Whether it's slithering around in your grass or coiled up in the corner of your garage, a snake is never a welcome sight. But even worse is finding a snake inside your home. Considering how silently they move, it probably seems like it's impossible to know if you have a snake in your house, but experts say certain venomous snakes can emit the scent of a familiar vegetable. To see what smell may tip you off to a copperhead or rattlesnake in your home, read on.
Copperhead snakes can smell like cucumbers.
In most cases, you won't know if you have a snake in your home until you see it, but some venomous snakes, like copperheads (which are found in 28 U.S. states), can smell like cucumbers, according to experts. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) says copperhead snakes can give off an odor that's produced by glands at the base of the snake's tail and can also be mixed with feces. "To some individuals this musk may smell somewhat like cucumbers," they note.
Rattlesnakes can also give off a cucumber-like odor.
But copperhead snakes are not the only venomous snakes that can emit an odor akin to cucumbers. Pest control specialist and entomologist Nicholas Martin says that rattlesnake dens can smell like cucumber, too.
"It's not clear if it's the hibernation odor or a smell of a dying snake," says Martin. However, he does note that a "heavy musky smell" is a more common scent associated with rattlesnakes.
Snakes tend to emit a scent when they're frightened.
The MDC says copperheads tend to give off this defensive cucumber-like odor when they're frightened. "A snake has to have a reason to expel its musk," they explain. "Thus, a copperhead at rest under a rock or alongside a log will have no reason to give off its musky defense. You could walk within a few inches of the snake and never know it's there." Live Science reports copperheads most often smell like cucumbers when they're touched.
But Martin says that various breeds of snakes emit different scents "that are untypical for most households."
You may also be able to pick up on the scent of a snake's droppings. "Snake excrements smell quite similar to any other animal's excrements," Martin explains. "If a snake is well-hydrated, you're not likely to smell its pee, but a poorly hydrated animal will produce stinky slime."
If you smell or see a snake, call an exterminator instead of trying to deal with it yourself.
If you smell something strange in your home or you see a snake, you shouldn't try to solve the problem on your own, warns Martin.
"Getting rid of snakes on your own is a dangerous task," Martin says. "Dealing with snakes requires training and special equipment, so it's highly recommended to call an exterminator to solve the problem and inspect the house for any potential infestation reasons and snake egg-laying sites."