Believe it or not, snakes can be great to have around. After all, they love to eat rodents! But when their numbers get too high, or they move inside our homes, often something must be done. Here’s what you need to know when dealing with a possible northern cat-eyed snake on your property.

The “northern” in their name refers to the range of cat-eyed snakes; the northern edge of their range is in the southernmost tip of Texas in the US. Northern cat-eyed snakes have a head that is much wider than its neck, and large eyes with vertical pupils. These snakes are tan, buff, pale gold, or pale orange yellow with medium- to large-sized, brown, dorsal blotches or "saddles." Body color and size of spots may vary geographically. Juvenile snakes resemble adults, but with stronger coloring.

If you’re ever bitten by a northern cat-eyed snake, make sure to get it checked out. Northern cat-eyed snakes are only mildly venomous (their venom is powerful enough only to subdue small prey; to humans, their bite feels like a bee sting), but with any wild animal bite there’s a risk of infection.

There are several species that may be confused with northern cat-eyed snakes. The brown-banded morphs of ground snakes have thinner heads, a less contrasting pattern, and round pupils. Southwestern rat snakes have dark blotches covering the first half of their bodies, and Texas night snakes have small dorsal spots bordered by a lateral row of smaller spots.
Cat-eyed snakes are nocturnal hunters of small amphibians and their eggs, so you’ll find them in semi-arid thorn brush habitats that have ponds or streams. During the day they hide under logs or leaves. They are listed as Threatened in Texas, so careful consideration is required when dealing with their presence.

Northern Cat-Eyed Snake Control

There are several steps to dealing with snake problems: making your property less inviting to snakes, and dealing with any snakes that are already there.

Habitat Modification

In rural and riparian settings where snakes are common, their presence can be discouraged by eliminating stands of tall vegetation, especially close to water, and removing piles of rock, lumber, and debris that might attract snakes to search for prey or shelter. Closing all entrances to rodent burrows (potential hiding spots) make an area less attractive to snakes.

Northern Cat-Eyed Snake Exclusion

  • Structural gaps and crevices larger than 1/4 inch and within three feet of grade should be closed off; snakes can pass through very small openings.
  • Screens on crawlspace vents should have mesh smaller than 1/4 inch.
  • A thorough search should be made for cracks in the foundation, unscreened crawlspace vents, torn screens, and gaps around basement window frames.
  • Check clearances under doors; seal any gaps with weatherstripping.
  • Look for improper sealing where plumbing and utility lines penetrate the foundation of the building.

Northern Cat-Eyed Snake Removal

If you’re confident that you do indeed have a Northern cat-eyed snake in your house, and you want to deal with it yourself, try this: place a trashcan on the side of the snake, and use a broom or a similar tool to gently sweep it inside the trashcan. Relocate it well away from residential areas, and seal up any openings in your house where it can get back in.

If you have any doubt about which kind of snake you have, or if you suspect several, a call to a snake control company is warranted. A good snake control company will be able to help correctly identify your snakes, advise you on further steps to take to minimize the number of snakes that move onto your property and how to keep them out of your home, will be able to present you with trapping and removal options, will be knowledgeable of all local and state laws regarding the animals, and will carry all required licenses.