If you live in the southern or eastern portions of the U.S., chances are you’re familiar with cottonmouths. These venomous snakes are a common sight in swamps, marshes, near ponds, streams, lakes, and even drainage ditches. But what if they decide to take up residence in your yard? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll talk about how to get rid of cottonmouth snakes.
What You'll Learn Today
Can You Remove Cottonmouths Yourself?
Technically, the answer is yes; but keep in mind that messing around with venomous pit vipers of any kind, including cottonmouths, is dangerous.
Cottonmouths are not the most aggressive pit vipers; they prefer to run away when threatened rather than fight back. Still, if they are backed into a corner with no way of escaping, they will do whatever they have to do to protect themselves.
For this reason, your chances of getting bit go way up if you are trying to handle and relocate cottonmouths.
Your best bet is to call a professional wildlife removal service. These companies train their employees on how to safely remove dangerous snakes and provide the proper equipment for doing so.
Check out this video of a professional removing a large cottonmouth from a swimming pool:
How to Remove Cottonmouth Snakes From Your Home or Yard
If you decide to attempt removing a cottonmouth on your own, you should take precautions to protect yourself. Don’t go into it blindly; do some research and learn how to properly approach and handle these snakes.
Then, follow the steps below.
Step 1: Wear Proper Protection
Your first line of defense against a cottonmouth bite is the clothing you wear. If you’re going to be coming in close contact with these snakes, you should wear the following clothes to minimize your chances of getting bit:
- Thick clothing: Ideally, you should wear long, thick pants and a long-sleeved shirt; that way your entire body is covered. The clothing should be thick and loose-fitting; that way, if the snake does bite, there’s a good chance its fangs will get caught up in the clothes and won’t penetrate your skin.
- Gloves: Your hands and arms will be especially prone to getting bit since you will be attempting to handle the snake. For this reason, wear a pair of thick gloves–preferably bite-proof snake- or animal-handling gloves.
- Footwear: Your feet and legs are also at a high risk of being bitten. It’s a good idea to wear a pair of thick work or outdoor boots, preferably those that protect the ankle, the shin, or even the entire lower leg up to the knee.
- Facial protection: While not completely necessary, it may be a good idea to wear some kind of facial protection, such as a beekeeper’s mask or a pair of work glasses. Cottonmouths are not as likely to strike at your face, but if they do, the results can be devastating if you aren’t properly protected.
Step 2: Use Repellents
Before getting up close and personal with these venomous snakes, you might first try repelling them from your yard. There are a variety of repellents you can use:
- Store-bought repellents: You can buy many different types of snake repellents online or at your local garden center. Some of these repellents kill any snakes in the area, while others simply discourage them from coming on the property.
- Homemade repellents: You can also make your own homemade repellents by mixing several drops of clove or cinnamon oil in water and spraying it in areas where you’ve seen snake skins or suspect that snakes like to hide out. They don’t like the odor of these oils and are likely to leave the area if they smell them.
- Plants: Certain types of plants also deter snakes. You might try planting some garlic, lemongrass, or marigold plants to chase the cottonmouths away.
Step 3: Use Traps
If repellents don’t work and you still notice cottonmouths in your yard, you could try setting traps for them. Traps are a good way to capture these snakes because they don’t require a lot of close contact–simply set them up and leave them to do their work.
There are a couple of different kinds of traps you can use:
- Live traps: As the name suggests, live traps will capture the snake alive and will not physically harm it. You can use cage traps as long as the spaces in the cage are not too large, or you can use minnow traps, as shown in the following video:
If using a live trap, be very careful when releasing the snake. Take it to a remote location far from where people live, and be very cautious when opening the cage; wear your protective equipment and allow the snake to slither out of the cage on its own.
- Kill traps: Kill traps are designed to quickly and humanely kill whatever you are attempting to trap. These are safer to use with cottonmouths because you don’t have to worry about getting bit when removing a dead snake from the trap.
That said, check your local laws and regulations to make sure it’s legal to kill cottonmouths in your area. They are not an endangered species so you shouldn’t have anything to worry about; still, it’s a good idea to check beforehand.
Step 4: Use a Snake Hook and Tongs
This is the most dangerous, hands-on way to remove a snake, though it is also one of the most effective. You can invest in a large snake hook and a good pair of snake tongs, then use them to grab the cottonmouth and place it in a snake removal sack or other cloth bag to relocate it.
This method of snake removal is displayed in the above video of the cottonmouth in the swimming pool.
Again, though, this method is extremely dangerous. You should not attempt it unless you have been trained to do so.
How to Keep Cottonmouths From Coming Back?
Once you’ve effectively removed the cottonmouths from your house or yard, you probably don’t want them to come back. What can you do to keep them away?
- Plant snake-repelling plants: As mentioned above, cottonmouths don’t care for plants such as lemongrass, marigold, and garlic. Plant these aromatic and flavorful plants around your yard to create a natural snake repellent that will last all summer long.
- Clean your yard: Snakes, including cottonmouths, like to hide in wood piles, tall grass, sheds, and under piles of junk. Clean your yard up, keep your plants trimmed and your wood piles fenced off; if your yard isn’t full of great hiding places, chances are the snakes won’t want to stick around.
- Remove food and water sources: Cottonmouths are semi-aquatic, so they love having water to swim in, and they enjoy a variety of foods from fish and frogs to mice and rats. Cover your swimming pool, keep your pond clean, drain areas where standing water tends to collect after a rain, and remove any pest animals from your yard to discourage cottonmouths from creating their home too close to yours.
- Seal your house: Cottonmouths occasionally find their way inside the house, especially as the weather cools down and they are looking for a warm place. To keep them from coming inside your house, seal any cracks in the foundation, repair broken windows, and make sure there are no other gaps or cracks in your house where they might be able to get in.
- Install a snake fence: Snake fences can be expensive, but they are one of the most effective ways of sealing off your property so that snakes can’t get inside. These fences are made with gaps too small for the snakes to crawl through; if you have a snake fence encircling your yard, it is nearly impossible for any snakes, including cottonmouths, to get inside.
Cottonmouths are venomous pit vipers, so you probably don’t want them hanging out around your house or yard. The best way to get rid of them is to call a professional wildlife removal service, though you can also remove them yourself as long as you use caution and follow the steps outlined in this article.