When it comes to snake safety in Texas, it helps to understand which are venomous, which might help you take care of a rat problem, and most importantly which snake repellents might harm your pets or kids. Thankfully, you don’t have to be a zoologist to understand the basic types of snakes in Texas. As you get your backyard and home prepped for the summer weather and activites, keep these tips in mind.

The Bad Ones

There are four major snakes that spell trouble in Texas: cottonmouths, rattlesnakes, copperheads and coral snakes. These venomous snakes have triangular shaped heads with narrow eyes, and their patterns are typically distinctive. There are 15 total venomous snakes in Texas, but these usually the ones you will see the most. When it comes to statistics, though, you’re more likely to die of a lightning strike than a snake bite. Even the most dangerous snakes tend stay away from humans, and they only bite when they feel in danger.

The Good Ones

It cannot be stressed enough that NOT ALL SNAKES ARE BAD. Rat snakes are a great example. Although rat snakes are non-venomous and typically the most helpful to humans, there are far too many that are killed simply from false identification. These snakes can be very large and feed on small mammals, frogs  without posing a threat to you or your pets. They kill their prey by constriction rather than bite, so you don’t have to worry about nasty surprises. You won’t be able to tell a nonvenomous snake from a venomous one by size, though, so it may be difficult to identify one from the other. Some say an easy way is to first look at their pattern, and then look at the shape of their head. While venomous snakes are known to have a triangular head, nonvenomous usually do not.

Where They Live

Snakes tend to look for shelter. Tall grass, woodpiles, old brush — anywhere that they can hide and hunt for their food. Keeping the grass mowed and stockpiles stored as far from the home as possible will help, but also be careful and attentive when you need to work near them. Any storage areas (garages, barns, etc.) should be kept as clean as possible. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on any place where water could accumulate.

How To Repel Them

If you want to get rid of a snake problem without harming your loved ones or pets, stay away from the typical mothball treatment that you may have heard of. This is the most common repellent solution, but it may not be worth the risk. If mothballs are accidentally eaten by kids or pets, they can cause major liver damage. Besides keeping your backyard clean, combine equal parts freshly smashed garlic and onion or garlic and rock salt together and sprinkle the mixture around any problem areas.