Rattlesnakes are cold-blooded creatures. Since they can’t regulate their own body temperature, they need to have a place of shelter for hibernating through the cold winter months. In this article, we’ll talk about how to find rattlesnake dens, how to get rid of them, and more facts related to these venomous pit vipers.
What You'll Learn Today
Where are Rattlesnake Dens Found?
Rattlesnake dens can be found mainly in grasslands – in a variety of locations and areas, but they aren’t always easy to recognize. Rattlesnakes don’t make their own dens, so they have to use whatever’s available for their winter homes–dens made by other animals, hollows under natural formations, etc.
Some common places to find rattlesnake dens include:
- Holes in the ground: Small-animal-sized holes in the ground often lead to burrows made by rats, gophers, and other rodents. Rattlesnakes often live in these burrows after the former occupants have died or moved on.
- Under rocks: Rattlesnakes love rocky outcroppings because they provide plenty of cracks and crevices for hiding in. They often use these cracks, crevices, and the spaces under flat rocks for hibernation during the winter.
- Under logs: Wooded and overgrown areas also provide plenty of hiding places as well as ample sources of food. Fallen trees and logs can make great rattlesnake dens, especially if they are rotted out or have just enough space underneath them for rattlesnakes to hide.
- Caves: Small caves also provide ample shelter and food for rattlesnakes. From the outside, a cave may look like nothing more than a small hole in a rock face, but inside it may house multiple rattlesnakes.
- Under porches and patios: Rattlesnakes try to avoid getting too close to humans, but they may find adequate shelter in hollows under your house’s foundation, as well as under porches and patios. If there are cracks or crevices around the base of your house or porch, these could be entry areas for snake dens.
As noted above, rattlesnake dens can be hard to identify as such unless you see the snakes actively going in and out of the den. You may also have to look for other clues in the area that suggest the presence of snakes.
Look for snake skins, which they shed as often as once a month when they are young. Just because you don’t see these skins doesn’t mean the snakes aren’t there, but finding snake skins is a sure way to know that you do, in fact, have snakes in the area–and studying the snake skin closely may help you determine the species of the snake.
If you find what you think may be a potential snake den, never stick your arm down into it. Any rattlers inside the den may strike without warning, and sticking your arm inside their home is a surefire way to make them feel threatened.
How Far Does a Rattlesnake Go From Its Den?
Rattlesnakes generally travel up to a mile away from their den, but some may travel much farther if they are migrating.
Often, rattlesnake dens are only used for overwintering; the snakes will leave these dens in the spring and won’t return until late fall, often traveling set pathways and distances to reach their summer homes.
That said, not all rattlesnakes migrate–in fact, even within a single species, some groups of rattlers may migrate, while others will not. With that in mind, it is suspected that rattlers only migrate in search of food or if they have other needs; may choose not to migrate if food is plentiful near their den, or unless something forces them to move on.
During mating season, rattlesnakes may also travel greater distances in search of a mate. The male rattlesnakes tend to travel farther in search of mates than female rattlesnakes.
Female rattlesnakes will almost always return to their den to give birth in the late summer or fall. This means they may have to travel some distance to get back to the den if they have migrated away for the summer.
Even rattlesnakes that stay near their den don’t use it as much in the summer as they do in the winter–they need their dens in winter for survival from the cold. Even then, they may emerge from their dens on warm, sunny days in winter.
Rattlesnakes tend to stay out of the sun during the hottest hours of the day in summer, and some of them may use their dens for shelter during these times.
The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, including the weather and how much food is available in a given area. If there is a warm winter and plenty of food, not as many snakes will share the same den; but if it is colder and food is scarce, they may press more closely together for warmth and stay in their dens longer as they hibernate.
According to the National Forest Foundation, a rattlesnake may share a single den with hundreds of other snakes–and not just rattlers. They may hibernate with snakes of other species as well.
Rattlesnakes don’t always den together though; smaller dens may only house one or a couple of snakes at a time. Again, it depends on food, weather, and perhaps even the availability of other dens.
If a den is left undisturbed, rattlesnakes may return to it again and again for many years.
How Do You Get Rid of Rattlesnake Dens?
Of course, if you suspect or know you have a rattlesnake den in your yard, you probably don’t want to leave it there. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to get rid of rattlesnake dens and encourage the snakes to leave your yard.
- Get rid of prey animals: small rodents, frogs, lizards, or an overabundance of insects can attract rattlesnakes into your yard–what’s more, rodents especially often create the burrows rattlesnakes move into. If you want to discourage rattlesnakes from hanging around your yard, remove their food and burrow sources.
- Fill in the dens: If you see a lot of animal burrows around your yard or holes around your foundation, fill these in with dirt or gravel. Rattlesnakes are not able to dig, so they will not be able to get in or out of any dens that you seal off.
- Use traps and repellents: If you see rattlesnakes in your yard, investing in a good-quality snake repellent may convince them to move on. If the repellent doesn’t work, you can try setting up minnow-traps to capture the snakes.
- Put up a fence: Once you’re fairly certain all the snakes are out of your yard, putting up a fence might help to seal off your yard and keep them from coming back. A small-mesh snake fence works quite well, as the snakes are too large to slither through the openings in the fence.
- Call a professional: If you have a lot of snakes in your yard or you aren’t sure how to deal with them safely, you may want to call a professional exterminator or wildlife removal service. As you can see in the video below, sometimes it’s best to leave dangerous jobs to those who have been trained to deal with them.
Rattlesnakes hibernate in dens throughout the winter. These dens can be found in old rodent burrows, under rocks and logs, and even in the cracks and crevices of your home’s foundation.
If you find rattlesnake dens in your yard, follow the tips above or call a professional wildlife removal service. Rattlesnakes are venomous; you don’t want them hanging around your house.