Snake Situations & Solutions

For some people, spotting a snake in the wild is an exciting and special experience, but for others, it may cause anxiety. Fortunately, the snakes you’re likely to find in your yard in Massachusetts aren’t venomous, and many of them helpfully eat rodents and insects.

The two venomous species, the northern copperhead and timber rattlesnake, are endangered, and they tend to avoid suburban and urban areas. Learn more about Massachusetts snake species

Snake Bites

Snakes prefer to avoid people, and will generally only bite when they are picked up, stepped on, or otherwise provoked. Fortunately, snakes do not carry diseases that are transmissible to humans.

A bite from a non-poisonous snake should be treated like any puncture wound: wash thoroughly and apply an antiseptic. A person bitten by a poisonous snake, such as the northern copperhead and the timber rattlesnake, should seek medical attention at the emergency room of the nearest hospital.

Management Options

Suburban yards can provide good habitat for snakes, which may seek cover under stairways, shrubs, wood piles, stonewalls, and dense vegetation. In the vast majority of situations, it’s best to leave the snake alone. In rare cases, you may want to take action.

  • If the snake is located in an inconvenient spot, stomp on the ground in the vicinity of the snake. The vibration will often cause it to move away.
  • You can discourage snakes from sunning on steps or walks by covering those areas with plastic doormats that have a false grass texture.
  • Snakes occasionally enter homes in search of insects or rodents, or a place to warm up or cool off. Try to confine the snake to one room. If there is an exterior door, open it and allow the snake to find its way out. If not, gently sweep the snake into a cardboard box, and release it outdoors.

Snakes and the Law

The Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife protects all reptiles found in the state against sale and over-collection. Also, under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act, it is illegal to kill, harass, or possess any of the following: the northern copperhead, the timber rattlesnake, the black rat snake, and the eastern worm snake.

Even though the law allows schools and individuals to possess two snakes of each common species, we suggest that after studying the snake for a day or two, the snake be put back where it was found.

Non-native snakes should never be released into the wild, as most cannot survive in our climate and their presence can be detrimental to native species. Visit the website of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife for regulations.