These snakes may live up to 18 years in the wild and are sexually mature after about 4 years. Mating occurs in spring and again in the summer and baby snakes are born alive after a gestation period of from 3-9 months. Between 2 and 10 offspring will be produced. This is a somewhat social snake that may occur with many other snakes in winter dens, but otherwise are solitary in behavior. They feed primarily on small rodents, but also on small birds, other reptiles, amphibians, and on large insects such as cicadas. They are venomous and with larger prey may bite and then immediately release and back away to allow the venom to take effect. Smaller prey will be held after biting until the prey is subdued by the venom. The venom is a hemolytic toxin that causes the destruction of red blood cells, and it is potentially life threatening to humans.
There are no toxins labeled for killing snakes. There are snake repellents available that rely on creating an objectionable odor to keep snakes away, often sulfur and naphthalene, and these may be used outdoors only and would need to be reapplied if they are effective. Many university websites express skepticism regarding snake repellents. Snake management for long term relief combines elimination of snake food resources, such as rodents, with removal of harborage and exclusion from structures. Rubbish, wood piles, and other unnecessary materials on the ground should be removed or stacked neatly off of the soil. Snake traps also exist for the capture of individual snakes that are a nuisance around a property. The removal of snakes by live capture or trapping also is highly effective if disposal of the snake is considered. Relocating snakes off site will generally be illegal according to state wildlife regulations, and killing captured snakes may not be acceptable to customers. It also would be important to attempt to educate homeowners regarding tolerance and appreciation of most snakes on their property, all of which feed on unwanted animals such as rodents, insects, or slugs.