How To Avoid Snakes While Camping

Snakes can easily become a nuisance whilst camping, regardless of whether they’re the venomous kind or not. Even if you consider yourself a fan of snakes, they aren’t always welcome guests – especially in the campsite. Luckily, there are ways to keep yourself safe from the slithering kind during camping trips. 

Snake Repellent Spray?

We have all sorts of repellent sprays available on the market for different critters, from mosquito repellent to bear repellent. These repellents are used to overwhelm or disgust the poor creature that smells them, causing them to stay away. Unfortunately, snake repellent doesn’t work on that basis. Snakes don’t smell in the same way as most other animals, and are unaffected by anything claiming to repel them. There is absolutely no proof that any snake repellent sprays on the market actually do what they say on the tin. In fact, some brands are banned from selling their products in California due to laws stating that any claims on the bottle must be proven – and there is no proof that snakes can be repelled with these sprays. 

There are better ways of keeping snakes at bay that don’t result in wasted cash. 

Consider Where You’re Camping

The amount of snakes you’re likely to encounter will depend a lot on the campsite that you’re planning on staying in. Certain snakes can only be found in certain areas, meaning that you can avoid them quite easily by choosing to camp in an area where snakes can’t usually be found. 

Snake-Free Campsites

Perhaps the most obvious option would be to choose a campsite that is in an area that snakes don’t occupy. This is hard to do in the US, as only two states technically don’t have native snakes- Hawaii and Alaska. However, the amount of venomous snakes varies state to state, and there are some areas where you’re very unlikely to find a venomous snake. Colder, damper climates are less likely to be inhabited by snakes, as they prefer humidity and sunlight. 

Camping Location

As previously mentioned, there are some environments that snakes are more likely to live in. One of these environments are places where there are forested terrains or areas where lots of boulders reside. Snakes love to make their homes in forest flooring and under rocks and boulders, so if you’re particularly worried about encountering snakes, be sure to stay away from these two types of structures.

Food Storage

Like any animal, snakes can be attracted by the promise of food. Any food that isn’t stored correctly can lead to some disastrous effects, as critters from raccoons, snakes, mountain lions and even bears may raid your campsite.  In this case, snakes would probably be one of the least of your worries, as bears are responsible for more deaths per year in the US than venomous snakes. Whilst snakes may not want to indulge in your campsite food, they may be more interested in the other animals that it can attract. If the food in your campsite is attracting mice- then snakes will be more likely to show up. 

To keep your food safe, make sure it is stored inside a rodent proof container (or bear proof if you’re in bear country), and keep it either suspended or at least 100 yards away from the campsite. This also means not storing it inside the tent.

Staying Tidy

This point is made in the same vein as the previous one. As rats and mice will be more likely to hang around an untidy campsite, so will snakes. Ensuring all garbage is disposed of correctly or organized into its own secure container reduces the risk of rodents or wildlife getting to it. Trash should be treated the same way that food is, as it can still attract wildlife. Keeping it away from the main campsite is ideal and unreachable by rodents or bears.

Make Your Presence Known 

Making noise can help deliver the message that the area is occupied and it can deter some animals from entering. Snakes in particular aren’t interested in humans and will be more likely to avoid the area if they know that people are about. Snakes may be scary to some of us, but to them, we’re even scarier. Campfire songs, talking, and music being played on speakers may be just enough to let critters know of your presence and keep them at bay. Of course, it’s also necessary to be considerate of other campers, so don’t make too much noise. 

Checking for Snakes While Camping

Snakes are more likely to attack if startled and perceiving that they are under threat. Snakes very rarely attack for the sake of it. This is why it’s important to carefully check for snakes around the camping area, to ensure that they aren’t startled. 

Snakes are more likely to find specific places to hide due to their humidity and light. It’s important to check everywhere you may think a snake could be hiding, just to be safe. 

Check The Inside Of Your Tent

The tent could be one of the worst places to find a snake. It could, in theory, lay hidden in there until you were comfortable in bed. Regardless of whether you like snakes or not, nobody wants to spend any time trying to remove a snake from a tent in the dead of night. Before entering your tent, check some of the more obvious places for snakes. This includes the vestibule, sleeping bag, sleeping mattress and any other dark or hidden places. Snakes particularly enjoy sitting in the dark or under objects, which provides a good basis to go off.

Check Your Shoes 

Snakes are attracted to the dark and warm conditions that can be found inside shoes and boots. It’s good practice to check your shoes before putting them on, just in case a guest has decided to reside there. 

Check The Outside Of Your Tent

Any visible damage to the tent may increase the likelihood of a snake sneaking inside. Keep an eye out for any holes in your tent. These holes are likely not caused by a snake, but it can offer them an entrance point if they do choose to spend the night in your tent. Tent holes can be easily patched up providing you have the correct materials with you. Checking under the tent may be beneficial too. Even though it may be hard to slither under a tent, it’s still the ideal place for a snake to want to spend its time. If there are any rocks or leverage points underneath the tent, it could provide the snake an opportunity to make its way underneath.

Watch Where You Walk

Snakes can be out and about when you’re taking hikes or having a wander around the campsite. Keeping an eye on where you’re stepping to be sure not to disturb or potentially injure any snakes. Wearing closed off shoes adds more protection, but wearing boots in particular will send more vibrations into the ground as you walk, alerting snakes to your presence and giving them the opportunity to keep away.

Personal Protection

Even if a snake does decide to attack, there are a couple of ways in which you can protect yourself. 

Consider Your Clothing

If you’re wearing clothing that offers more coverage, a snake’s bite is less likely to make contact with your skin. Long sleeves shirts, long pants tucked into boots and gloves are some ways to protect oneself when in an area where snakes may be present. One of the unspoken rules of camping is to consider the function of your clothing above the aesthetic, so don’t worry if you look a little silly. 

Don’t Interact With Any Snakes

If you come across any snakes, don’t get close or interact with them. Slowing down and letting them escape is the safest option. Attempting to injure them, step on them or kill them is not only cruel, but unnecessary. Snakes will be more likely to leave an area if you slowly move back from them and give them time to move. Aggravating them in any way will just make them more likely to attack.

What To Do If You See a Snake

If you come across a snake during your camping trip, there are a multitude of options available for you depending on the circumstances. Do not attempt to injure the snake, step on the snake, or prod it with a stick. These actions can aggravate the snake, making it more likely to resort to attacking.

Instead, use one of these methods. 

  • Stay still and watch what the snake does. The chances are that if it’s noticed you, it will swiftly move on.
  • If the snake has been cornered, slowly back away. A snake shouldn’t perceive you slowly backing away as a threat, and should hopefully move onto another area.
  • If you accidentally step on or poke a snake, move away immediately.
  • Treat all snakes as dangerous. This includes snakes that look dead, and baby snakes. Some snakes play dead when they feel threatened, and dead snakes still have the capacity to inject venom into individuals if they get too close to their fangs.

What To Do If You’re Bitten By a Snake While Camping

The odds of being bitten by a venomous snake are fairly low, something around 1 in 41,000. Snake bites are also very rarely fatal, as antidotes are available for most bites. In fact, the odds of dying from a snake bite are incredibly low, as on average, only around five Americans die each year from venomous snake bites.

If, by chance, you are bitten by a snake while camping, there’s actually very little to worry about. Providing you seek adequate care, you could be discharged from the hospital within a day or two. 

If you’re bitten by a snake while camping, there are a series of actions that should be taken.

  • Remain calm. Increasing your heart rate by any means is counter productive. 
  • Call 911. Medical assistance if necessary when faced with a snake bite. 
  • Keep the affected limb beneath your heart. This will lessen the blood flow to the limb, preventing the venom from spreading further quickly. 
  • Try not to move the limb. Keeping it immobilized will continue to prevent the venom from spreading as quickly as it would with movement. 
  • Try to make note of the color and any patterns on the snake. This can help with the identification in the hospital and speed up the administration of antivenom. This isn’t too important, as staff will be able to determine the type of snake based on location and behavior, or can use the venom around the wound to identify the type of snake. 

Final Thoughts

When camping, snakes can be more of a nuisance than anything else. The chance of being bitten by a snake are low, and the chance of dying or having serious complications as a result of a snakebite are even lower. When camping in an area that houses a lot of snakes, the best thing to do is come prepared. You can prepare by finding a good place to set up camp, ensuring that any items or animals that may attract snakes are not around, and by checking for snakes as part of your routine. 

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