Skip to content

Critter Authority

(804) 492-2804

What Snakes Are Good To Have In Your Yard?

    Seeing a snake in your yard might be frightening, but did you know that some snakes are actually helpful to have around? While Virginia does have some venomous snakes like copperheads, rattlesnakes and cottonmouths, there are also nonvenomous snakes that are very helpful in managing the rodent and insect populations in your yard like the Eastern Rat Snake and the Dekay’s Brown Snake.  

    Dekay’s Brown Snake

    A common helpful snake that will keep the insect populations in your yard down is the Dekay’s Brown Snake. Dekay’s Brown Snake is a tan-gray color with black spots. This snake is typically smaller than you might expect from an adult snake, with a length of 9 to 13 inches. Because of their coloration and how small these snakes are, many people believe them to be baby copperheads when they are discovered. However, these reptiles are very secretive, and will hide from humans most of the time. If you do stumble upon a Dekay’s Brown Snakes, it will most often be in yards under piles of debris or in gardens. These snakes will feed on earthworms and slugs, as well as various insects including ants, roaches and more. Dekay’s Brown Snakes are found across the Americas, from Quebec throughout the eastern United States to Mexico and Honduras. These snakes actually favor urban areas and cities more than the countryside, especially in areas with high moisture as it gives them plenty of hunting opportunities.

    Eastern Rat Snake

    Eastern Rat Snakes, also known as the Black Rat Snake, is the most common species of snake in Virginia, and one of the most common species you might find in your yard or home. Eastern Rat Snakes are large, black snakes with a white belly that typically are about 3.5 to 6 feet long, or 42 inches to 72 inches long. Due to their formidable size, Eastern rat snakes can be very frightening to spot slithering around your yard, but don’t worry-these snakes are harmless. Eastern Rat Snakes are non-venomous, and actually one of the most helpful snakes to have in your yard, as their diet consists mainly of pests you don’t want near your home, like rats, mice, moles and insects. Eastern Rat Snakes are also known to eat amphibians and smaller birds. Eastern Rat Snakes are arboreal, so they will often be spotted inside attics, looking for prey like rats. While Eastern Rat Snakes are totally harmless and do not pose a threat or even a nuisance to humans, you still would not want them hanging out in your attic. A licensed wildlife removal company like Summit Wildlife Removal can safely remove and relocate the snake, as well as install exclusions on the entry points and offer pest control treatments to keep the snake’s food population away from your home.  

    Venomous Snakes

    While there are many beneficial snakes found across the state, there are also plenty of venomous snakes present in Virginia. The three types of venomous snakes found in the wild in Virginia are the Eastern Copperhead, the Timber Rattlesnake, and the Northern Cottonmouth. Being able to properly identify these snakes can help in preventing a venomous snake bite and aid in the treatment of one. Venomous snakes can also be removed by a licensed wildlife removal company like Critter Authority. 

    Eastern Copperhead

    One of the most commonly reported venomous snakes in the state of Virginia is the Eastern Copperhead. These medium-sized snakes are covered in scales that range in color from tan to dark brown, with hourglass-shaped crossbands, and their heads can range from tan to a brick red color. An important part of identifying copperheads are the hourglass patterns on their backs, which is wider on the sides and thinner near their backbone. These snakes can reach a maximum length of about 4 and a half feet long, or 53 inches. Eastern Rat Snakes and Black Racer Snakes can have similar patterns, but their crossbands do not reach the sides, whereas the copperhead’s does. The diet of the Eastern Copperhead typically depends on how large the snake is, and what prey is available. They will often go after rodents like mice, rats, voles, shrews, and some smaller birds. The bite of an Eastern Copperhead can be extremely painful and even debilitating, depending on if it was a “dry bite” (a bite with no venom injected), or a venomous bite. One woman in Spotsylvania, Virginia was bitten by a snake inside a restaurant, and suffered debilitating chronic pain as a result. While Eastern Rat Snakes will hide from humans if given the chance, a copperhead will firmly stand its ground.  

    Timber Rattlesnakes

    Timber Rattlesnakes are another species of rattlesnake that you might encounter in Virginia. Timber Rattlesnakes are distinctive for their loose keratinized sections on the base of their tail that forms a “rattle”, that they can shake when threatened as a warning. Timber Rattlesnakes can vary wildly in color, typically gray with a pinkish hue, these snakes can also have stripes down their back that can be pink, orange, brown or black. Because of this variety in color, the easiest way to identify these snakes is by their rattle. Timber Rattlesnakes are large, around 2.5 to 5 feet or 30 to 60 inches long. The diet of a Timber Rattlesnake usually consists of small mammals like mice, shrews, squirrels and chipmunks, as well as small birds, amphibians like frogs, and lizards. Timber Rattlesnakes are more reserved and docile, less likely to strike when encountered in the wild. While Timber Rattlesnakes bites are rare, their bites can pack a powerful, venomous punch that will require immediate medical attention. 

    Northern Cottonmouth

    Northern Cottonmouths, also known as the water moccasin, are the third species of venomous snakes that you might find in Virginia. Northern Cottonmouths are large and heavy bodied, around 2.5-4 feet or 30-48 inches in length and colored dark green to black, with dark brown to hourglass shaped bands along their back. Northern Cottonmouths lurk in the swamps and marshes of Southeastern Virginia, feeding on fish like bass and catfish, reptiles like water snakes and mud turtles, amphibians like green tree frogs and toads, and small mammals like shrews. Northern Cottonmouths are curious but ultimately non-aggressive and unlikely to bite humans, almost always choosing to flee if possible. Northern Cottonmouths are known to open their mouths wide as they move in a defensive stance to scare potential threats off, with their white mouths gaining them their name. Their bites are venomous and will require immediate medical care. 

    Snake Removal and Prevention

    While some snakes like the DeKay’s Brown Snake and the Eastern Rat Snake are great snakes to have in your yard because they keep pest populations down, there are also venomous snakes to watch out for, like the Eastern Copperhead, the Timber Rattlesnake and the Northern Cottonmouth. If you have a snake in your yard, venomous or non-venomous that you want removed, you should always leave it to the professionals at Critter Authority. Our wildlife technicians can offer humane snake removal and relocation, as well as installations of exclusions to keep snakes out, a snake fence around your property to keep them from returning, and a comprehensive pest control program that can eliminate any potential food sources on your property, making it unattractive to snakes. Contact Critter Authority for snake removal and prevention today at (804) 492-2804 or fill out a contact form