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Silly Question about Snakes

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  • Silly Question about Snakes

    We've been here two years and have a 3 stall pole barn with hay/tack in the back. Last year, we saw two snakes in the barn and one in the garage. I was so happy as obviously we have a rat problem. Our feed is in metal trash cans or metal truck boxes plus we pick up their black feed tubs after their breakfast and dinner meals. Regardless we have rats. P.S. I also have rat bait stations down which I guess is helping as every now and then we find a dead rat in one of the stalls. We enlarged our stalls last year and after that didn't see the snakes anymore.

    I'm sure I already know the answer to this, but would it be wrong for me to buy small rat snakes and put them in the barn? I would hate to buy something domesticated and then let it starve if it can't adjust to living wild. Interesting enough, we've seen some monster snakes (6-7 feet) by our house, but that's a pretty far distance from the barn. I also don't want anything that's going to bite our horses on the nose.

    BTW, as much as I love cats and have one. I don't want cats in the barn. They can't get out of the hay/tack rooms where the rats are. Thanks for the help!

  • #2
    In Georgia you may not own a native species of snake. Which means you cannot buy them from a local breeder. You may be able to buy them from a breeder in another state. I wouldn't though. You risk introducing genes into the local population that will affect hardiness.
    Is your rat bait the kind that will not kill scavengers? If not you may be killing predators that you want to keep. Consider too that a poisoned rat is slow and likely to be caught by your snakes as well. Better to use traps. Or borrow a terrier.
    As long as there is food, the snakes will come. You may be able to find a way to make your barn more hospitable. Perhaps create places to sleep and to sun will attract them
    "The mighty oak is a nut who stood its ground"

    "'ll never win Olympic gold by shaking a carrot stick at a warmblood..." see u at x


    • #3
      You already know the answer but yeah, don't do that.

      A lot of snakes would do just fine if released in their native habitat - "pet" snakes aren't really what you'd call domesticated. But a lot of captive bred snakes are pretty heavily inbred and can have genetic faults that would affect their ability to survive. Plus, they're not exactly used to having to hunt down their own dinners, though instinct would probably kick in for many.

      They sometimes carry diseases that aren't yet found in the local wild populations, even if the captive bred snake is from an indigenous species. They haven't been exposed to local populations so they might not be able to handle whatever diseases/parasites affect the local snakes.

      Beyond that, if you don't currently have wild snakes in/near your barn, there's probably a reason for it. Even if the released snake would be capable of surviving in the wild, it would probably be killed/lured away/driven away by whatever has caused your local snakes to disappear.

      (Oh, and it's illegal in most jurisdictions. )


      • #4
        Yeah, don't do that (buy a "pet" snake and release it). I'd note that just because you haven't SEEN a snake, doesn't mean you don't have a snake or two at your barn.

        I no longer use poison as I did when we first bought our farm 17 years ago. I had not thought of what eats rats/mice also being poisoned. There is supposedly a newer poison that has less chance of killing predators that eat a rat/mouse that has ingested it. But I am not willing to take that chance.

        I'd maybe contact the USDA or Ag extension in your area and ask for their input on encouraging snakes or other "natural" ways to control the rat population.
        ~~ How do you catch a loose horse? Make a noise like a carrot! - British Cavalry joke ~~


        • #5
          I HATE snakes !

          sorry but they creep me out = scare me to death !
          Zu Zu Bailey " IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE ! "


          • Original Poster

            Originally posted by Stacie View Post
            In Georgia you may not own a native species of snake. Which means you cannot buy them from a local breeder. You may be able to buy them from a breeder in another state. I wouldn't though. You risk introducing genes into the local population that will affect hardiness.
            Is your rat bait the kind that will not kill scavengers? If not you may be killing predators that you want to keep. Consider too that a poisoned rat is slow and likely to be caught by your snakes as well. Better to use traps. Or borrow a terrier.
            As long as there is food, the snakes will come. You may be able to find a way to make your barn more hospitable. Perhaps create places to sleep and to sun will attract them
            Thanks Stacie. I didn't know I couldn't buy them. I guess when I went to the pet store and they didn't have any for sale, it would have been a dead giveaway. Our rat bait only works on rats. I certainly don't want any other animals harmed because they ate a poisoned rat. I've thrown one mouse and a baby rat in the tall grasses so that some other animal might benefit. Keeper, a 5 ft snake, used to sleep in the rafters after he had eaten and you could tell he was using the back room as I was cleaning up his poop. I don't actually think there's a way to get into the back room, although the rats are sneaking in through the back door that doesn't fit tightly. My husband said he walked in there one day and knew there was a fight going on in the one double wall that we have. Thanks for sharing!


            • Original Poster

              SummerRose Thanks for giving me lots of good things to think about. I now know I definitely won't do it. I'm rather fond of snakes and don't want to see one harmed.


              • Original Poster

                4LeafCloverFarm There's probably some there. Last year, I saw more of the two snakes than this year. I'll say that my DH has been basically taking care of everything as I had some eye surgery and couldn't be around dusk. The other snakes weren't afraid of us and it worked out great. I actually like cleaning up the poop from Keeper as I knew he was still there and working.

                Zu Zu We can't love everything! Glad you love horses though!


                • #9
                  I don't know any cop or prosecutor in Georgia who would cite you for snake ownership unless you have a snake that is threatening humans. One of my classmates in high school had rattlesnakes in his family's subdivision home and yes he got bitten by one of his "pets" and still kept those snakes.

                  My mother grew up on a farm and her motto was "the only good snake is a dead snake" because the harmless-to-humans-snakes would get into birds' nests and eat the baby birds. At one boarding barn the black snake eschewed the nest of baby rats and ate all the baby wrens in their barn nest so I dispatched the the black snake and baby rats.

                  i have friends (female) who have those tiny rattlers but they keep them in terrariums. I'd never introduce any snake to a barn or any place where any animal lives.


                  • #10
                    Yes, it is illegal AND potentially harmful to your native snake population (rat snakes have many genetic variants, captive reared animals can introduce new diseases or parasites and often don't have the skills to survive). And yes, a DNR enforcement officer can & will (& should) prosecute.

                    I suspect you may have inadvertently killed your snakes with the rat bait - even though those baits aren't "targeting" snakes, it can kill a snake (or hawk or owl or eagle or pet) who eats the poisoned carcass. This is the primary reason I don't use poison (& it's only a slightly less horrific death than glue traps) . Any poisoned carcasses should NOT be placed where anything else can eat them.

                    Thank you for appreciating our snakey friends, they are some of my favorite animals, please help them further by using big snap traps or if you must use baits, use a station that the rat can't escape so the predators don't suffer collateral damage.

                    If you want to attract snakes like I do (they do a great job on my dumb mice) the easiest way is to provide cover patches, such a pieces of plywood or rocks - anything with cozy spaces underneath (I had a beautiful prairie kingsnake move into a pile of reject hay bales).

                    I have multiple colleagues in GA DNR, if you can't find info on their website, send me a pm & I can get you contact info for one of their herpetologists, they can chat with you about your questions. That's part of our job, one that I enjoy very much.
                    Last edited by wildlifer; May. 17, 2019, 08:55 PM. Reason: Added important conjunction so I wasn't referring to eagle's pets. Which they would probably eat.
                    Life doesn't have perfect footing.

                    Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
                    We Are Flying Solo


                    • #11
                      Just want to say I am so happy to have seen a juvenile yellow rat snake in my barn this week.


                      • #12
                        PS those lovely big rat snakes you see won't bother your horses one bit. And also thank you for not throwing a wildlife serial killer, aka cat out there. I love my cat, indoors where he belongs, so I can enjoy over 100 species of birds, marbled salamanders, and many other creatures that make their homes here.

                        Although I sure wish something would hurry up & eat the cowbirds (exotic nest parasites), ugh.
                        Life doesn't have perfect footing.

                        Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
                        We Are Flying Solo


                        • #13
                          If you can tolerate cleaning out a 50 gallon drum almost full of water and dead rats,my ou could try that old farm trick

                          Put a gang plank to the top of the barrel. Put big globs of peanut butter in the water. Fill the barrel full enough to where the rats can't get back out once they jump in after the peanut butter. Then you have to do the cleaning and disposing

                          i still ihave Black snakes around because I see their skins when tHey shed. Between them and the Red Tail Hawks we don't have much of a rat issue.

                          Rattlesnakes, Copperheads, and Water Moccasins also hang out on various farms along this road --- we keep our property well mowed so thankfully, "here" isn't one of those places, lol.

                          Meaning, I only see rats on rare occasion


                          • Original Poster

                            walkinthewalk I tried that with the 5-gallon bucket - nothing. We had it right outside the other side of the barn and when we let the horses in the pen, our little pony ate the peanut butter!

                            wildlifer I found my bait stations and rat poison (Terad 3 blox) on this website. Someone had mentioned that it didn't kill up the food chain, which I definitely don't want. I know it's not killing the lizards and snakes in the barns. Supposedly it has a low toxicity to other animals. I'm open to other rat poisons also. Just let me know your ideas. Thanks.


                            • #15
                              Live traps (like Havaheart) are pretty effective with rats, unless you get one of those old wily ones that seem to know how to avoid every trap out there. Some good baits are dry or wet cat food (I've had no luck with dog food, go figure), peanut butter, sunflower seeds, etc. There are also electric traps that kill pretty much instantly. I've no personal experience with them, but my parents used them with good effect. Could be dangerous to your snakes though, if they smell the carcass and go in after it. I honestly don't know.

                              I appreciate you being careful with the poison you've chosen. My little daughter's 5 year old Chihuahua mix died very suddenly a couple years ago after finding a rat carcass under the shed. He was the only one who could fit under there, so I didn't notice it before. We think a neighbor must have put out rat poison, and it climbed under our shed to die, subsequently killing a much loved dog. I was always paranoid of rat poison before that, because I love birds of prey that are also frequently killed by poisoned carcasses, but now I'm super paranoid about it.

                              By the way, installing a barn owl box is a good measure against rodents too.


                              • Original Poster

                                Falconfree I love birds also and we have several hawks here, even a Cooper's Hawk (it flew into our dining room window!). I like the idea of a barn owl box. I once put up a bat box and nothing came. I may have put the box facing the wrong direction. We have some trees that are relatively close to the barn and I could put up the barn owl box there. Thanks for the ideas!

                                I'm so sorry to hear about your dog. We've owned 2 Chihuahuas and absolutely love them. They're best friends with everyone. Hope your daughter is ok.


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Dressage59 View Post
                                  wildlifer I found my bait stations and rat poison (Terad 3 blox) on this website. Someone had mentioned that it didn't kill up the food chain, which I definitely don't want. I know it's not killing the lizards and snakes in the barns. Supposedly it has a low toxicity to other animals. I'm open to other rat poisons also. Just let me know your ideas. Thanks.
                                  I wasn't familiar with this one, so I had to look it up. The active ingredient is vitamin D3/cholecalciferol, which has been observed to cause toxicity in other species, including pets, leading to soft tissue calcification & permanent renal failure. Here's a general overview, listing it as "poisonous to Cats, Dogs, Horses, Birds, Cows":

                                  Toxicology info from Merck:
                                  Notes that it is toxic at lower doses in bait form. It does say relay toxicity hasn't been documented, but in wildlife, we are notably deficiency in resources to test/necropsy things, so while it may not be as bad as warfarin, there's not enough data there for me to be comfortable with taking the risk.

                                  I would not want this anywhere on my farm that was not contained so no other animals could get to it.

                                  I had forgotten about the electric traps mentioned above, I have also heard from others that those do work pretty well. Live traps are also definitely effective, although that does leave you with the not-fun job of dispatching the rats yourself. I do dispatch mice when I find them in places they aren't supposed to be, I hate doing it, but I make sure it's instant & painless with a quick rock. Rats are bit bigger, so depends on your comfort level.

                                  I love the idea of an owl box, I have several pairs of barred owls, would love to have a barn owl too!

                                  Life doesn't have perfect footing.

                                  Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
                                  We Are Flying Solo


                                  • #18
                                    for live / snap traps dont overlook chocolate as bait. Rats LOVE chocolate, usually tests very high on flavor preference
                                    -- * > hoopoe
                                    Procrastinate NOW
                                    Introverted Since 1957


                                    • #19
                                      If you want to try the bat box again, they sell putrid smelling sprays that are supposed to attract bats to them. Haven't tried it yet, the bat box is still sitting in a closet. Good luck!


                                      • #20
                                        I switched to the rat zapper over concerns with the effects of rat poison on predators, especially since I have a mating pair of red shouldered hawks doing critter patrol around the barn. The zapper dispatched about 8 rats before we hit a quiet spell, one notable day was 3 rats, including right before and after a ride. I'm adjacent to a wooded are also I just go out there and chuck it, with no worries that any carrion eater will die as a result of a free meal.

                                        For now I have it turned off, but I have some poison free safe bait (Rat X) that is supposed to kill only rats/mice via dehydration. I suspect it is not that effective, but when it disappears I know it is time to turn on the zapper and bait it with horse feed.
                                        Your crazy is showing. You might want to tuck that back in.