The black rat snake is NJ’s largest snake. Here in New Jersey, if you have black snakes around your house, they are most likely either black rat snakes or black racers. The black rat snakes are the bulkier of the two, and they are fairly slow-moving and often freeze when confronted. Both are non-venomous with white or grayish bellies that eat mostly rodents and other small mammals. These snakes are not out to hurt you. They’re only around because there’s food nearby, and that food isn’t you! Whenever I get a panicked call for snakes, I’m always asked if the snake is venomous. With almost 100% certainty, any snake that a homeowner in NJ find of their property is non-venomous. In New Jersey, there are 22 species of snakes, and only two of them are venomous: the timber rattlesnake and the northern copperhead. It’s very rare to come across either of these venomous snakes because of their elusive nature and their preference for interior forest habitat. All snakes are protected species under NJ law and must be captured and relocated. Snakes cannot be killed and many snake species are endangered. Non-venomous snakes are often misidentified and needlessly killed. For example, black rat snakes, especially since they rattle their tail as a warning, are often misidentified as timber rattlesnakes. Of course, non-venomous snakes can and do bite. No snake should be handled or cornered unless you are experienced dealing with them.
This particular homeowner in Bayville, NJ observed a large black snake basking in her patio area. Upon arrival, I inspected the property to determine what was attracting the snake. Her backyard bordered a marshy area that was chock full of snake food sources — frogs, nesting birds, and rodents. After capturing the snake for relocation, I walked around the property with the homeowner to look for ways to reduce snake attractants. The major concern was the rodent issue. White-footed mice scampering around your property does not just attract snakes. These rodents are major carriers of ticks (and tick-borne Lyme disease) as well — one of the major insect problems that will be faced by NJ homeowners this spring and summer.
The homeowner felt that a home protection plan (HPP) would be in her best interest to stay one step ahead of any insect and rodent problems. With an HPP, we come out periodically for preventative perimeter treatments and inspect the property for signs of infestations often missed by homeowners. Also, if there is an infestation, most are covered at no additional cost. By keeping mice off the property and alleviating the influx of insects, this will go a long way reducing the food attractants of the snakes — frogs, rodents, and birds. Many wildlife infestations, including snakes, can be reduced or prevented outright, by removing whatever attractants enticed them to enter the property in the first place.