Critters slither into homes in warm weather
by Staff Writer
CORNELIUS – The month of June means area animal control officers will be crawling on their stomachs more than usual in search of an annual summer nuisance – snakes.
“We’ve had a lot of calls on snakes the past few weeks,” Cornelius Animal Control Officer Kenny Russell said, after recently removing a five-foot black snake from the crawl space of a Cornelius home off Bethel Church Road.
“You’ve got to seal everything up,” he said. “If they can get their head in, they’ll squeeze on through.”
Fortunately for this homeowner, a house cat picked up the snake’s scent and set the wheels in motion for its removal.
Cold-blooded snakes need to moderate their body temperature, Russell said, so they seek warm areas when it’s cold outside, and cool, damp places when the weather is warmer.
And because mating season runs from late spring to early summer, snakes become much more active at this time of year, just as kids are getting out of school for summer vacation and outdoor activities generally increase for all ages.
Russell recommends moving cautiously when nearing rocks, where snakes may be warming in the sun, or when stepping over logs or other objects that cast shadows and provide snakes with a cool patch of ground.
He also suggests caulking the vents and door jambs leading into crawl spaces under the home, as those small gaps are often all it takes for snakes to get under a house. From there, snakes may find other gaps in flooring or plumbing which allow them entry inside a home.
Russell said he’s found snakes in the eaves of back porches, inside garages, and even inside laundry dryers and kitchen stoves.
In nature, black snakes are far more benefit than nuisance. They run off and kill venomous snakes such as copperheads and cottonmouths.
“Sometimes they’ll even eat them,” Russell said.
Davidson College’s herpetology lab, dedicated to studying local snakes, offers resources to identify snakes found in the area. Homeowners can identify snakes themselves to determine if their unwelcome guest is harmless or cause for alarm.
Spreading mothballs around the perimeter of the home is an old home remedy that can deter a snake from getting too close, but mothballs can be toxic, so Russell urges caution in the presence of pets or small children. There are also spray deterrents available at hardware and camping stores.
There’s no real harm a black snake can cause, however, it may strike at someone trying to remove it.
For that reason, Russell suggests calling the local police department who will remove a snake at no cost. There are also private companies who will remove a snake for a fee.
Another option is a dog or cat, which sometimes will catch and kill a snake, or at least tip the homeowner off as to the problem.
Russell said he gets snake calls about three or four times a week during the late spring and summer months. More often than not, it’s harmless black snakes.
Want to learn more?
Davidson College Herpetology Lab, The Snakes of North Carolina Online Identification System