Virginia.gov

Snakes

  • You may keep up to 5 individuals of any species of reptile or amphibian for personal use, except:
    1. No threatened or endangered species, and
    2. There is a ban on collecting northern diamond-backed terrapins, spotted turtles, and eastern hellbenders (even though these species are not theatened or endangered, there is a specific regulation banning their collection).
  • When keeping venomous species for personal use, check with your locality's (city or county) ordinances regarding keeping such species. (4VAC15-360-10)
  • 4VAC15-30-10. Possession, importation, sale, etc., of wild animals. Under the authority of §§ 29.1-103 and 29.1-521 of the Code of Virginia it shall be unlawful to take, possess, import, cause to be imported, export, cause to be exported, buy, sell, offer for sale, or liberate within the Commonwealth any wild animal unless otherwise specifically permitted by law or regulation.

Most snakes are harmless and, much like bats, provide a valuable service around your home in the way of pest control (snakes control rodents, bats control insects). In fact, the presence of snakes around your property or in your house may indicate a rodent problem. There are only three species of venomous snakes in Virginia. The copperhead (found statewide) is the most common; and while it is usually not found inside homes, it may be common in gardens and woodlots. Timber rattlesnakes are common only in the mountainous regions of western Virginia and a small area of extreme southeastern Virginia where they are known as canebrake rattlesnakes; they are a state endangered species. Water moccasins, also commonly referred to as cottonmouths, are found to the south and east of Petersburg and are common only in wet areas.

  • Eliminate habitat near your home. Remove all rock and brush piles and keep grassy areas mowed short near the house. This will eliminate attraction for mice and cover for snakes.
  • If a snake is known to have entered the structure, examine the foundation of the house thoroughly. Seal all areas around pipes, vents, or other places that may provide small openings both for rodents and snakes. Also, check the roof for overhanging vegetation. Snakes are good climbers and can also enter through the attic where trees or shrubs provide access.
  • If a snake is found in the house, identify the snake (A Snakes of Virginia guide is available from the Department). Once it is known to be non-venomous, carefully place a bucket or wastebasket over the snake. Then slip a board carefully under the bucket or basket and carry the snake outside and release it. Remember, if you have not sealed the holes in the foundation, the snake may return.
  • Have your house checked for rodent problems. If you can eliminate the food source, the snakes will go elsewhere.

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries staff do not come to your home or property to remove snakes. If after all mentioned measures have been taken to discourage snakes from your property and/or home, they are still a problem, or if one is inside a structure that you are uncomfortable trying to trap and remove yourself, the only other alternative is to contact a pest control company that advertises handling snakes. Such a pest control company should have a permit from us to allow them to remove snakes.

One way to try to remove snakes from inside a structure is to use a SnakeGuard trap or similar trap. Such traps have a large glue board area inside them that the snake will get stuck on. The live snake can be removed from the adhesive with vegetable or mineral oil so that it can be safely released outside.

More Information

For more information on snakes, visit the Virginia Herpetological Society's website.