We’ve all heard of snakes on a plane, but this time of year, snakes are slipping their way into all sorts of unexpected places—like basements of the unsuspecting.
Here in Minnesota, the most common culprit is the Garter Snake, and the time of year is no coincidence.
Snakes don’t do things without reason or purpose. Nothing does. Virtually all questions of animal behavior can be answered by thinking of the most common sense, energetically efficient (aka, lazy) reason that you can.
Snakes are chilling in your basement because they don’t want to chill too much outside. In other words, it’s cold and the snakes are looking for a warmer place to crash (hibernate in your [their] hibernaculum) for the winter.
However, it also means that they were able to find their way in. An open door begs to be entered, right? Think of the last time you waited behind a bottleneck of people to pass through a door just because it was open and others were using it rather than going through one of the 6 closed doors to your left and right. (I know you do it!)
What this means is that you may have a crack in your foundation or that something, somewhere, isn’t sealed correctly, which could be another issue.
What about chemical deterrents? Unfortunately, people take advantage of people’s common fear of snakes to peddle their own snake oil solutions for prevention. The problem is, many of these “solutions” can be harmful to the health of your home and family.
Bottom line: DO NOT use mothballs, sulfur, or any Snake Away type of solution.
Because this blog post focuses on winter wigglers, I’m going to forgo discussing summer snake prevention and instead link you to a wonderfully crafted and research supported post by wildlife biologist Christopher Smith
The biggest thing you can (and should) do? Learn. Now, snakes are diverse and many. Being that this blog is Minnesota based, here is a wonderfully comprehensive guide from the MN DNR, but virtually every state wildlife agency has their own state-species-specific guides.
Regardless of your encounter or feeling towards snakes, here is something important to know: in Minnesota, all snakes are protected:
“Subd 39.Protected wild animals.
“Protected wild animals” means big game, small game, game fish, rough fish, minnows, leeches, alewives, ciscoes, chubs, lake whitefish and the subfamily Coregoninae, rainbow smelt, frogs, turtles, clams, mussels, wolf, mourning doves, bats, snakes, salamanders, lizards, any animal species listed as endangered, threatened, or of special concern in Minnesota Rules, chapter 6134, and wild animals that are protected by a restriction in the time or manner of taking, other than a restriction in the use of artificial lights, poison, or motor vehicles.” – the actual restriction is “species listed as endangered, threatened, or of special concern in Minnesota Rules, chapter 6134.”
The thing is, snakes are vital to a healthy ecosystem and pose virtually no threat to humans. If anything, think of them as your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Don’t be a J. Jonah Jameson. Acknowledge their positive ecological impacts, just like I can acknowledge that this analogy is getting away from me…
If you do find a snake in your home during the winter, it can be a tough call. If it’s out of the way, dormant, and not going to cause any issues, you could leave it be. Otherwise, perhaps you can sweep it into a small container until springtime. If neither is an option, you can contact a local wildlife rehabber to see if they can be of help.