Florida Snake Safety at Home

Kate Mitchell

May 2, 2024

Florida has 44 native species of snake. But did you know that only six of those are venomous species? Although living in the same area as these reptiles can be daunting, Florida's native snakes play a vital role in the local ecosystem. With a little care and understanding, it's possible for people to live alongside common snakes without worry.

Species of Snakes in Florida

rattlesnake on dried grass
Rattlesnakes are among Florida's venomous snake species

One of the most important factors in staying safe around snakes is to learn to identify native species that live in your area so you'll know when you see one whether or not it might be dangerous. If you have kids, it's a good idea to educate them on our local snakes as well.

Florida's six venomous snake species are:

The first five of these species are pit vipers. They are recognizable by their thick bodies, blocky heads, rough scales and dark facial band. Follow the links above for pictures to help you identify each one.

The last one on the list, the Eastern or Harlequin Coral Snake, has a black snout and brightly-colored red and yellow bands.

It's a good idea to learn to identify Florida's non-venomous snakes as well. Sometimes these species can look very similar to the venomous ones. Banded Water Snakes, for example, are often confused with Cottonmouths. Florida Museum has a useful snake ID guide that can be helpful when you're trying to find out what kind of snake you've spotted.

How to Peacefully Co-exist with Snakes

Keeping Your Yard Snake-Proof

long dry grass
Long grass and garden debris can provide hiding places for snakes

First, it's worth noting that most snakes generally do not want to encounter people, and will tend to stay away from residential areas. Killing snakes you find in your yard is not recommended, especially as many of the non-venomous species are actually helpful in keeping down the rodent population. Some harmless snakes are even natural predators of venomous ones!

However, there are several steps that homeowners can take to make outdoor areas less attractive to snakes. The first recommendation is to get rid of any tall grass that might provide a good hiding place for snakes. This is especially important in areas close to your home, and anywhere that pets or children might be playing.

Next, check your yard for any other places that might make a good snake habitat. Wood piles can be a popular wildlife habitat. Ensure that any piles of wood or brush are well away from your house. Firewood should be stored on a rack rather than directly on the ground.

Overgrown shrubs, piles of leaves or piles of bricks can also provide snake habitat. This habitat is also beneficial for other wildlife, so it's not recommended to completely get rid of vegetation and brush piles. Simply make sure they are situated away from your home, and warn children to stay clear of these areas unless supervised.

Keeping Your Home Snake-Proof

The Black racer is one of Florida's many nonvenomous snakes

Some species of snakes may attempt to enter homes, particularly if a source of food is available to them. This may include rodents, or other pests such as voles, frogs or insects. Ensuring that any food sources are dealt with can help to prevent snakes from entering your property.

To be on the safe side, it's a good idea to check your house and any sheds or outbuildings for gaps that could provide entry access for snakes. Look out for gaps under doors or alongside windows, and holes in the roof. Check for holes in screens on windows, doors, porches or screen rooms.

Pet doors are one of the most common access points for snakes. In fact, outdoor cats are sometimes responsible for bringing snakes into the home - often through a pet door. The only way to prevent snakes accessing your home through a pet door is to remove or seal it up completely.

What to Do If You Encounter a Snake

Tips for Safe Snake Encounters

If you do encounter a snake, whether in your own yard or elsewhere, experts recommend that you stand well back and simply observe. In most cases, even venomous snakes will not attack humans and are most likely to try to avoid an encounter. Most snake bites occur when snakes react in self-defense to people or pets who have come too close.

The FWC has some useful advice on what to do if you encounter a snake. Being prepared, and knowing the native species well enough to identify them, are the best ways to avoid any negative encounters.

Handling Snake Bites

In the unlikely event that you are bitten by a snake, the CDC has a guide for what to do. Their advice is to try to see and remember the size and color of the snake; if you can safely do so, take a picture. An ID of the snake species can help medical professionals make the best decisions for treatment.

The CDC recommends trying to keep the person who has been bitten still and calm. Seek medical attention by calling 911. They also recommend getting in touch with your local Poison Control Center.

Snake Safety

Remember that it's incredibly rare for snake bites in Florida to be fatal; in fact, statistics show you're more likely to be killed by lightning than by a venomous snake.

As mentioned above, the best way to stay safe is to get to know your local snake species. Take measures to make the area around your home less inviting for these reptile visitors. And, if you do see a snake, act with caution. As long as people are prepared and alert, peaceful co-existence with Florida's native snakes is perfectly possible.

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