Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

Dealing with Black Snakes Around Your Home or Garden

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Black snake crawling on ground

We’ve got two black rat snakes living in our barn, and I recently encountered one of them on a morning walk. This is the only time I’ve seen them so boldly out in the open. More often, we get the “periscope,” a little black head popping out of the grassy fence line or under a barn stall to check out what we’re up to.

I don’t know if black snakes are more common in some areas, or if they’re just easy to spot because of their deep black coloring, large size – up to 6 feet long – and their fondness for climbing trees and rafters. Either way, they’re by far the snake most often encountered by people I know; making them the subject of the most screams, “snake dances,” and unfortunately, the most snake killings.

Black snake with head raised

About Black Rat Snakes and Black Racers

If you’ve got black snakes around your house, chances are they’re either black rat snakes or black racers. Both are nonvenomous black colored snakes with white or grayish bellies that eat mostly rodents and other small animals, and neither are out to hurt you. They’re only around because there’s food nearby, and that food isn’t you.

  • Black Rat Snakes: These snakes are fairly slow moving, and often freeze when confronted. If they get really upset, they might rattle their tail in the leaves as a warning. Some rat snakes are laid back, but others will strike if handled, so it’s best not to mess with them.
  • Black Racers: Black racers, on the other hand, are much faster-moving and prefer escape over conversation. They’re more likely to panic, flail around, and bite if disturbed.

Facts About Black Snakes

    Black snake peering out from behind a container

  • Diet: Black snakes mostly eat rodents, lizards, birds, and bird eggs. Rat snakes are constrictors while black racers generally aren’t. They can climb trees; and, if you don’t protect your bird houses with baffles, will break your heart by invading the nests.
  • Smell: Rat snakes emit a musky smell when threatened.
  • Habitat: Black snakes live in grasses, forests, marshes, and buildings. Wherever there’s food and dark shelter, there might be black snakes.
  • Benefits: Black snakes eat large quantities of rodents. If you can get over your fears, they’re good to have around your garage or barn to keep the mice at bay.

Common Black Snake Myths

Myth #1: Black snakes keep poisonous snakes away.

Having a black snake doesn’t guarantee that there are no other snakes around. Black racers do occasionally kill and eat other snakes. Black rat snakes, however, aren’t known for snake killing. In fact, they sometimes will even hibernate with other species of snakes, including copperheads and rattlesnakes.

Myth #2: Black snakes mate with copperheads.

There’s a common myth that black snakes have interbred with copperheads to create a venomous black snake. That’s not true. Baby black snakes have colored markings that are easily mistaken for copperhead markings; but as they grow, those markings fade to black.

Myth #3: Black snakes are completely harmless.

Just because I think black snakes are good to have around doesn’t mean I want to be bitten by one, any more than I’d want to be bitten by a raccoon, a rat, or a stray dog. Any snake bite – even a nonvenomous one – is likely to be painful and full of bacteria which can lead to infection. So it’s best to treat all snakes respectfully, keep your distance, and avoid being bitten.

Further Information



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32 Comments on “Dealing with Black Snakes Around Your Home or Garden”

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  1. Cindy Says:
    September 8th, 2011 at 9:56 am

    We came a black snake stretched across our gravel drive basking in the sun. As we approached it took off, climbing into the brake portion of our tractor wheel. Poked at it a bit to remove him. It eventually came out but kept trying to go back under the tractor. It was eventually convinced to ‘move on and out’.It then climbed a nearby tree and INTO the bluebird nesting box! Yikes, hope the bluebirds were done nesting for the season. Now, off to build a baffle of some sort to deter further hibernation/sleep overs in there!
    Sept. 7 2011 Rogers,AR

  2. Michael Says:
    January 12th, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    Black racer snakes are the most scariest snakes from the family of Florida’s snakes. Yes, they’re non venomous. But their speed and their ability to swallow their preys alive make them rank the top of my “Don’t-Want-to-See-in-Person” list. Source: floridasnakes.net

  3. Onell Says:
    June 15th, 2012 at 8:35 am

    Threes ago i kill a snake which had silver in coloring, my brother say it was a rat snake. Today i saw a black snake which i let live, however how can i tell what kind he is? He was black all over.

  4. Lorraine Rossi Says:
    September 22nd, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    Just came up stairs from the ground level of my house (garage, den, laundry room) turned a corner to find a black snake in my hallway. I screamed a lot and let my husband dispatch the snake. How/is, there a way to make sure this does’nt happen again? I don’t think my heart can take it.
    I assume it came in through the basement door and climbed the carpeted stairs and into the hallway because my husband sometimes leaves the door open. He will not take the blame. I’m trying not to have bad thoughts. Any way to keep them away from the house is appreciated. We live in the suburbs of W-S.

  5. don hamel Says:
    February 12th, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    a black sneake with funny eyes like chinese ( sorry )a long sneak great big eyes scary like to know the name of the snake tank you

  6. Kyleigh,Amber,Faith Says:
    April 14th, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    We saw a black snake Sunday the 14th in the grass up the road.

  7. April Says:
    April 26th, 2013 at 10:36 pm

    Today there was a racer snake making its way diagonally through my chain link fence. When my cat caught notice of it, the snake darted horizontally through the fence to get away! The craziest thing I’ve ever seen!!

  8. Christina Ortiz Says:
    May 19th, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    I live in the forest and have a garden i just seen a very large black snake i have 3 girl, if i catch him and walk him into the forest will he come back?

  9. J ALLMON Says:
    May 29th, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    TOOK TWO LARGE BLACK/RAT SNAKES 1.5 MILES AWAY WILL THEY RETURN

  10. V R Jackson Says:
    May 30th, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    Looking out my kitchen window today waiting for my two girls to get off the bus. watched them run down the driveway to the front porch door, where they stopped sundently & started sreaming & crying ” A snakes” ! so i opened the garage door for them to come in ,then we took a look on the front door , There were 2 Big long black snakes!!Hangging down the glass doors of the house !! Talking about CREEPY !!! Only in Hanover VA.

  11. D Lillibridge Says:
    June 1st, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    Yesterday two blacksnakes found in tractor garage. We caught them and took them over two miles away. Today we again have two blacksnakes out near the building and caught one other got away. So we took the one we caught 5 miles

  12. Dixie Gunnett Says:
    June 6th, 2013 at 9:11 am

    Last weekend I found a black colored snake with faded brown diamonds in its skin. The belly was silver with yellow spots near the head underneath. He was slow moving and froze when I was checking it out. It was like he was checking me out. I thought it was a Rat snake. Two days later my cat found a smaller one on my back porch so my husband kille it. Today I found that bigger snake again in the barn in a food bucket so I killed it. My horses have been kicking the stalls at night so I figured it was scaring them. I hated to have to do that.

  13. deborah lukes Says:
    June 9th, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    We live in the country in a mobile home their are strip pits around it. This morning i was spraying for insects around the trailor and is saw a snake skin going under the tralor. Does this mean the snake is under the tralor? I am terrified of snakes and it doesn”t matter what kind they are. What can i do to get rid of it.

  14. Paul Halagan Says:
    June 11th, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    Today my wife spotted 3 foot black snake curled around her favorite front flower pot. This is a large pot with lots of flowers. He was very comfortable and didn’t want to leave and for some reason he/she was excavating one of the flowers. I turned the hose on and got him to move, but not very far. Now my wife is not happy with the situation. We are in a wooded are and the front has a series of shrubs that cover the foundation. My wife was all set to trim them, but now that job is falling to me. Is there any polite way to find a new neighborhood?

  15. Paul Halagan Says:
    June 11th, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    That is for the snake. Not me.

  16. Tomiko Vann Says:
    June 13th, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    When I came home there was a black snake in front of my garage. When I opened my garage to try and run over it I noticed there was another one already in my garage. I called for help and my neighbors can. All and all there was 3 of them. By the time Animal Control came two had gotten away and they caught one. I understand about the bit however I still do not want them at my house.

  17. Allen Says:
    June 15th, 2013 at 8:41 pm

    This week we found a 5-6′ Black Rat Snake in our front yard removed it, 2 days later it was back on our rock patio. My husband took it about 100 yds away and it was back same area within a few hours… TODAY… my husband found the snake in our hallway of our home!!! We gave it 3 chances and sorry but not sorry it was killed today.. I am freaked out to say the least… We have 3 kids and small dog and I can’t for the life of me figure out why it kept coming back till it was inside my home.. We live in North Georgia Can anyone shed some light on this and should I expect to see more??? like babies???

  18. Ginger Says:
    July 2nd, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    We live in the metro Atlanta area (Stone Mountain side), and my husband returned from library today to see find shedded skin in the drive way. Something made him look further and he found a black rat snake (assume this is what it was), which was approx. 3′ long, in our garage. It took awhile, but he managed to kill it with a shovel. What are the chances there are more? I do know if it had been in my garage long or just happened to go in today as I accidentally left it open (approx. 1 hour). Told husband that I wanted the garage cleaned out immediately so that I can see the floor. Thanks.

  19. Charlotte Says:
    July 4th, 2013 at 7:48 am

    Seems like we have more mice …and more snakes this year. I discovered a snake skin in our basement and found a live black rat snake in our garage yesterday. Is there any reason to remove him? He’s about 3 ft long and hides under our stairs. Frankly, I’d rather have a snake than mice but am mildly freaked out at the thought of it! Any suggestions?

  20. June Says:
    July 14th, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    I have a black snake that keeps popping up around my house. I have railroad ties and there are lizards and frogs there, so I’m sure that’s what’s keeping it (them) around. It has stayed away for a while, because I worked out in the yard a couple of days and kept running it off. So far, it’s been pretty respectful, to take off and stay away if we’re out. But yesterday I saw it in my backyard, slivering very quickly along side my house and down the bank. A little too close for comfort. I have two little dogs that go out the doggie door, and wouldn’t want them to walk up on it.

  21. Charlotte Says:
    July 15th, 2013 at 6:26 am

    Like June, We also have railroad ties – most of them are rotting and we’ve begun to remove and replace them with 6X6 pressure-treated lumber…a slow process. Living on a mountain side, the original owners of the home piled rocks on top of the ties which only adds to the issue. Lizards, spiders, toads, etc., love to live there. I’m trying to be mindful and considerate of nature. In the meantime, I’m making sure there’s no “easy access” into our home. My husband found a rather generous hole in our foundation where the AC pipes go in – I’m sure mice and snakes have used it in the past – it’s now filled!

  22. Paul Halagan Says:
    July 17th, 2013 at 6:32 am

    Our black snake continues to be spotted in the yard, but not the chipmunks. We had quite a colony last year, but I’ve only spotted one this year. So I figure the snake is earning his keep for now.

  23. D Sattley Says:
    July 17th, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    I think snakes can also come in through your chimney, especially if they climb rafters like black snakes

  24. TIFFINEY Says:
    July 24th, 2013 at 9:28 am

    I have an old farm house with the stacked rock foundation wich alows an entrance to my home! I’ve filled every opening unless near elictical wires or pluming n still 5 in the basement this year what else’s can I do to keep them out they donot at all bother me outside but I do not want them inside! Any helpful advise?

  25. Candi Says:
    August 31st, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    OK on July 4th I had a black snake about 5-6ft long on my front porch.. Today august 31st I was in my basement tanning and when I went to go up the steps there was a little black snake about 5-6 inches long.. I’m scared to death of snakes and always have been. I use to have nightmares about snakes when I was little. My husband killed the baby snake and I am just wondering if there is more in the basement? Does snakes lay the eggs and just leave? And if there is one baby snake in basement is there usually more.. Some one please help me.. I am ready to Move out..

  26. Charlotte Says:
    September 2nd, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    Candi – get a grip. Black snakes are just as afraid of you as you are of them. Find out how they’re getting in and fix the problem. In the meantime, you can look forward to fewer mice.

  27. Linda Says:
    September 16th, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    This evening, while walking my dog, I saw a black snake stretched out, hanging upside down on a tree. It looked to be about 5.5 feet long. I ran into the house to get my camera and when I returned, it was gone. I didn’t know snakes could climb. I’ll be looking up, from now on.

  28. gary Says:
    September 29th, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    If you want to try to keep snakes away from your HOME there are granules which you can purchase at your local Feed store or for that matter, WalMart, etc. Also, most snakes abhor sulfur so you can use that around the perimeter of your home. Of course, both methods are NOT rainproof, so, you will have to bear that in mind.

    p.s. The title says “Dealing With Black Snakes…etc” yet the author does not mention ANY methods at all TO deal with them. The title leads one to believe that there will be information provided to keep them at bay, so, how about putting some information in the article which will do just that. After all, the title is misleading otherwise.

    Thanks.

  29. Charlotte Says:
    October 3rd, 2013 at 7:16 am

    Thanks for pointing that out Gary. I, too, was hoping to get some advice rather than stories about “sightings.” Having recently spotted a copperhead slithering past our patio door, I’m more concerned about their presence. We have a new puppy so I’d rather keep them away from the house and will be sure to read the label to see about pet safety. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge.

  30. Jo Garcia Says:
    December 3rd, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    I recently went to my 3rd story attic for holiday decorations and found black snake skin shedded in various areas; also, rat droppings! Is this snake likely to live there during the winter to eat the rodents, or is the snake hibernating outside?

  31. PAUL ASKS Says:
    December 8th, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    I’M LOOKING FOR HELP ON HOW TO RID MY HOUSE OF SNAKES (GARDNER;AND ALSO BLACK SNAKES, THAT HAVE MOVED IN FOR THE WINTER SEASON.IS THERE POSSIBLY A WAY TO SOMEHOW DRAW THEM OUT AND CAPTURE THEM SO I CAN TAKE THEM DEEP INTO ANOTHER PART OF THE FOREST AND HUMAINLY RELEASE THEM BACK INTO THE WILD?

  32. Cassandra Says:
    January 24th, 2014 at 10:05 am

    Oh my goodness. I found baby snakes obviously just born in a drawer in my house in a room I hardly go in. My uncle took them out and got rid of them. There was a hole by my water heater. I moved out the babies where brown and black. A few days before I found the babies, I heard what I thought was amice running along the top of my wall and drop the floor in my hall. I was too afraid to look but I think it was the momma snake. There is both woods and a pond in behind my home and my uncle complained of water moccasins while fishing, I never went back. I just think they made my house a home.

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