Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.

Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.
The purpose of this blog is to provide information on using native plants in the landscape, issues related to invasive exotic plants, urban wildlife management, and wildlife damage management. It is my intention that this information will assist you in deciphering the multitude of information circulating around the web and condense in some meaningful method as it relates to Kentucky. In addition, I hope to highlight a native plant that can be used in the landscape.

Friday, October 14, 2011

It must be fall, the snake calls are coming in hot and heavy

Almost annually, without exception, spring and fall are snake season for homeowners.  Spring when they come out of the dens and in the fall when they travel to go back into the dens.  I swear, all snakes are copperheads to the folks that call and all have this paranoia about snakes.  Can't quite figure it out because there are only about 8,000 venomous snake bites a year in the United States and less than 12 deaths from them annually.  For some reason, this year was an excellent year for young milk and rat snakes, which have patterns that superficially appear like copperheads, and these really got people's attention.  In central Kentucky most homeowners should not worry about coming into contact with a venomous snake because the two species, copperhead and rattlesnake, only occur rarely in rugged habitat around the palisades of the Kentucky River.  The two most common snakes found in homeowners yards are the rat snake and garter snake, with the rat snake by far being the most common.  There are a number of different subspecies of the rat snake but the common and black are the most abundant in Kentucky.  These are very beneficial snakes to have around as their primary diet as adults is mice.  Young will eat baby birds, lizards, and an occasional frog. They can live just about anywhere, buildings, rock piles, gardens and are excellent climbers.  Typical size ranges from three to five feet although they can get larger under certain conditions.  When approached or sensing danger, the first response is usually to remain motionless.  However, when provoked, and it seems like humans like to provoke them, they can become aggressive and coil up, shake and vibrate their tails, and even strike. If you pick one up, the snake is likely to release a foul smelling musk.  Rat snakes are egg layers and in good years they can lay two clutches of eggs.  The young hatchlings are aggressive feeders and can double their size rather quickly.  There are no chemicals registered for controlling snakes in buildings or around homes.  The best advice is to remove any habitat, i.e. places where rodents hang out and places where they can hide such as wood piles, downed logs, tin or boards lying on the ground, and un-kept or un-mowed turf and gardens.  You can capture snakes indoors with the use of a glue type trap and there are snake repellents on the market although research shows limited efficacy in most situations.  The bottom line is to try to accept and live with them because they are quite beneficial and won't harm or attack you.  In fact, certain subspecies of rat snakes are quite common in the pet trade and tame easily.


  1. Susan E. MartinOctober 19, 2011


    Thanks for the good snake info. Really like the blog and find it beneficial and interesting!

  2. I have a garter snake that lives in the back yard, most of the year anyway... this year he decided that the house might give him a wonderful habitat for the winter. Needless to say, when he fell onto my windowsill from goodness knows where, (I think he may have accidentally been brought in on a ficus tree that I let summer outside) it was pretty startling.

    I'm not a fan of snakes, have never been a fan of them, but have made peace with this one because he's been pretty good about keeping to his area and me to mine... at least until then.

    I'm happy to say he went toward the window screen, and I went to shut the window, and then was able to life the screen on the outside enough for him to get out.

    I'm sure he was as shocked by the whole experience as I was, but I can report that he's doing well... one day last week when I got home from work he was happily sunning himself on the back drive... OUTSIDE where he belongs.