I don’t like bringing too many things with me when camping and if I can avoid taking extra gear that’s always ideal. When I’m camping in areas and I know there are snakes about I like to bring snake repellent to keep my are snake free.
I heard a theory that snakes won’t cross ashes and if it was true it could mean I could leave my snake repellent balls behind and carry one less thing. But unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be the case, it’s just another urban myth like the one about snakes not crossing ropes.
Snakes WILL cross ashes because they don’t find the smell overpowering and cold ashes aren’t challenging for them to slither over. While snakes do have a very strong sense of smell and some smells can overwhelm them and cause them to move away it seems that ashes is not one of these smells and thus not an effective snake repellent.
Snakes have a very sensitive sense of smell and a Jacobson’s Organ to detect tiny scent particles and effective snake repellents have smells that snakes hate.
If you want to get more use out of your campfire ashes by reusing them as a snake repellent, it’s good to understand the science behind why they won’t work and what to use instead.
Why Will Snakes Cross Ashes?
Snakes will cross ashes because ashes don’t have a strong smell that snakes don't like. Strong smoke can repel snakes but ashes have only a light smoky smell and this is not enough to completely repel snakes.
Snake may avoid hot coals/ashes due to the damage the intense heat could do to their bodies, but ashes spread out cool down quickly and don't pose the same threat that hot coals do.
Snakes can’t slither over slippery surfaces because it doesn’t give them enough traction. Ashes aren’t the ideal surface but snakes can easily get their bodies through the soft ashes and gain traction from the underlying ground.
Snakes are shy creatures and like hiding in long grass, piles of wood and dead vegetation. Having a huge pile of ash may in fact attract them as they can burrow underneath.
Also, if you leave out greasy ashes with remnants of last night's dinner in them, this could attract rodents to your campsite. This will then in turn attract snakes because they hunt rats and mice.
If you want to use your campfire to keep snakes away, you’ll need to create a lot of strong-smelling smoke as they find the smell overwhelming. Unfortunately, this isn’t the most comfortable way to enjoy a campfire.
Once you’ve finished with the fire, you’d need to either let it smoulder and continue to produce lots of smoke or put it out entirely because snakes can be attracted to the heat, especially if it’s cold.
Why Do People Think Snakes Won’t Cross Ashes?
People think snakes won’t cross ashes because it’s an urban myth that’s been passed down. This is similar to the urban myth that snakes won't go over horsehair ropes or the myth that the smell of diesel keeps snakes away.
Some may have witnessed snakes not crossing ashes because there was strong smoke around and then incorrectly believed that it was the ashes and not the smoke that was repelling them.
Or perhaps some snakes were a bit put off by ashes surrounding a campsite and did in fact move elsewhere. It's certainly possible, it's just not a very reliable way to keep snakes away from your campsite and isn't something I would consider worth doing.
When snakes hear human activity, they instinctively keep away, causing some folks to think that the ashes were repelling them and not human noises.
What To Use Instead of Ashes to Repel Snakes
According to a snake expert from the University of Utah, there are a few effective ways to repel snakes. Instead of using ashes, consider the following:
- Choose a campsite in a clearing. As mentioned above, snakes like places to hide and won’t be attracted to a site with short grass with no bushes or trees. The most effective snake deterrent isn't something you can buy but rather an environment that snakes don't like.
- Keep your campsite tidy and pack food away in airtight containers. Piles of garbage or firewood attract snakes as they provide hiding places. Also, food scraps or crumbs attract rodents which snakes hunt.
- Apply a commercial repellent. These are easy to apply and contain smells that snakes hate.
For camping I personally like the Pufado Snake Repellent from Amazon as they come in small balls that you can place around your campsite when you arrive and they last for months, meaning you can bring the balls back home with you and reuse them.
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
- Use a DIY snake deterrent. Examples include essential oils (peppermint, cinnamon, cloves and cedarwood), ammonia and white vinegar.
- Use a snake barrier. If you camp often, you might want to invest in a portable snake barrier to keep snakes away.
The video below demonstrates how this one from Atrox is great at repelling snakes: