Snakes are on the move this time of year as the cold-blooded creatures are coming out from their dens and hunting for food and a mate.
According to Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, there are 32 species of snakes that inhabit Kentucky, and most of them are harmless. Although, they may still cause alarm due to their size, mimicking behavior, and coloration to venomous species. The black rat snake is one of Kentucky’s largest snakes and is found everywhere in the state. Often in trees, barn rafters, or even your attic. However, the rat snake can be beneficial if you live on a farm where there are plenty of mice and rodents to hunt.
Although it’s unlikely to run across a venomous snake in your yard, garden, or home, there are ways to deter them from these spaces.
“Although some chemical agents like mothballs and cayenne pepper have been proposed as potential deterrents, their effectiveness is questionable,” Kentucky Fish and Wildlife said. “The best way of discouraging snakes is to make an area less appealing to them by removing shelter and food sources.”
“It is also a good idea to keep your grass cut short. Another recommendation is to stack firewood on a rack, away from the house, and to elevate the stack off the ground,” Kentucky Fish and Wildlife said. “Such piles not only provide shelter for snakes but also rodents and other prey species.”
To keep snakes from entering unwanted areas, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife recommends sealing any openings of 1/4” or more with mortar, 1/8” hardware cloth, caulk around windows, or wiring.
According to Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, these are the four species to avoid and how you can identify them safely in the wild:
- Kentucky’s four venomous snakes belong to the pit viper family due to the pit or small opening located on each side of the head between the eye and nostril.
- Venomous snakes will have a vertical pupal, and all harmless snakes’ pupils are round.
- On venomous snakes, the scales underneath the tail will be in a single undivided row. The same scales on harmless snakes will be in two distinct rows.
- Venomous snakes in Kentucky bear live young; therefore, any snake eggs encountered are from a harmless species.
The copperhead can be found anywhere in Kentucky. Many harmless snakes are mistaken for the copperhead due to their coppery red to brown color. However, a good identifying characteristic of copperheads is the chestnut crossbands that create an hourglass shape from above.
The cottonmouth inhabits the western region of Kentucky and is often found in or around water. The dark-bodied snake lacks any distinct markings, but when encountered, it may shake its tail and stand its ground with an open mouth. Harmless snakes will almost always flee or drop into the water.
The pigmy rattlesnake is typically only found in Calloway, Lyon, and Trigg
counties. It is of light, grayish brown color with dark spots, a skinny tail, and
a very small rattle. Its rattle can be difficult to hear and may mimic an insect buzzing.
The timber rattlesnake is the state’s largest venomous snake and is found in heavily wooded areas of Kentucky. It’s a heavily-bodied snake with dark bands and a rattle at the tip of the tail. They’re a secretive, nonaggressive species and they typically do not rattle unless provoked.
Visit Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s Information System for a complete list of Kentucky’s snakes and other wildlife.