While there is no solid evidence that snakes are afraid of fire, they are anecdotally known to steer clear of fires. On balance, a snake is more likely to avoid a campfire due to the noise of humans than the presence of a fire.
Furthermore, snakes have a strong sense of smell so are likely sensitive to smoke. While they are not necessarily afraid of it, they probably dislike its smell. So, they may also move away from campfires due to the presence of smoke.
Are Snakes Afraid of Fire and Smoke?
Instinctively, all animals are afraid of anything that could potentially harm them in any way. Therefore, snakes are likely afraid of fire and smoke.
Snakes have a pit organ that converts prey’s warmth into thermal images. This is what enables them to hunt in the dark. Therefore, snakes can differentiate heat originating from prey and that of a fire.
As such, while an ordinary campfire won’t scare away a snake, it won’t attract it either. Nonetheless, you should also remember that snakes are cold-blooded animals, and thus they need external heat to keep their body temperature in check.
This means that they could potentially seek shelter near a fire. However, snakes hate smoke due to their heightened sense of smell. Therefore, an ordinary campfire might keep snakes at bay.
Can Campfires Keep Snakes Away from Campers?
Campfires may keep snakes away from camping tents, but that’s not the best way to deter them. On balance, it’s not the best solution to keeping snakes away.
It is the noise of humans that is most likely the thing that will keep snakes away. Stomping your feet and making plenty of noise enjoying your campout will naturally keep snakes at bay.
Furthermore, remember to keep your tents zipped up at all times to ensure snakes cannot get into tents.
Can Smoke Keep Snakes Away?
Smoke has served as a natural animal deterrent for centuries because of the instinctual reaction of animals to flee from it.
This is mainly because smoke is associated with humans. However, for snakes, it may also be irritating, especially since most snakes have a heightened sense of smell.
That said, smoke is not a practical solution to keeping snakes away because you can’t determine which direction the snake will go. It might decide to seek shelter in your home. Therefore, smoke can only act as a short-term irritant at best and won’t prevent the snake from returning.
How Do Wildfires Affect Snakes?
Forest fires are a common occurrence in many locations in the world. When they occur, wild animals, including snakes, employ survival mechanisms.
Some snake species will resolve to flee to underground shelters such as burrows, where the effect of the fire won’t be felt.
Other species will hide behind huge structures that will protect them from the flames. Other species, such as rattlesnakes, flee into brush piles, which is counteractive because the bushes get engulfed in the fire leading to the demise of the snakes.
Many also head to residential areas to seek refuge, which is why people are encouraged to secure their homes during forest fires.
Interestingly, forest fires are not always bad for snakes. They have some positive effects on the well-being of serpents. Snakes are ectothermic animals, meaning that their body temperatures are determined by their surroundings.
Usually, forest floors do not receive enough sunlight, so they are relatively cold and only reach highs of 78⁰F, even during the warmer climates. This means that the snakes don’t have adequate access to basking areas, and as a result, do not attain the optimum body temperature for bodily functions.
Forest fires open up canopies by removing a lot of understory vegetation and some of the overstory vegetation. This creates basking space for the snakes to absorb the much-needed heat and maintain warmer temperatures.
This way, snakes are able to digest their meals more efficiently, grow faster and even reach sexual maturity sooner. Therefore, forest fires are not always a bad thing where the well-being of snakes is concerned.
How Do Snakes React to Fire?
Usually, snakes will flee fires and seek safety when there is a fire nearby.
However, this depends on the type of fire and its severity. Snakes are cold-blooded, and thus they are attracted to warm places.
Therefore, if the fire is small and does not produce any smoke, it might potentially attract snakes. However, log fires that produce a lot of smoke will deter snakes.
Some people resolve to set snakes ablaze to get rid of them when they encroach private properties. Just like any other animal, the reptile will roast in a fire!
However, this is not always the best alternative. An example case is that of a woman who used gasoline to set a serpent ablaze. While on fire, the snake slithered into the woman’s home and set her house on fire, causing even more destruction!
As scary as they are, snakes are pretty harmless and pose minimal harm to humans. Provided they are left unprovoked, snakes will generally not get in anyone’s way.
Therefore, setting a snake ablaze can be pretty extreme and unwarranted. There are better ways to handle the situation when you encounter snakes on your property:
- If it is non-venomous, you could simply let the snake go its way. It has minimal capacity to harm you.
- If the snake won’t leave, contact wildlife control and let them take care of the situation. This also applies to venomous snakes – you do not want to deal with these ones as it would be very risky.
- Keep your area clear and use rodent deterrents to keep snake prey away.
All Articles in our Snake Repellant Series:
Snakes seem to be averse to fire and smoke, but in some occasions, it may attract them. So, it is not quite correct to deduce that they are afraid of these elements.
Instead, it would be more accurate to say that smoke irritates snakes due to their heightened sense of smell.
While fires are fatal to snakes, it is advisable to avoid setting them on fire. This is because, on top of most snakes being harmless, it could lead to injuries and destruction of property.
Joe is a freelance writer for FaunaFacts. Joe has written extensively about snakes for the site, but also contributes content about a range of animals.