How to Keep Snakes Away From Your Campsite (and Tent)

how to keep snakes away from your campsite
Image Credit: James Wainscoat

It’s no secret why someone would want to keep snakes away from their campsite. Snakes can be poisonous, vicious, or at the very least downright creepy. Snakes are found in all corners of our globe. What’s especially concerning is they can be found in places people love to camp: forests and grasslands.

Now, unless you are in a tropical climate like a rainforest, you most likely won’t be finding those 30-foot pythons near your campsite. What you’re most likely to encounter are rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths/water moccasins, and coral snakes. While these are no 30-foot python, they can still be dangerous. More on them later.

Here’s what you can do to keep snakes away from your campsite.

Clean up any wood, shrubs, long grass, or debris around your campsite. Make sure there are no rodents nearby and clean up any open food that would attract snakes searching for food. Sprinkle white vinegar and/or lime juice around the perimeter of your tent and campsite to deter snakes away.

Continue reading to learn more about the danger and prevention of snakes around the campsite.

Types of Snakes You May Encounter

As previously mentioned, if you are in the United States in a regular campground area, such as a forest, you are not likely to encounter those 30-foot python monsters that nightmares are made of. Instead, it’s more common to find rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths/water moccasins, and coral snakes. Now, these snakes are not fuzzy bunnies by any means. They are all venomous. Most people will survive a bite, but it requires immediate medical attention.

A rattlesnake is the deadliest of them all. Even still, a rattlesnake bite has less than 1 in 600 chances of killing you with its venom. Regardless, if you are bitten by a rattlesnake, you should seek medical attention immediately. A copperhead snake does have venom, but less than a rattlesnake. It’s extremely rare to die of a copperhead snake bite. Coral snakes and water moccasins are the least fatal of the four.

Keep in mind that most venomous snakes live in hot, dry environments. They dislike cold, wet places. Thus, the more north in the United States you go, the less likely you are to encounter venomous snakes.

Choose a Snake-Free Campsite

Now that you know what snakes you are most likely to encounter let’s discuss how to keep them away. First things first: try to select a campsite that has minimal snakes, to begin with. Here are some tips on choosing the best snake-free environments to camp in:

  • Choose a well-lit area, even at night
  • Keep fire lit at the campsite for as long as possible
  • Open space areas
  • Little to no grass or brush
  • Avoid campsites close to water sources

Another thing to keep in mind is the time of the year. Snakes tend to be most active in spring and summer. They like to bask in the spring and summer sun.

Remove Any Snake Hiding Spots

Okay, you have chosen a relatively snake-free environment. What else can you do? Make sure your campsite is clean from snake hiding spots. This means removing all places that a snake could hide. Snakes like to retreat to piles of wood, debris, rock piles, shrubs, long grass, or basically anything else that would make a dark hiding spot for a snake. An excellent place for a snake to hide would be a stack of firewood.

Remember, snakes need a warm and dark place to hide when not hunting for prey. Snakes also like to hang out by water sources. Whether that be standing water, a river, or an animal drinking trough. That means avoid campsites with water, but also don’t leave your dog’s water bowl out.

Keep Your Campsite Clean

Clean up your food and store it properly. The bear-proofing of a campsite also applies to snake-proofing. The idea is that you do not want little critters inhabiting your campsite because they smell your crumbs and food.

Why, you ask?

Well, bears and snakes love to prey on these little critters that love your food. In other words, open food/crumbs = rodents & rodents = bears and snakes. To avoid attracting rodents, make sure all food is in air-tight containers. Do not leave crumbs out in the open. Store the air-tight contained food high and away from your sleep quarters.

Line the Perimeter of Your Campsite With Vinegar

Snake experts do not like to rely on this method, but some folks swear by it. I don’t think it can hurt you, but just know that this is not the end all be all of avoiding snakes. The secret trick that some people swear works is lining your campsite with a smelly and acidic substance, such as vinegar or lime juice. The smell is said to repel the snake, and the acidity is said to deter them from slithering over it. The snakeskin absorbs everything it slithers over, so the acidic nature of lime juice and vinegar will make them feel terrible. Again, I would not make this your only snake repelling tactic, but I don’t think it would hurt to try it.

What If You Do Encounter a Snake?

Don’t panic. Snakes typically want nothing to do with you either. A rattlesnake’s main course is usually rodents or squirrels, with a side of insects and maybe a bird for dessert. A rattlesnake looks at us and thinks we are a predator…because we are. In fact, snakes are usually so repulsed by us that some people say lining your campsite with human hair is enough to deter a snake. They smell human; they run (or slither).

If you do come face to face with a snake, remain calm. Leave it alone and do not provoke it. Snakes do not attack humans unless they are provoked. The snake is likely to vacate the premises as soon as it sees you. Once it’s gone, decide whether you want to stay at the same campsite. It may be time to move locations.

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