountered in houses. These snakes are docile and will generally attempt to stay still, relying on their green camouflage to keep them hidden when approached by people.
Southern "Banded" Water Snakes
Southern water snakes are perhaps the most commonly misidentified non-venomous snake species—people often confuse them with the venomous cottonmouth. When threatened, water snakes will flatten their heads and bodies in an attempt to look larger and more intimidating. If you encounter a large, dark snake that you cannot confidently identify, particularly near water, leave it be!
If you are encountering some of these species in your neighborhood or in your yard, that could become a nuisance, you should contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservations Commission another very useful resource is a Facebook Group dedicated to help individuals identifying types of snakes — What kind of snake is this? Florida.
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