If you have new wild friends visiting you, it is likely that you can thank the heavy rains that we have been getting. Many animals, including snakes, are looking for higher ground. Be aware of your surroundings and watch where you step. During these wet periods, animals are out looking for dry areas and shelter. Among other local wildlife, snakes pique the interest of many people. Some people have fear, and others are truly just inquisitive about them. Regardless of your personal feelings about snakes, the truth is environmental and habitat conditions, including weather, such as when it’s hot or wet, increase snakes’ movement.
So what should you be on the lookout for? First, our native snakes camouflage very well and can be difficult to spot until you are close. Secondly, snakes play an important role in our ecosystem and are often our first line of defense against some pesky problems, such as rodents. Look down when walking, especially in areas that are not well-traveled or have excess brush growing. If you come across a snake, try to take a few steps back and, be mindful of the direction it is going; let it continue on its way. You can identify different snakes from a distance by taking photos and then using either your local Extension service or websites such as https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/index.php/herpetology/fl-snakes/identification/
We have 46 native species of snakes in Florida, 35 of which can be found in Central Florida. However, only 6 species in Florida are venomous. Two of these six venomous species are rarely found in central Florida; the copperhead and timber rattler are normally only located in more northern areas of our state. The other four species include the diamondback rattlesnake, pygmy rattlesnake, coral snake, and water moccasin. Check out: https://ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu/snakes/central.shtml. Snakes in their natural habitat should not be bothered, even if they are venomous; it is easy to avoid problems with them by simply staying back and letting them move away on their own.
Some species are often thought of as snakes but are actually not. One example is a glass lizard (genus Ophisaurus) which is a lizard with no legs. Snakes have no eyelids and are unable to close their eyes, but clear scales cover and protect them. Snakes also have no external ears, so if the reptile you are identifying has eyelids that can be closed or ear openings on the side of the head, it is a lizard, not a snake.
Wildlife encounters have become a greater problem for Florida residents as our population has encroached on their native habitats. Wildlife are beneficial and enjoyable, but everyone is happier if close encounters are kept to a minimum. This is one reason that feeding wildlife is illegal. Feeding wildlife can make them dependent upon people and create dangerous situations. If you feel that you are having a wildlife problem (which can be costly, annoying, or potentially hazardous), the first step is to identify the pest. If you are not sure of the identity, take pictures of tracks, scat, den size , and shape, time of day the problem is occurring, damage, and any other related observations, and seek help identifying your critter problem (from your local extension office).
Once identification has been confirmed, you can implement a management strategy. If you are not fond of the wildlife you are enduring, then take the time to remove attractants from your landscape, such as shelter and hiding places (firewood piles, thick brush, and snags). Remove food sources such as pet food and household scraps, and do not put your garbage out early. Use deterrents such as fences, commercially sold odors, sound machines, scary decoys, and chemicals or traps as a last resort.
Be aware that moth balls are not an acceptable solution no matter who recommended them! Moth balls will not deter snakes as they do not smell like we do. It is illegal to place moth balls in any place other than sites allowed per the label instructions. The same is true with all pest control chemical deterrents and poisons, these labels are federally regulated and provide instructions to keep you, your family, and the environment safe.
Source: UF/IFAS Pest Alert
Note: All images and contents are the property of UF/IFAS.