Snakes can be a major concern for just about anyone with a sizable amount of outdoor property. They live nearly everywhere, can present serious dangers to pets and children, and are hard to keep out. Most people rely on deterrents, and a popular modern method is solar-powered deterrent devices. But do they work?
The general consensus is that no, solar powered snake repellents do not work as advertised. Though snakes do navigate via vibrations, they are more reliant on sight and smell, so relying solely on vibration-powered repellents will not deter snakes in any meaningful way.
In order to understand why they’re ineffective, you need to understand how solar-powered repellents were designed in the first place, and why they’re so hotly debated.
The Theory Behind Solar Powered Snake Repellents
Solar-powered snake repellents allegedly function based on our current understanding of how most snakes perceive the world around them and navigate to hunt and find shelter.
Snakes’ ears operate very differently to other animals’ ears; while they don’t have an outer ear to funnel soundwaves in, they do have a functional cochlea.
This is the part of the ear that perceives vibrations and translates them into neural signals. Because of this, it’s generally thought that snakes rely more on general vibrations than on actual sound to navigate.
Working on that assumption, the theoretical function of a solar snake repellent makes sense. These small devices use solar energy to create strong vibrations emitted over a small area, like a garden or patio. These vibrations attempt to mimic signals that there is danger ahead, causing a snake that encounters the area to turn back or detour.
Debating the Reality of Solar Powered Snake Repellents
Solar-powered snake repellents are a popular choice in places where snakes are common, such as many parts of Australia and the United States. Whether or not these devices actually function as promised is a topic of debate in the pest-control community.
The Pro-Solar Opinion
Some popular sources like Better Homes and Gardens do recommend solar snake repellents. Relying on customer reviews of the products, they say that the ultrasonic vibrations emitted by these devices are “key” to keeping your home safe, although they do recommend using them in conjunction with other prevention methods.
Pests.org also stands by solar snake repellents, labeling them as one of the best options alongside more traditional methods. They applaud solar repellents for being chemical free and safer to use around pets and children.
They also say that these devices are easy to maintain, though they do note that significant amounts of water can damage the units.
Ultimately, it seems that the majority of pro-solar opinions come from those who have been paid to give them rather than from those who can offer scientific backing for their defense of these devices.
And we actually AGREE with that perspective. We have yet to see any sign of a “snake repellent” whether vibrational, sound-based, or ganule-based in nature that actually works. At all.
The Anti-Solar Opinion
On the other side of the spectrum, many sources, such as the Australian Daily Telegraph, claim that solar-powered snake repellents are a scam. They note the extreme disparity between devices, which can cost between $5 and $150 and are completely unstandardized.
The experts interviewed for a 2015 article, when the devices were first becoming popular, said they played on people’s fears more than actual biology.
Solar Power Genie notes that in reviews they were able to find, buyers said that the devices’ sounds were incredibly annoying on top of being ineffective. They also state that, because the devices require direct sunlight to charge and work properly, it can be difficult to cover shady areas, leaving gaps in security even if the devices appear to work.
On top of this, snakes may not be so easily fooled. If a snake “hears” the deterrent vibrations, but does not see or smell any danger, they may choose to explore further in spite of it.
Snakes are surprisingly intelligent, and because of this, if a snake discovers that the area is safe despite the vibrations, it is likely to come back.
Other Snake Repellent Options
If solar-powered snake repellents don’t work, what should you use? There are a variety of options available on the market today, but you shouldn’t be too quick to jump at the closest and best-advertised method. You should look carefully at your choices to see which is the best solution for your situation.
The most common methods of snake repellent, other than ultrasonic, are:
- Chemical repellents
- Natural (or essential oil) repellents
- Physical traps and barriers
While each advertises as being effective, how do those claims hold up?
Well this video has something to say about that:
So yeah, long story short for those who didn’t bother watching: nothing worked. Nothing made the snakes even slow down whether harmless or rattler.
Chemical Repellents: A Short-Term and Dangerous Solution
Chemical snake repellents function based on the idea that a strong odor will overwhelm the snakes’ senses and cause them to move away from its source. This is sound in theory, more so than solar-powered snake repellents, but is again flawed.
While certain chemical repellents may work for short periods of time in small spaces, they’re easily washed away by rain and regular garden watering, making them difficult to keep up with. They are also frequently made up of dangerous neurotoxins such as naphthalene, which can make them a hazard to have around pets and small children.
Plus as the video above shows – it often simply doesn’t work. The snake doesn’t sit there breathing in fumes, it just keeps on moving
Natural Repellents: Safer than Chemical Repellents, But Still Don’t Work
There are many so-called “natural” repellent solutions. These range from certain essential oil blends to pepper spray to even diesel fuel or, oddly, fox urine. The theory behind them is again to overwhelm the snakes’ senses, and to signal to them that your property is not a safe place to be.
These have the same issues as the chemical repellents in that it’s difficult to maintain them outdoors through rain and other weather. While some essential oils can be effective against small pests like bugs, they’re not going to work on larger animals.
Physical Traps and Barriers
The best repellent methods currently available are physical traps and barriers. These don’t rely on driving the animals away via their senses; they simply physically block them from the property.
In fact, these are the only reliable options for dealing with snakes. This with prevention is your best 1-2 combo to minimize localized issues with snakes.
Snake fencing makes it difficult for them to get in in the first place by providing a material that isn’t easily crawled through, around, or over.
If the fencing doesn’t work, then physical traps will keep the snakes in one place long enough to either be killed or, more humanely, transported off of the property and back into a suitable natural environment.
Keeping Snakes Off Your Property
Before considering any of these repellents, you should do your best to prevent snakes from wanting to enter your property in the first place. You can do this by:
- Removing food sources. Make sure that you don’t have a rodent problem, as that can attract snakes. Focus on limiting their access to frogs, birds, moles, insects, fish, and any other easy food target.
- Get rid of hiding places. Avoid leaving damaged gutters, piping, and ventilation unrepaired, as they can provide the ideal cool, dry, dark places for snakes to hide in. Avoid keeping piles of wood, mulch, or leaves unattended and open.
- Make sure your land is well kept. Do regular maintenance to fill in holes, cut down overgrowth, and remove debris, as well as keeping the grass short.
Snakes may be wild animals, but they are not stupid. It takes more than a few tricks of the ears and nose to keep them from doing what comes naturally and finding what they consider to be a safe living situation. A few weird noises aren’t going to do the trick, so it’s up to you to keep your property snake-free.
While solar gear is outstanding for many, many things…especially when it comes to the Great Outdoors, you’re going to have to turn elsewhere if you’re having snake problems around the chicken coop.
Because like any other type of snake repellent, it just isn’t a viable option (there’s a reason there are no affiliate links in this article).