Snakes seek shelter, prey in basements

  • Article by: KAREN YOUSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 1, 2009 - 11:55 AM

Q Can you tell me why snakes come into a house? We've found them in the basement. What can we do to prevent this?

A When it's hot outside, snakes are active and seek out cool, moist shelter. The typical Minnesota basement is very attractive to them. Often they enter through cracks, gaps or even mouse holes in the ground next to the foundation.

Do you have heat ducts under the basement floor? The problem with this common and relatively recent building practice, called transite heat, is that some ducts aren't built tightly or don't stay tight over time. Insects, mice and the snakes that feed on them could enter the ducts.

Another possible entry site is the sump pump or drain tile. Make sure these areas aren't open to the air. Tile that drains from an open end should be covered with 1/4-inch hardware cloth. Clean debris from this cover routinely.

The same cloth can be placed over other openings to the basement, including furnace combustion air intakes, dryer vents, etc.

Seal cracks or holes in the foundation or the ground near it, and in sidewalks, driveways and retaining walls. Use mortar, sealing compound or wire mesh where appropriate.

Make sure basement doors and windows are shut and that they seal tightly when closed.

There are no chemical repellents for snakes. Some people report success with various home remedies, including mothballs, sulfur, tacky bird repellent, lime, cayenne pepper, coal tar and creosote. None of these effectively repelled snakes in a University of Nebraska study.

To remove a snake from your basement, use a broom to sweep it into a bucket. Do not kill it. Instead, take it to a distant wild area and release it. Snakes are desirable because they help control rodent and insect populations. Snakes can capture these pests in burrows or under cover where other predators can't.

Meanwhile, discourage snakes near your home. Snakes like to hide under boards and in wood and rock piles, weeds or growth near foundations. Clean up those hiding spots and you'll not only eliminate snake shelter, but discourage the insects and mice they feed on.

Reducing any rodent population also will help. Birdseed spilled from feeders and pet food kept outdoors attract rodents.

Includes information from U.S. Department of Agriculture

Send your questions to Fixit in care of the Star Tribune, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488, or call 612-673-7032, or e-mail fixit@startribune.com. Sorry, Fixit cannot supply individual replies.

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