Bull snakes are large, scary looking constrictors that may take up residence in your yard if it provides plenty of places to hide and adequate food sources. While bull snakes are generally harmless toward humans, their bite can cause bacterial infections and, especially if you have children or pets, you may not want bull snakes hanging out around your property. So, how do you capture and relocate a bull snake? And how do you keep them out of your yard once you’ve removed them?
This article will explore the answers to these and other questions.
What You'll Learn Today
Best Methods for Capturing Bull Snakes
Minnow traps are a popular choice for snake trapping in general. The wire-mesh baskets contain a funnel at each end, allowing snakes to pass into the trap but not letting them back out.
Minnow traps are completely humane and are one of the most effective live-animal traps for snakes. They are easy to set up, and you can leave them unattended–just check on them every several hours to see if you’ve caught anything.
You can see how to use minnow traps in this tutorial video:
The only problem with minnow traps is that they might not be large enough for every bull snake. Bull snakes can grow up to 8 feet long and have thick, muscular bodies, so unless the snakes you’re dealing with are younger or smaller, you may have to consider another option.
The good news is, you can make your own cage trap, similar to a minnow trap, and you can make it as large as you need. Check out how to make your own mesh cage traps in the video below.
Trash Can and Broom
If you don’t have minnow traps readily available and you don’t have time to make your own, you might be able to use an empty plastic trash can in the same way. If you’re attempting to capture a large bull snake, you may want to use a trash can with a lid.
Lay the trash can on its side and bait it with some unwashed, farm-fresh chicken eggs. You’ll want to position the trash can where you frequently see snakes in your yard.
You’ll need to watch this trap closely, as there will be nothing to keep the snake from turning around and leaving once it realizes it has slithered to a dead end. As soon as you see a snake go into the can, go and tip the can upright, placing the lid on top to trap the snake inside.
If you want to take a more proactive approach, you can set up the trash can trap and go looking for snakes to chase into it. If you know the areas where snakes tend to hang out in your yard, go to these areas, set up the trap near any snakes you find, and attempt to chase them into the trash can using a broom.
Be careful doing this though; wear loose, protective clothing and gloves. Bull snakes will bite if threatened, and though they are not venomous, their bite can cause painful bacterial infections.
- Glue traps: Glue traps are a popular but usually inhumane trapping method. They work by attracting the snake to the trap, then catching it in the sticky surface as they attempt to pass over it.
If you want to use a glue trap, only do so to trap snakes that have come into your house–they should never be used outside. Check them often and release any snakes you catch as soon as possible–pouring vegetable oil over the trap will cause the glue to unstick and allow the snake to go free.
- Using your hands: You can catch a bull snake using your bare hands and a stick, though doing so may result in your getting bit. Make sure you are wearing protective clothing and thick gloves before attempting to handle any snake, and make sure you are certain of its identification first–bull snakes are sometimes confused with rattlesnakes, and you certainly don’t want to be handling any of those!
To pick up a snake, first distract it with your stick, then grab hold of its tail. Slip the stick under the front part of its body and lift up.
If you have a snake hook, use this instead of a stick. Carry the snake to where you are relocating it, or place it in a cage or trash can to drive it to a more distant location.
- Snake sacks: Snake sacks are large cloth bags that you can use to transport snakes to a different location. Large pillow cases work just as well.
After picking up a bull snake, you can transfer it to a snake sack or pillow case instead of a trash can or cage. The sack will be softer and will keep the snake from injuring itself if it behaves aggressively while in the trap.
How Do You Release a Captured Bull Snake?
Take it far away to a wooded, sparsely populated area, where it will find lots of places to hide. You don’t want to release it too close to home or it may come back.
Open the trap or place the trash can on its side and allow the snake to slither out on its own. Make sure to point the opening away from you, as the snake will want to get away as quickly as possible and will not likely turn back to attack you even if it is behaving aggressively.
If you are carrying the snake by hand, release it by pointing its head away from you and letting go of the tail. The snake will slither off in the direction its head is pointing–again, it will want to get away from you, so will probably disappear into the brush without turning back.
Can Bull Snakes Find Their Way Home?
If bull snakes are living in your yard in burrows, they may be able to find their way home if you don’t take them far enough away.
Snakes in general are pretty good at finding their way back home. Some are migratory by nature, while others seem to have an innate sense of navigation that can help them return after removal.
For example, a study at the University of Kent showed that relocated adders can find their way home by traveling more than a quarter mile through unsuitable and even dangerous environments. Another study, this one through Davidson College, showed that pythons can travel up to 20 miles to return to their original home!
While it’s unclear how far a bull snake could travel, there is reason to believe that it could return to your yard if it wanted to. The farther away you relocate it, the better off you’ll be, but you may still want to take steps to keep bull snakes out of your yard in case they return to the area after relocation.
How to Keep Bull Snakes Away
- Use a repellent: There are commercial snake repellents you can buy, but ammonia works just as well–snakes hate the smell of it. To use ammonia as a repellent, soak cotton balls in it and place them in plastic bags. Leave the bags unsealed and place them in areas where you suspect the snakes of congregating.
- Put up a snake fence: Once you’re certain you have removed all the snakes, you can install a snake fence. This small mesh fence works similar to chicken wire–the gaps are too small for the snake to pass through.
- Seal off cracks and burrows: If you find any bull snake burrows in your yard, seal them off by filling them in with dirt. It’s also a good idea to repair any cracks around your foundation and seal off any gaps where the snakes might slip inside your house.
There are many different ways to capture and release bull snakes, but humane cage traps are the best method. Once you have released the snakes into the wild, you’ll want to take steps around your house and yard to make sure they don’t return.