Are Snakes Attracted To Or Repelled By Campfires?

When I go camping, I’m always afraid of encountering a snake at my campsite. I’ve heard that the smoke from a campfire can repel a snake – is this true?

Snakes are both attracted to and repelled by campfires. As cold-blooded creatures, snakes often seek out warm places to sleep, attracting them to the warmth of a campfire. 

Because they have a sensitive sense of smell and are shy animals, they may be repelled by a campfire’s smoke and the presence of humans. Campfires are not a guaranteed way to repel snakes and you should use an effective snake repellent if you want to keep snakes away from your campsite.

Using smoke from a campfire isn’t an effective snake repellent and it’s a good idea to use a good deterrent instead. 

Are Snakes Drawn To Campfires?

Snakes are sometimes drawn to campfires but only if they need to warm up and the weather is cold. They are cold-blooded creatures and can’t regulate their body temperatures effectively and are more likely to seek out a campfire on a cold night.  

That said, this doesn’t mean that snakes will necessarily approach your campfire when it’s cold. Snakes are shy and scared of larger animals and humans and will stay away from places they hear noise or see activity. 

If your campfire is left to go to coals, stays gently warm at night, and everyone has gone to bed in their tents, snakes are more likely to approach it as they won’t notice any human activity and will feel safer. 

As mentioned above, snakes can’t regulate their body temperatures well and rely on external mechanisms to help them. This means that being close to a blazing fire will be too hot for them and they’ll instinctively move away from it.

Does A Camp Fire Keep Snakes Away?

A camp fire can keep snakes away but only if it’s hot enough, produces enough smoke and there is enough human activity around it. 

However, it’s not an effective snake repelling method and it’s better to use a proven product (like a readymade one or essential oils) to keep them away. 

Snakes have an extremely sensitive sense of smell and will probably stay away from fires that produce lots of smoke. Unfortunately, creating such a fire can be unpleasant for you and your fellow campers, the reason it’s better to use another method. 

Thankfully, the typical human activity (i.e. talking, moving around, etc.) around a campfire is often a good snake repellent in itself and will keep most snakes away from your campsite.

Do Snakes Like The Smell of Smoke? Does It Affect Them?

Snakes don’t like the smell of smoke and it affects them by overwhelming their Jacobson’s Organ, their highly-developed smell sensory organ. When they sense an unpleasant and powerful smell, they move away. 

If you notice snakes in and around your campsite and you don’t have any other snake-repelling products or methods to use, you could always use smoke to deter them in a fix. 

In this case, a slow-burning fire that produces a lot of smoke is best. Here’s how to do it: 

1. Dig a hole in the ground large enough to function as a fire pit and to create enough smoke to cover your entire campsite.

2. Place some kindling in it, light it and cover it with some more wood, dead vegetation and moss. Snakes are repelled by cedarwood oil and if there are loose cedarwood branches or twigs lying around, consider using them.  

3. Monitor the fire to ensure it burns and produces smoke constantly. 

This method may leave your clothes and camping equipment smelling strongly of smoke but it will help  prevent the trauma of encountering a snake. Still, it's not the most effective snake repellent and there are much better and simpler options out there.

I personally prefer to use vinegar for an in-the-moment snake repellent. I generally have some vinegar for cleaning and it's a good home remedy snake repellent that works for about 24 hours.

Simply spray the perimeter of your campsite and this will help deter snakes from coming near your tent. Be careful how much you use though as vinegar can kill plants and turf.

Also make sure you camp in a clearing and well away from bushes, shrubs and tall grass where snakes like to hide.

Why Aren’t Campfires Effective Snake Repellents?

Campfires aren’t effective snake repellents because snakes are sometimes attracted to their warmth. Unless your campfire produces very heavy smoke, it will likely not be enough to keep snakes away. 

Smoke also gets blown in multiple different directions depending on the wind. So your smoke may or may not blow in the night direction to repel the snake.

Unless your campsite has long grass and piles of wood and vegetation (the ideal environment for a snake to hide in) and rodents, snakes will likely avoid it as they don’t typically approach humans and like to remain hidden. 

To prevent snakes from moving through your campsite completely, it’s better to use an effective snake repellent and choose a site in a clearing with no piles of vegetation or wood or long grass. 

How To Effectively Repel Snakes When Camping

A campfire isn't the most effective way to repel snakes from your campsite or while you're sleeping on the ground. However, there are a lot of simple and effective solutions out there which will do the job just fine.

To keep snakes away from your campsite, consider the following: 

Keep Your Campsite Clean and Tidy and Camp In a Clearing

Snakes love hiding and sleeping in long vegetation and piles of wood. When choosing a campsite, opt for one in a clearing to reduce the chances of encountering snakes. 

Rodents are a snake’s natural prey and if your campsite has rats or mice, snakes might enter it when hunting.

You can prevent this by keeping food in durable, sealed containers and cleaning up garbage and food crumbs. 

Keep Your Tent Close and Sleeping Bag Rolled Up

To avoid snakes getting into your tent make sure to keep it zipped up and closed at all times of the day and night.

Snakes like protected enclosed spaces so could be drawn to your tend and if you leave it open there is a chance they could get inside. Keeping it closed throughout the day and night will mean any snake that comes near your tent will likely move away eventually.

If you are sleeping on the ground and not using a tent then it's a good idea to keep your sleeping bag packed away and rolled up during the day and only put it out at night

Use a DIY Snake Repellent

Snakes have a sensitive sense of smell and there are many substances that they hate the smell of and will avoid. Common ones include:

  • Essential oils (e.g. citronella, peppermint, cloves and cedarwood). These are great natural repellents.
  • Ammonia (the strong fumes from this substance can effectively repel snakes).
  • Vinegar (I like this method because I can use white vinegar to clean and repel bugs as well).

You can spray these substances around your campsite’s perimeter to repel snakes. In the case of ammonia (which is toxic to pets/plants), keep an ammonia-soaked rag in a ziploc bag and then open it away from your tent when you arrive at your campsite.

Apply a Commercial Snake Repellent 

Commercial snake repellents are more popular for backyards because they last for a few months. However, you can also use them when camping and there are some that are well designed and work really well for camping trips.

For example, these Pufado Snake Repellent Balls from Amazon contain a variety of essential oils that snakes don't like and can be placed around the perimeter of your campsite.

They last for 2-3 months in your home/backyard but you can place them around your campsite and then pack them up when you're ready to leave and save them to use on for the next camping trip.

Unlike other snake repellent powders these balls are easy to recollect and reuse.

Pufado Snake Repellent Balls for Yard (4 Pack)

Snake Repellents are able to repel copperheads, rattlesnake, cottonmoth and other breeds of snakes. They contain a scent that the snakes hate, providing barrier for your yard and home effectively.

The effect lasts for 2-3 months and is rain resistant and sun proof

Buy Now at Amazon

Use Physical Barriers

For serious snake prevention a physical barrier can be one of the best options.

Physical barriers that snakes can’t breach are also effective in keeping them away. Consider sleeping in your tent instead of under the stars and keep it tightly zipped up as much as possible. 

Most snake barriers need to be dug into the ground to be effective and they also need to be quite high which makes them useless for camping.

However you can get a low portable snake barrier, like this one featured in the video below by Atrox. This can be placed around the perimeter of your campsite and can be easily stepped over by humans but is almost impossible for snakes to get over due to it's design.