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Posted by Tom Lott on August 14, 2002 at 16:23:00:
In Reply to: I have coral snakes in my yard posted by txjeep on August 14, 2002 at 12:46:15:
I too have Coral Snakes in my yard and have had for about 25 years without incident. They are basically unagressive but WILL bite if grabbed or stepped on. Two things seem to attract them: food (small snakes and lizards) and moisture (they dehydrate very rapidly.
The easiest way to get rid of coral snake FOOD is to have a herd of cats around. The cats will make a dent in the lizard/small snake population. Cats are not immune to coral snake venom and, if bitten, will likely die, but they may draw your attention to a snake in the yard. The last coral snake I found in my yard I only noticed because one of our cats was following it, pawing at its tail as it crawled through the grass!
The moisture thing may be more difficult to correct around Houston but here (south-central Texas) a dry, barren yard definitely discourages snakes (and their food) from taking up residence. In the old days farm and ranch houses were surrounded by nothing but bare earth (kept that way by free-ranging chickens) so that any snakes that did show up could be more easily seen. Any leaf litter or other debris should be kept raked up religiously.
In this part of the state, swimming pools seem to be magnets for snakes of all types. Over the years I have removed about a half-dozen coral snakes from swimming pools! Same for landscape irrigation. More moisture=more snakes.
Chris is right about the fact that these snakes do not occur in "nests." In fact, it is unusual to find them in high population densities at all. I also agree that moth balls and the various commercially available "snake repellants" are not effective (at least for more than an day or two).
Make sure your children wear real shoes (not sandals) when they are outside. Educate them to never pick up any snake (especially brightly colored ones) and they should be OK. Your main advantage is that you know the snakes are there. Most folks who share their property with them never see them, for even though they are relatively common, their tendency to dehydrate forces them to remain under ground most of the time.