Snakes

About Snakes

Prairie Rattlesnake
  • Alberta has six resident snake species as follows:
    • Bullsnake
    • Plains garter snake
    • Prairie rattlesnake
    • Red-sided garter snake
    • Wandering garter snake
    • Western hog-nosed snake
  • Most snakes are not venomous. In fact, venomous snakes comprise only one-quarter of all snake species worldwide.
  • Of Alberta's six resident snake species, only one species, the prairie rattlesnake, possesses venom that is harmful to humans.
  • Most snake species (including all snake species that live in Alberta) are not aggressive by nature, and will sooner hide or flee than risk a confrontation with potential handlers or predators, including humans.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can snakes be a nuisance to people?

  • If threatened, injured or captured, snakes will defend themselves by various means, depending on the species. A cornered snake will often attempt some form of intimidating behaviour to drive a potential handler or predator away, including:
    • Striking (with mouth open or closed)
    • Hissing
    • Body enlargement by spreading ribs in the neck or body
    • Rattling of the tail (in rattlesnakes)
  • If intimidation tactics do not work, a cornered snake can employ more aggressive means of defending itself. If harassed, some snakes will bite in self-defence, but it should be noted:
    • Unless you are trying to severely provoke, harm or capture a snake, it is very unlikely you will be bitten.
    • In the rare event that you are bitten, the resulting wound will most likely be superficial, except in the case of the prairie rattlesnake. Bites from prairie rattlesnakes have never resulted in a fatality in Alberta, but they can be very painful and will require medical attention.
    • Snake bites, as with bites from other animals, can lead to infection. If you are bitten by a snake, even if it is not poisonous, seek medical attention to ensure that it’s properly cleaned.

What can I do about the snakes on my property?

Snakes favor cool, damp places for shelter, and may take residence under or even inside buildings, especially in the fall, when snakes are seeking places to hibernate.

Making conditions on your property less attractive to snakes is the best strategy to prevent snakes from entering. Consider the following tips:

For your yard

  • Eliminate cool, damp areas where snakes are likely to seek shelter. Remove brush, rock piles and trash piles. Cut tall grass and keep shrubbery away from building foundations.
  • Store grain in tightly sealed containers and clean up residual pet food and debris so as not to attract insects and rodents, as these are the main sources of food for snakes. This will force snakes to seek areas with a better food supply.

For your house

  • To prevent snakes from entering your house through the basement or crawl space, check for any cracks in the foundation (especially those ¼ inches or bigger) and seal them with mortar, caulking compound or 1/8 inch hardware cloth.
  • Snakes can pass through very small openings under doors or around loose fitting screens and windows. Check for holes or cracks around doors or windows, or around electrical wiring and water pipes, and ensure these openings are sealed.

It is not recommended that you make use of snake repellents (either commercial or home-made), as there is no conclusive data supporting the effectiveness of such products.

Alberta Snake Management

Contact

Call a Fish and Wildlife officer if you need specific advice on snake problems on your property, or to discuss removal techniques.

To find contact information for a Fish and Wildlife office near you, see:

Related Information

For more information on the species in Alberta:

 

Page Information

Updated: Aug 16, 2016