We recently responded to a question about the rattlesnake population in the Black Hills. Part of the question asked if people could take steps to actually reduce that population.
As we explained, this perception of a snake population increase is mistaken, so there really isn’t an overpopulation issue.
Even if there were, it’s somewhat difficult to locate snake dens without quite a bit of foot-work. Even if you did locate it, your options are truly limited. There is no way to truly eradicate a population of snakes. There may even be several dozen den sites within a 4-5 mile search area, some of which you just won’t find.
Here in the Black Hills there are many places for snakes to den, the population in any one given den site is usually less than 100. Though in large den sites on the prairies, populations of several hundred are not uncommon. This is due to lower numbers of suitable denning sites being available.
There was a government eradication program for rattlesnakes in the early 1900’s through the 1970’s, and one place they hit hard was up on the South Dakota/North Dakota border. For over 10 years the government tried every method imaginable to eradicate this particular den site: pit fall traps, gasoline, guns, bounties…I can only imagine how many thousands of snakes were destroyed in that time frame.
I travel to that den site every fall just for fun, and to this day, I can go there and remove dozens and dozens of rattlesnakes in a matter of hours. Short of a bunker buster bomb courtesy of Ellsworth Air Force Base, it is just not likely that any great reduction of the numbers of rattlesnakes in a given den site is likely to occur.
However, if you want to decrease snake activity on and around your property, there are some steps you can take.
Keeping Snakes Away
There’s nothing we can really do to actually repel snakes, but there are certain things you can do to at least make your property less hospitable for them.
I had a rattlesnake in my yard last year, first one in 7 years living there. I have small children, a dog, and cat, so obviously I don’t want them in my yard either. I simply caught it and moved it away from the house. My kids are also hyper-aware of snakes, just because of who dad is. Knowing that snakes are generally nomadic and only stay in an area as long as the food, water, shelter and mates are available, I took a look at my property and figured out why that particular snake was there and fixed it.
Here are some things you can do:
- Keep the grass cut low
- Remove rock piles, woodpiles, trash piles and other rubbish
- Keep shrubbery trimmed up from the ground
- Fill in foundation cracks
- Rid the yard of rodent and insect populations
- Always watch where we sit, stand, walk and place our hands
But, even when all precautions are taken we need, keep in mind that snakes are native to this area. Although (to me at least), having a few rattlesnakes, bees and mountain lions is a much better proposition than the smog, traffic and crime of the big cities