How to Live Peacefully with the Occasional Snake

Red rat or corn snake
Red rat or corn snake

In my ten years living on Anna Maria Island, I have come across very few snakes. The ones I have seen were not venomous. Yet I know some people in my neighborhood kill every snake they see. This is not necessary and it’s not kind. It also can have unforeseen consequences.

Every creature is a part of a complex system that human life needs to survive. By far the majority of 45 species and 44 subspecies of snake found in Florida are not venomous. And many of them serve useful roles, such as the ones that eat mice and rats. Rather than kill every snake, it makes much more sense to use the numerous guides available in books and on line to identify a snake first. If it’s not dangerous, then the best way to treat it is the same way we treat the lizards, frogs and birds in our yard. Try to appreciate them. They are part of the beautifully rich Florida environment.

There are professionals who relocate unwanted snakes. If you try to relocate a harmless snake yourself, one effective method is to find a large plastic garbage bin with corners and a lid. Lay it on the ground near the snake (don’t get too close yourself) and sweep the snake into the bin. Turn it upright and put the lid on. Remember that large snakes can strike from a distance, and even non-venomous snakes may bite, so be sure to use a broom with a long handle. Carry the bin to a large wild area and release the snake carefully, without handling it.

The southern Black Racer snake is harmless, commonly seen in daylight in or near undergrowth, and avoids people but it is is good for the garden by eating insects, rodents, lizards and moles.

There are only 6 venomous snakes in Florida. It’s worth knowing them in order not to panic when other snakes appear.