For the traveler who spends time in the outdoors, trying to avoid snakes completely is nearly impossible, unless you’re visiting New Zealand, Iceland or Ireland that is – countries which don’t have a single snake!
But if you’re thinking you’ll limit your travel to just those three countries, you’ll end up missing out on some truly remarkable places. Just because snakes are present, doesn’t mean you need to avoid traveling; you just need to take smart precautions.
While bugs and insects do attack unprovoked, the good news is that snakes don’t. Most snakes would rather to slither away than have a confrontation, and don’t aggressively bite things out of malice.
So it’s actually pretty easy to not get bitten!
But, if you’re setting up camp, and don’t even want to see one, you can use the following tips for keeping them away from your campsite.
How to Keep Snakes Away From Your Campsite
Do Camping Snake Repellents Work?
The market has recently been flooded with camping snake repellents, but do these actually work?
If sulphur is the active ingredient, no, that won’t keep snakes away from your campsite. And despite the widely held belief, mothballs don’t work either. In fact, mothballs can be dangerous to your dog, cat, and kids if you’re camping with your pets and family.
What are mothballs? These are solid pesticides that, when burned, release a vapor that kills and repels moths and other insects. While they’re great for keeping bugs away, they don’t deter snakes.
Choose the Right Camping Area
I think we can all agree that prevention is better than the cure. So, when setting up your campsite, the first thing to ask yourself is what type of places snakes are attracted to.
Biology tells us that snakes are cold-blooded, thus, they are attracted to places that are warm, have moisture and provide a food source. As such, you’ll often find snakes inhabiting abandoned structures, vehicles or buildings.
Holes dug by rodents and moles, and abandoned anthills can also be a great snake burrow, so when choosing a campsite, avoid areas hospitable to snakes.
We recommend that you avoid wooded areas with plenty of hiding spaces or tall grass. And stay away from piles of rocks, logs or fallen trees to steer clear of common snake homes.
It’s also a wise idea to pick the driest place you can to set up camp; moist areas that receive a lot of rain or hold water may den may attract prey species (e.g., worms, slugs, frogs) which may attract snakes seeking a meal.
Clear Out Campsite Clutter
Once you’ve chosen your campsite, make sure that it’s clear of clutter. Snakes like to hide out in dark hiding spots, so if there are any branches or piles of leaves, stacks of firewood etc close to your site, move them further away from you.
If you’re camping out and you have a woodpile for a camp fire, make sure this is set up as far away from your site as possible. Stacks of lumber and firewood, and other piles a debris are prefect places for snakes to hide.
Just like clutter, tick shrubs and long grass create the perfect hiding spot for snakes, so it’s best to camp out in a place with short grass. Or, if you have the tools (and it’s not violating any national park guidelines), consider clearing the problem plants.
Store Your Food Properly
Snakes have no interest in human food, however, insects and small rodents do. And snakes feed on insects and small rodents.
Rodents in your campsite can attract snakes, and so for that reason, it’s really important to store and dispose of food in the right way while camping. Make sure your food containers are properly sealed, and that you don’t leave trash or scraps lying around.
Snakes will only hang around if there’s something they can eat; cockroaches, grasshoppers, and small mammals are all on their dinner menu. But if there’s nothing for them to eat, they won’t bother hanging around.
If insects and rodents are proving to be a problem try laying traps or spraying repellents designed to keep these pests away … in turn, the snakes should stay away as well.
Let Them Know You’re There
As previously mentioned, snakes don’t attack humans unprovoked; they dislike us just as much as we dislike them, so if they’re aware of your presence they’ll pretty much stay away anyway.
In a sort of a DIY snake repellent, if you’re truly concerned, you can consider pouring white vinegar around the perimeter of your tent or campsite. Snakes can absorb liquids through their skin, and won’t slither over the vinegar.
You could also sprinkle hair from your hairbrush around the perimeter of your camp – snakes will smell the hair and stay away, knowing that humans are there.
If All Else Fails …
If all else fails and a snake DOES get into your campsite, remember to stay calm, and not overreact.
Snake venom is used to subdue prey which would otherwise be impossible to eat, so they don’t generally like to waste their venom on humans. That being said if their only escape route is past a human with a shovel they are likely to react aggressively!
99% of the time, if you leave it alone it won’t bother you, but if you try and kill or remove it, you’re highly likely to get bitten. So if you do find a snake in your campsite – remember to respect the snake.
Read this post on how to protect yourself from snake-bite overseas.