Can I Keep Copperheads Out of My Yard?

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Here is an email I recently received (some creative license employed):

Greetings Mr. McKenzie,

I have had two copperhead snakes come into my yard in the last three weeks. I know snakes play an important role in the ecosystem, but due to kids and dogs I feel compelled to act. I tried commercial snake repellant, but no positive result. I made sure the wood fence has no holes for entering, and there are no rodents, mice or frogs in the area. What could I do to stop this situation? What remedy can I use? Will spreading lime help?



Dear John,

The short answer is that there is probably no practical and effective way to prevent them from entering your yard, but I can provide some information that might be of interest.

First, in this part of NC (Vance and Warren Counties), copperheads are not uncommon, but I suspect that encounters with them are rare. It wouldn’t surprise me if you don’t see another one in your yard for quite some time, perhaps a year or more. I’ve been an avid outdoor person for decades (hiking, hunting, kayaking, camping, photography) and have probably seen less than 10 in my whole life.

When you do encounter them, it’s probably best to just leave them alone. They will almost certainly leave the area on their own within a few minutes or hours. In fact, by attempting to dispatch or move them you may increase your risk of being bitten, which of course would be quite painful and require immediate medical attention.

I would be remiss not to mention that it’s easy to mistake other non-venomous species of snakes for copperheads, especially the banded water snakes (see pictures below). If you live near a creek, pond, lake, etc., that’s something to be aware of. This on-line booklet about snakes from NC State Extension has good color pictures of the various species.

All that being said, the true experts on all things wildlife are the good folks at the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, and they even have a Wildlife Helpline (866-318-2401). I definitely recommend that you reach out to them, as they may have further suggestions.

Kind regards,

Paul McKenzie, Ag Extension Agent

Picture of a copperhead snake

Copperhead in my driveway, photo by Paul McKenzie, Copyright 2023

Photo of a water snake

A water snake, probably banded or northern, at Medoc Mountain State Park. Photo by Paul McKenzie, copyright 2023