Critters: Snake in the Grass

San Diego County hosts some 25 species of snakes, a few quite rare, and some that are known to be “sustainable” solutions to controlling pests, most specifically our plentiful rat population.


Snakes diets include pesky, seemingly omnipresent rats and mice and gophers and such delicacies as small rabbits, eggs, an occasional bird and for one, frogs. Snakes native to our area are harmless to humans with the exception of three species of Rattlesnakes.—easily identified because they rattle—and, if that doesn’t do it—by their triangle shaped head. Best, though, not to get that close.

The Rosy Boa can be found in San Diego County, especially in desert areas. Photo by Betty Wheeler.

Gopher, King and Garter Snakes are the best pest controllers, eliminating the need to put out lethal poison or traps that can be harmful to other unsuspecting animals. The most common are Gopher Snakes who, being constrictors, simply use their strong muscles to squeeze their prey. Powerful snakes, they grow to be from five feet long on up to a rangy nine feet. They have a notable reputation for being great at going after rats.


King Snakes, a smaller version of a constrictor, are a second option. They only grow up to four feet or so in length. However, they are resistant to Rattlesnake venom and so not only consume the regular snake cuisine but also enjoy snacking on Rattlesnakes. Reputed to be calm, some say they make good pets and that they are especially beautiful. All snakes do come in a variety of outwear adding bands or strips or patterns to a basic brown, black or, for some, more colorful palate.


Not to be left out, Garter Snakes, able to swim, are happy in wet environments. The most common variety is the Two Striped Garter Snake, sporting a dull green svelte body with yellow stripes, that grows to be approximately three feet long. Therefore, while they may catch a rat, they prefer frogs, fish, worms, and birds. Trouble is they secrete a nasty smell.


These snakes offer a viable alternative pest control solution, but watch out for the rattlers. Of course another solution is an outside cat.