Photo: How to attract snakes to your backyard

Make a garter snake friend, today! (Credit: Jode Roberts)

Is your garden overrun with slugs and mice? Enlist the help of snakes!

Many species of garter snakes and others, like the sharp-tailed snake (found on B.C.'s Gulf Islands), are a slug's worst nightmare.

In Canada, we have about 25 different species of snakes. But don't worry, most are shy.

Snake-friendly gardening tips

Tip 1: Avoid pesticides

Slug bait is harmful to snakes, other wildlife, children and pets!

Tip 2: Imitate nature

Avoid monocultures of plants that are planted in straight lines.


Tip 3: Use stones

Move objects like stones and slate carefully. They may be providing cover for your snake friends.

Tip 4: Plant a hedge

Hedges provides travel corridors and hiding places for snakes and other wildlife, too.

Tip 5: Build a hibernaculum

Protect or build hibernaculum (den). Snakes love rocky hillsides or knolls that receive sun for most of the day, protected from cold winds and on well-drained sites.

Tip 6: Give me shelter!

Provide hiding places from hawks, crows, racoons and mink. Shelter can include rocks, brush piles and, patches of shrubs. Did a tree fall? Leave fallen logs and bark when possible.

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Tip 7: Provide sun bathing areas

Snakes need to raise their body temperature to digest their food. Mommy snakes really appreciate warm spots when producing eggs or live young.

Tip 8: Make corridors

Rock walls and brush piles are most valuable when they're connected to one another (and not in the middle of large open areas).

Tip 9: Stir before you mow

Use a stir stick before you weed whack or mow grassy areas. Walk through the tall grass with a stick first to help snakes slither away.

Don't like snakes? They don't take it personally. But intentional killing of snakes is wrong. And it's contributing to the decline of many species — like Alberta's prairie rattlesnake — as is road and pipeline construction and increased agricultural activity.


I've saved rattlesnakes in my past job on the Alberta prairies. They're drawn to the heat of road pavement, making them vulnerable to traffic and increasing their odds of becoming a snake pancake.

Do you have a fond snake (or reptile) sighting to share?

Congrats to Louisa of Ontario who commented on this blog to win a wildlife identification guide!

Lindsay Coulter, a fellow Queen of Green

July 21, 2014

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Jun 11, 2016
6:37 PM

I used these tips to harvest black, rat, and copperhead snakes!! All these work very well, thank you so much!

May 06, 2016
4:29 PM

I’m convinced that I rarely see snakes anymore because too many ignorant people who live around me kill them. I love snakes, and recognize that most aren’t going to attack a human unless provoked. I saw two last year, and those were the first I’d seen in years. My grandfather used to only kill the poisonous ones, but people nowadays will kill any snake. I think they do it to inflate their egos or something, but snakes have as much right to be here as we do.

May 06, 2016
1:20 PM

While bicycling I came across a couple of garter snakes. A large one that had been just run over by a car and a smaller one that, I swear, was tying to comfort the bigger one. The smaller one kept licking the face of the dying one. It would slither all around the body as if assessing damage. A truck was barreling down the road heading our way. I moved the smaller snake to the ditch for safety. It immediately went back to the dead snake and resumed its licking.
Why do we humans think that we are the only ones who have feelings. Then again, maybe it was sizing up a meal.

Jul 05, 2015
9:24 AM

In the past 13 years I have seen one, one foot long snake, probably garter. I have camped, biked, walk in ravines. What are we doing to the nature?

Jul 03, 2015
1:40 PM

Funny I read this article and I just saw my first snake in Alberta 2 days ago in Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park… It was not a rattlesnake but probably a bull snake just crossing the road. Impressive!

May 17, 2015
7:49 PM

when i was little i would go into my grandparents yard and find garter snakes everywhere and i came back after about 3 years because i moved to washington and when i came back there was rarely snakes around and i always wondered where they went so i wanted to attract them and maybe keep one as a pet i found one yesterday and it was small and i took it to my friends and then i had to go to a birthday party and left it in a flower pot under a rock and i came back and he told me he lifted the rock and didnt put it back over the snake and it just slithered away and i kind of was attached to it and i even named it flame because it had an orange stripe and when i found out i was sad and mad at my friend

Aug 08, 2014
9:34 AM

I often see garter snakes here in Ontario. I would like to learn more about the other different species we have here!

Aug 07, 2014
12:42 PM

Finding a black-tailed rattlesnake in a tree above our heads is one of my fondest snake encounters. Of many :-) That story is detailed here:

Aug 04, 2014
6:36 AM

Great article! Snakes suffer from so much bad press, so it’s great to see some positive messages about them. It’s also good to acknowledge that urban wildlife does indeed exist. I’m trying to spread more awareness about the animals in our backyards through my blog: lab bench to park bench.

I was lucky enough to see a garter snake eating a frog at Gatineau Park the other day. Can snakes move while they are eating? This one stayed put, regardless of approaching hikers.

I remember my mom used beer for slug bait. Is that bad for snakes too?

Aug 02, 2014
8:49 PM

Last summer I saw a baby Northern ring-necked on the Bruce Peninsula. It was a summer of snakes since I also saw about 12-15 milk snakes, a couple water snakes and a few garter snakes! Before that summer I had only ever seen garter snakes.

Jul 23, 2014
8:20 AM

Fantastic article and great tips! I shared it on my Facebook page! Anything to help encourage co-existing with snakes and their survival!

Jul 22, 2014
8:17 PM

I sometimes use an iron based slug bait. Is that bad for ssssssnakessss too?

Jul 22, 2014
5:12 PM

Four years ago, my mom and I camped at the Pinery in Ontario. I was the first person to see a healthy and living hog nosed snake in the wild there. The park rangers said it’s a big deal. I was famous there for the day!

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