I’ll begin this article with my usual plea.
Please refrain from killing any snakes, unless you have absolutely no other option.
These animals mean us no harm and they perform a vital function in the ecosystem.
Without them, we would have a lot more rats, for one thing.
But what if a snake takes up residence on your property? Is it illegal to kill snakes in Virginia no matter what?
Keep reading to find out. We will cover everything you need to know about the legality of killing a snake in the state of Virginia.
Table of Contents
Is It Illegal To Kill Snakes In Virginia?
It is illegal to kill any snakes in Virginia, unless one is directly threatening you or your livestock on your property. If you come across a snake in the wild, do your best to leave it alone.
If you encounter a snake in your yard or home, you should call a professional to safely remove the snake from your property. Most snakes in Virginia are harmless, but it is still best to call a professional. And some snakes are not harmless, if cornered.
Are There Venomous Snakes In Virginia?
There are 30 snake species in Virginia. Three of those are venomous. The three venomous species are the Timber Rattlesnake, the Copperhead and the Cottonmouth.
You can look out for certain characteristics to determine if the snake you have come across is venomous. The first thing you should look out for is if the snake has slits for pupils.
You’ll also be able to tell by the appearance of the snake. We have a photo of each species in this article. Copperheads are usually of a tan or pinkish color, with bands running across their bodies.
Cottonmouths love water, so if you come across a snake and you’re near a body of water, you should bear this in mind. They are usually a dark green or black color and can grow up to 61 inches in length.
The best way to tell if you have come across a Timber Rattlesnake is to look for the rattle at the end of its body. The Timber Rattlesnake’s preferred habitat is commonly a forest or a mountainous area. It is listed as endangered in most snakes, so it is illegal to kill this rattlesnake anywhere.
Can You Kill A Venomous Snake In Virginia?
In Virginia it is illegal to kill all snakes, even the venomous ones, unless they are threatening immediate harm. If you come across one while you are out and about, you should try to avoid it and leave it alone.
The good news is snakes are usually timid creatures, so chances are they will dart in the opposite direction, if they spot you coming. It is only if you surprise them and they feel cornered, that they might strike.
If you come across a venomous snake in your yard, your best best is to call a professional to safely remove the snake. And, of course, you should try not to panic. The worst thing you could do would be to try and remove the snake yourself as this could result in an emergency visit to the hospital if the snake strikes.
What Is The Punishment For Killing A Snake In Virginia?
If you kill a snake in Virginia, you are likely to receive a fine of a few hundred dollars. However, the punishment may be worse, if you kill a snake that is on the federal Endangered Species List.
If you kill an endangered snake, you could receive a fine of up to $50,000 or even a one year prison sentence. This punishment is more extreme, because the Endangered Species Act of 1973 protects animals in danger of extinction.
If you come across an Indigo snake, a Louisiana pine snake, a Lake Erie water snake, an eastern Massasauga rattlesnake or certain garter snakes, make sure you do not kill them, or you will be in for one hefty punishment!
If you come across a snake that has entered into your yard or home then the law slightly differs in Virginia. You can’t kill a snake in its natural habitat, but you can kill it, if it threatens you or your livestock on your own property. However, for your own safety, I would still recommend calling a professional to remove the snake.
Keeping Snakes Off Your Property
If you are worried about snakes entering your yard, you can look at prevention methods, so that you don’t have to worry about what to do if one comes onto your property.
You can buy deterrents against snakes from any home or garden store. They’ll come in the form of a spray or a powder and are commonly fox urine. Spray this around the boundaries of your property or wherever you seem to keep having a problem.
Another option is to get a snake fence. Put this around the outside of your property and make sure there is nothing near it a snake could use to cross over, like a tree.
Is It Illegal To Kill A Snake In Virginia: Final Thoughts
It is illegal to kill any species of snake in Virginia. With one big exception. If a snake is on your property and it is a threat to you, your family, or your livestock, you are allowed to kill it.
That said, you are still better off calling a professional to remove the snake without killing it. Some snakes are protected and, while you can legally kill them, your idea of what constitutes a threat to your or your livestock might differ from a judge’s. Why risk it?