I noticed that a copperhead has made his home under my front porch. He has been spotted two days in a row, and, yesterday, I nearly stepped on him. I prefer not to mess with him as I have read that most incidence of snake bites come from disturbing/attempting to kill these animals. Additionally, I have a three year old son, who loves the outdoors and, although I can teach him to not touch these things, he is typically unobservant and is liable to be bitten due to the proximity of our homes (the snake's and our's). Now, I can certainly wait for him to be spotted outside his home and block the access back into his pit. But, my question is, what about my property, in particular, my garden, can I change to discourage this fellow from being attracted to the premises?
Snakes generally hang out where they can find food and shelter. To discourage them, you need to remove both incentives. Blocking out the porch is a good first step. You also need to remove any brush or wood piles, or anything in the yard that looks like a home to a snake. If you have a fence, keeping the grass cut short around it is a good idea. If you have shrubs, trim them up a bit off the ground so you can see under them and they won't be as attractive to snakes. Rock piles are also an attraction. Snakes in particular love to sun on them to warm up their cold bodies in the mornings and cracks and crevices in between make good nighttime spots to hide in.
By removing the items listed above, you will also discourage rodents and other small animals that make up the majority of a snake's diet. This will help encourage them to move along to somewhere else besides your yard. Other things you can do is remove any food that rodents might be attracted to, because like snakes, they tend to hang out where they can find food and shelter. Pet food and seeds should not be left out where they can reach it, nesting sites in sheds and garages should be removed (no piles or boxes of rags or old burlap sacks, no wood piles on the ground or floor, etc.) If you are comfortable with it, rodent bait can also be used to reduce their numbers, and at the same time reduce the attraction your home and yard has for snakes.
Doing these things will not guarantee you will not have snakes around your home, but it should reduce the chances of attracting them and encouraging them to hang around. You will always need to very closely monitor kids and pets, and when your child is older, teach them NOT to turn over logs or rocks or reach into any area they cannot see clearly, or climb on anything where a snake could be sunning itself without looking to make sure the coast is clear, first. Unfortunately, eternal vigilance is the cost of living in an area with venomous snakes.
We get copperheads here in central NC. To discourage them, I do not allow wood or brush piles to accumulate on the property. I use a mulching mower to munch up fallen leaves in the woods where people are likely to walk, as well as on areas surrounding the house. This eliminates cover prized by these fang-bearing pests. Use this technique under the tall magnolias (southern variety) since snakes like living in their leaf litter.
Two things: First, I would hire a professional snaker exterminator to kill, or more likely, remove this particular snake. Second, I would do a "clean up" of my porch, lawn, and gardens along the lines suggested by Teresa so that other snakes don't find them attractive in the future. The snake exterminator would also have additional clean up recommendations.