You’re working in your garden when you suddenly see a snake. Panic ensues, and you run off, confident the sneaky serpent means danger.
While it’s better to be safe than sorry, not all snakes you come across in your garden are foes. Many species can be your friends. This is in a manner of speaking, of course, as you should never actually pick up a snake.
By “friend,” we mean certain species of snakes in your garden can be beneficial. It depends on which type of snake you’ve run across as to whether you need to have it removed or can leave it be. Learning how to identify the most common snakes found in gardens across the United States is essential.
Garter Snakes – Friend
Garter snakes are the most common you’ll find in your garden. They’re also the smallest, average only two to three feet in length. Some garter snakes can grow up to four feet in length, but this is rare.
These little guys are timid and are so beneficial to your yard they’re sometimes called “gardener snakes.” These nonvenomous serpents eat the grasshoppers, grubs, slugs, and other insects that could harm your plants.
Besides their small size, garter snakes are difficult to identify. They come in various patterns and markings with brown, tan, olive, or black bodies. Stripes of yellow, red, orange and blue will run along the body in different directions.
Cottonmouths – Foe
You’re most likely to find a cottonmouth snake in your yard if you live near water. These snakes spend so much time in the water, they’re often called “water moccasins.”
But that means any water, as these snakes have been spotted far away from any rivers or lakes. In fact, you’re most likely to find them in reservoirs, sewer systems, or even drainage systems (like those on the sides of roads).
Cottonmouths are venomous, and you don’t want them in your garden. You can identify cottonmouths by the dark vertical lines by their nostrils. They’re usually green or black but may vary.
Gopher Snakes – Friend
Gopher snakes live primarily on the small rodents that can damage gardens and farm crops. If you can get past having a snake around, they can help protect your crops. They’re also not a threat to humans, as they aren’t venomous or aggressive.
Gopher snakes are usually yellow or beige with dark spots and markings. Although they resemble rattlers, they lack the white banding around the tail.
If you find a copperhead in your garden, you should back away immediately and call a professional to come to take care of it. Copperheads present a considerable threat to people, as they are both venomous and aggressive. They’re one of few snake species known to attack humans unprovoked.
The best way to identify a copperhead is by the copper-colored heads, hence their name. Their bodies may be brown, bright orange, or peachy.
King Snake – Friend
King Snakes are your friend because they eat other snakes, including venomous rattlers. While seeing a king snake in your yard doesn’t mean there are no other snakes around, it does make it significantly less likely.
King snakes aren’t venomous or aggressive. They range from solid black to having vibrant patterns of alternating bright colors.
Rattlesnakes – Foes
Rattlesnakes are venomous, although most species of rattlers aren’t aggressive. If you come across one in your garden, it’s best to slowly back away and call a professional to handle the situation.
A rattlesnake is most easily identifiable by the thick white banding on their tails and the rattling noises they make when disturbed. Rattlers have thick bodies with dark geometric shapes on a lighter background.
Black Snakes – Friend
If you find a solid black snake in your garden, it’s most likely either a North American rat snake or a black racer. These two species are very similar, so we’ve included them in the same group.
Both of these black snakes are nonvenomous and nonaggressive. They mostly eat rodents but may eat bugs, small mammals, or even birds on occasion.
When dealing with black snakes, the best thing to do is to leave them alone. They can be beneficial for your garden or yard if you can put up with having them around. If not, it’s best to call a professional to have them removed.
Coral Snakes – Foe
Coral snakes look similar to king snakes. They’re banded with bright red, yellow, black, and white around their bodies. Coral snakes are venomous and should be dealt with by professionals.
The good news is that coral snake venom takes a long time to be processed by the body, unlike other venoms. You should still head immediately to the hospital upon being bitten by a coral snake. But, you’ll have an hour or more before the side effects become apparent.
To identify coral snakes from king snakes, it’s best to remember an old saying. “Red on yellow will kill a fellow, but red touching black, you’re okay, Jack!” Parents can use this rhyme to remember how to identify poisonous snakes themselves and teach their children to do so as well.
Do You Have More Questions About Garden Snakes?
Not every snake you come across in your garden is a foe, even if the situation itself might be frightening. Some snakes can be friends, in that they help your garden to prosper. It’s essential to learn how to identify the different types of snakes you might find for safety reasons.
Do you have more questions about garden snakes?
Check out our other blog posts. You’ll find a wealth of information on garden snakes and related topics to help you learn more on the subject.