Fascinating Facts That'll Change How You See Garden Snakes

If you have a yard, you probably have some snakes. Here's what you need to know about snakes in your garden.

Updated December 6, 2023
Garter snake

Imagine the secret life of your garden — where slithery serpents might be stealthy residents without you even knowing. The presence of these elusive reptiles comes with its own set of pros and cons, but you ultimately have the power to either roll out the welcome mat for these creatures or set up subtle cues to keep them at bay. Regardless of your choice, getting acquainted with the possible snake inhabitants of your backyard is an important step for a gardener. 

A Few Quick Snake Facts

There are actually 2,000 different kinds of snakes, but not all of these species will end up in your garden. Like other critters, snakes vary based on where you live. What stays the same are their common characteristics, including:

  • Diet: All snakes hunt prey to eat.
  • Venom: Some species are downright poisonous, which is a hazard to the gardener.
  • Hunting: A snake hunts with their senses. Whether they're using their nose, tongue, or sense of touch, snakes find their food with a keen sense of smell and the ability to feel the body heat of another animal.
  • Hibernation: Snakes hibernate underground in the winter.
  • Warmth: Since they are cold-blooded reptiles, snakes must lie in the sun to keep warm.
  • Shedding: All snakes shed their skin as they grow.
Quick Tip

Check out the wildlife resources in your area to find out what snakes you might encounter.

Common Garden Snakes

Garter snakes are the most common slithering critter in most gardens, but there are others you may stumble upon while you're weeding or grabbing that bushel of broccoli. Depending on your region, you could also encounter other snake species, each with their own unique behaviors and appearances. The snakes listed below are among the most common.

Garter Snakes

garter snake closeup

The most common garden snake is the non-venomous garter snake. This species is found throughout most of the Americas and can live in a variety of climates. They love ponds, wetlands, forests, fields, and even your yard. This snake is best identified by the long, horizontal stripes that run the length of its body, the most common being three yellow stripes. A fairly small snake, garters eat small animals, including earthworms, frogs, and fish. These snakes sometimes become food for other animals as well, like owls or raccoons.

Garter snakes are the hide-and-seek champions of the snake world. When they get scared or feel threatened, their first move is to find a good hiding spot instead of facing the scary thing. They've got a neat party trick, too: unlike many of their snake buddies who lay eggs, garter snakes give birth to wiggly live babies in the summer.

Quick Tip

Even though they're pretty chill and not looking for trouble, garter snakes can get a bit defensive if they're suddenly scooped up.

Gopher Snakes

gopher snake

Non-venomous gopher snakes are often mistaken for poisonous snakes like rattlers. Although they do bite, they leave nothing more than a mark. As their name implies, these snakes eat small animals like gophers. They're burrowers, but they're sometimes found hunting on the ground or hanging out in trees.

Common King Snakes

king snake

The common king snake is a constrictor that can be found in your garden. They're not known to be harmful to humans. In fact, they can be a huge benefit to you as a gardener. They're known to eat venomous snakes, including copperheads, rattlesnakes, and coral snakes, so they can reduce the risk of you being hit with venom. 

Fox Snakes

fox snake

Fox snakes are often mistaken for rattlesnakes because they have a special technique involving the vibration of their tail. This adaptation tends to keep their predators away and maintain their safety. Like most other garden snakes, this species eats birds, amphibians, and rodents they may find in your garden or nearby.

Yellow Rat Snakes

yellow rat snake

The yellow rat snake, a type of constrictor, has different scale patterns, from plain to blotchy or striped. It's related to the corn snake and helps gardens by eating small rodents and pests. This diet is good for the garden's balance and keeps pest numbers down. These snakes are known for being adaptable and play an important role in their natural environment by helping to control the ecosystem.



The deadly, venomous rattlesnake is one of the most feared snakes. Rattlesnakes can easily hide in sand or leaves because their camouflaged skin blends in so well. Luckily, this snake gives off a warning signal by rattling their tail whenever an intruder gets too close. Once you hear the rattle, get out of that general area to give them time to retreat.

Need to Know

If their warning isn't heeded, the snake will lunge and attack with a potentially fatal bite. 

Corn Snakes

albino corn snake

Non-venomous corn snakes are easily recognizable by their striking appearance, featuring vibrant red patches bordered by black, set against a backdrop of an orange-tan body. This distinctive coloration not only makes them visually appealing but also helps in camouflaging them within their natural habitat. As constrictors, corn snakes have a unique hunting method where they wrap their bodies around their prey, including small reptiles, rodents, birds, and even bird eggs, and squeeze gently until the prey succumbs.

Need to Know

Corn snakes are popular pets due to their docile nature and minimal care requirements.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Having Snakes in Your Garden

Whether or not you particularly like snakes, there are some good and bad points to having them reside in your garden. It's up to you to decide if the good outweighs the bad. 


Snakes can actually benefit your garden. They'll eat slugs and bring down the Japanese beetle population in your yard. Some snakes will even eat small rodents that might otherwise feed on your flowers and veggies. When you look at it that way, it can make sense to try to attract a few snakes to your yard rather than push them away.

If you decide you'd like some snakes to come in, you can take the following steps to make your garden more hospitable:

  • Hiding and warmth: Create a snake haven by piling some large rocks together. The snakes can hide under and around the rocks, and they can warm themselves on the rocks on sunny days.
  • Security: Plant some ground cover for the snakes to hide in. It will make them feel more secure.
  • Keep predation low: Try to keep pets and other animals out of the garden that might prey on the snakes.


The main disadvantage of having snakes in your garden is that they will bite if you accidentally disturb them, and they don't have an easy exit. While many of these snakes are not venomous, the rattlesnake's bite can be fatal without swift medical intervention.

Snakes also don't distinguish between bad insects and beneficial bugs. They'll eat whatever is available. 

If you decide the disadvantages outweigh the advantages of sharing your garden with a few snakes, simply make the habitat less inviting.

  • Take away hiding spots: Clear any garden clutter, including woodpiles, fallen leaves, and discarded pottery, that can offer the snakes a place to hide.
  • Live trap: Use a live-catch trap to remove small rodents.
  • Reduce the slug population: Capture slugs by setting out shallow saucers of beer that will attract them into the dish to drown.
Quick Tip

Think about how you can best protect yourself if you're a gardener living in an area with rattlesnakes. Boots, pants, long sleeves, and gloves can prove helpful. 

Co-Existing With Garden Snakes

Snakes are adept at hiding because they blend in so well with their environment, so most gardeners never actually see them. They only spot signs of their presence, like discarded skin left behind. In most circumstances, these snakes will slither away if you disturb them because they fear people and larger animals.

As long as a particular snake isn't venomous, it's usually best to just leave them alone. They will move on once the food supply in your garden is exhausted. If there ever comes a time when you want the snake removed, it's usually best to hire a pest removal service. The risk of tampering with the animal is simply not worth the effort, especially if the snake is venomous.

Trending on LoveToKnow
Fascinating Facts That'll Change How You See Garden Snakes