If you are a camping, overnight hiking or backpacking enthusiast, basically, any kind of adventurer that likes to go off the beaten path every now and then, you must learn how to keep copperhead snakes away when camping.
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The last thing that you want to experience is the cold scaly skin of a reptile creeping along your skin inside your warm sleeping bag. When you are going camping in Texas, you need to be aware of snakes commonly found there, and southern copperhead is one of them.
Whether you are going camping in Mustang Island State Park, Lake Texoma, Balmorhea State Park or anywhere else in Texas, it is best to be on the lookout for snakes.
As much as we love animals, the idea of having a creepy guest popping in for dinner is not very appealing. Even if you wear snake proof boots, well, you very well may not sleep in them.
Just learn how to keep snakes away. It is not too hard either since snakes themselves do not like your company, same as you do not like theirs.
Keep Copperhead Snakes Away When Camping
Texas is a really charming state that has a unique blend of both city and country. The state also boasts of having some of the best camping sites in the world with almost all its state parks having a camping or lodging option for its visitors.
Therefore, one of the best ways to take in this incredible state in it entire rugged beauty, and especially when summer sets in, is to grab your camping tent and embark on a serious, wilderness camping adventure.
In addition to its beauty and glory, the Lone Star State is also home to diverse snake species, with the state boasting to having over 76 different main snake species. See why you must know how to keep copperhead snakes away?
This makes it the state with the highest number of snake species in the entire United States. Although most of the snakes in Texas are non-venomous, 15% of the species are seriously venomous and should be handled with a lot of caution.
One category of the venomous snakes in Texas is the copperhead. This snake is wide bodied with a broad head. The skin color is either light brown or tan with irregular cross bands. It is a beautiful snake!
Apart from Texas, copperheads are also prevalent in other states such as Florida, California, New Mexico, Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, West Virginia, Louisiana and Oklahoma.
Where do copperhead snakes live?
Copperhead snakes love living in rocky areas and in partially shaded woodlands that have plenty of fallen branches and leaves. This is because they camouflage well in dead leaf litter and fallen logs.
Just like most snakes, copperheads do not like confrontation and they prefer to remain still when disturbed. They will however vibrate their tail very fast and try to move away, but if they feel cornered, they will strike.
Although they are venomous, their venom is however mild and rarely fatal. All the same, you do not want it in your blood, do you? Just know how to keep snakes away.
When you take your family out on camping adventure in Texas, I am sure that you would not want your fun and merry to be interrupted by these creepy reptiles. Their sight alone is very freakish not to mention the nasty infections their venom causes on your body and the ugly scars their bites leave on your skin.
Snake signs are hard to miss because they usually have the image of a snake. You should take such signs seriously as they indicate you are entering snake territory.
When you see such a sign, it is important to take extra caution, watch where you step. Mostly, if you do not bother snakes, they will not bother you at all. So as you learn how to keep snakes away, you should also learn how to avoid disturbing them.
If you are in warmer territory, snakes thrive in such environments. Light brush and grassland also makes a good abode for snakes. Abandoned quarries, rocky areas, caves, derelict houses and cabins may all harbor snakes. Debris, woodpiles and dead logs may also harbor snakes, so be extra careful when approaching such.
Before you rest or make camp under a tree, toss a few rocks into the tree because some snakes do climb. Beat the bushes around with a stick to scare away any snakes. Again, since most snakes live in holes, if you find a snake hole, do not camp near it.
Snake free area – Camp low
When choosing an area to pitch your tent, look for place with low gravel or grass but not near logs. This is because copperheads like hiding under felled branches and dry leaves. The best spot to camp should be in a land with lots of open space and low grass. Snakes love to hide and they avoid being in an exposed space.
Snakes generally hate strong odors. Most of the camping stores have snake repellents that you can spray around your camping tent to keep copperhead snakes away.
These chemical repellents do not kill the snakes, what they do is deter them from coming near your tents. Because of their highly sensitive smell sense and ability, snake repellents can really work well. The trick is to know which is the best repellent as there are so many of them in the market.
snake proof tent
When packing your tent before leaving for your trip, check carefully if the tent has holes, from which the snakes can creep their way into your tent. Make sure that the zippers are closing properly without leaving any gaps and always ensure that your tent is always zipped up when camping.
In addition, always shake your sleeping bags before you slip into them. You do not want to encounter a creepy, forked tongue visitor, do you? Also check your boots before wearing them, especially if you left them outside your tent at night. They are a possible hiding spot for snakes.
If you brought your camping cot with you, use it. If not, you can use an air mattress for camping. Snakes are crawlers and therefore they would most likely not be bothered to climb, especially when they are in unfamiliar territory such as a tent. However, do not be deterred from sleeping if you just brought along your sleeping pad made of foam as long as you will prepare the ground thoroughly.
Snake food – what do snakes eat in the wild
The way you store your food when camping can attract snakes in your tent. You should therefore ensure that all your foods are stored correctly in order to keep copperhead snakes away. Keep your food and coffee in airtight containers so that they do not attract rodents such as rats, which in turn will attract snakes since snakes love feeding on rodents.
Do not leave trash bags outside your tent. Instead, keep them in an airtight bin until you can dispose them correctly. Clean your utensils after use and avoid dropping pieces of food near your tent.
Keep meat away, anything that has the smell of food should be kept locked up as it will attract insects and small rodents, which will in turn attract snakes to your camp.
Light up at night – Are snakes attracted to light?
Most snakes will generally strike if they feel threatened or cornered, and this includes when they are stepped on. To avoid stepping on a copperhead and especially in low light conditions such as at night, keep your tent well lit. If you do not have a safe tent heater for camping whose warmth by the way could attract copperheads, well you need a flashlight for camping so that you can shine your way around as you move inside the tent.
Make a campfire if it is allowed. Fire will help in deterring them from coming near your tent. However, when preparing to light the fire, handle firewood that has not been used for the whole day with care since it can be a possible hiding place for a snake.
Most snakes will follow the light, maybe out of curiosity or just maybe light attracts insects, which in turn attract the snake. Either way, you are much safer with the light on than off.
Camping Safety Tips – Keep Snakes Away
In addition to keeping the snakes away from your tent, you should follow the following personal safety to prevent snake bites when you are not in your tent.
Camping first aid kit
It is always prudent to be prepared for anything when you leave your tent to go hiking or for anything else, especially when you are camping in a snake prone destination. The first aid is an essential gear in your backpack when camping or hiking. Ensure that the kit is well stocked and it can help to lower the venom effects on a victim’s body before seeking for medical attention.
How to store camping gear
Do not leave all of your camping items lying haphazardly on the ground when you go to sleep. Snakes are generally not very social animals and therefore they will burrow, just to keep company to themselves. Hang all of your gear before sleeping. If there isn’t anywhere to hide, a copperhead will not come in.
For good measure though, shake your hiking boots in the morning cowboy style, you know, same way that a cowboy would shake his boots lest he step on a scorpion. Also shake your bedding before storing them when you wake up in the morning and keep them secured in a bag.
Snake proof boots – keep snakes away
Put on clothes that cover your lower legs and hands. Snakes are most likely to bite on such body parts. Closed shoes and snake proof boots are more appropriate than sandals. Not only does such footwear protect your feet, but they also amplify your steps vibrations, making the snakes become aware of your presence and hence flee.
Jeans is also a good material since it lowers the chances of the snake’s fang reaching your skin. If you are hiking in a snake prone place, you may consider wearing snake gaiters and even snake proof pants to keep snakes away.
Watch your step
To reduce your chances of stepping on a snake and hence disturbing it, ensure you watch where you walk. In most cases, snakes will be alerted of your presence by the ground vibrations as you walk and hence leave even before you can see them. However, sometimes your presence can catch them by surprise and they react by striking out. In order to reduce such incidences, always watch on where you are stepping.
Repel snakes while hiking & keep copperhead snakes away
You are likely to come across snakes when hiking because snakes live mostly in bushy. Grassy and low brush areas. As a human being, you are not prey to the snake. It will leave you alone mostly, but not when you step on his tail.
When hiking in rattlesnake territory, or as in our case here, in copperhead territory, be extra careful, but do not let snakes keep you from the trails.
There is many trails in Texas, plenty of camping sites and you do not want to leave all of that to snakes now, do you? You could wear snake gaiters for hiking, but still, that would not be enough.
Put yourself in the shoes of the snake. As much as you want to protect yourself, snakes also protect themselves when the need arises. If you like hiking, you will definitely come across snakes at one time or another. Snakebites occur mostly due to our lack of awareness or carelessness.
Snake striking distance
Whenever you spot a snake on your path, stop, give it time to move away. Do not harass it by throwing stones at it or beating it up with a stick. It will try to defend itself and it may end up biting you.
If the snake doesn’t move, stomp your feet to encourage the snake to move on its own. Do this from a distance. Keep a distance twice or thrice the snake’s length. Snakes can strike to a distance half the length of their body. Do everything you can to ensure that the snake doesn’t perceive you as a threat.
Watch your path
Be alert when walking on a trail. Look ahead carefully to avoid stepping on snakes. Don’t move holding branches of low trees or bushes. It is easy to mistake a snake for a branch and it may end up biting you.
As you move, don’t dip your hands into holes because you are not aware what might be inside. Avoid stepping on logs because a snake is lying on the other side of the log.
Snake proof pants – wear snake proof boots
You should not go hiking barefoot or when wearing sandals. Research has shown that 90% of snakebites are at the ankles. Wearing high boots is very advisable.
You can also combine the boots with long snake proof pants. It is hard for a snake to bite you through leather boots. However, even if it bites you through the pants, they can help reduce the poison a snake is likely to inject.
Carry a trekking pole with you when going to snake territory. Since you use the trekking pole ahead of you, if there is a snake, it will first strike the pole instead of you. Use the trekking pole to probe and beat around brush and grass to frighten snakes and make them scamper.
Avoid tall weeds and under bush
Always walk on the beaten trail when hiking. You are likely to find snakes in tall weeds and under bush. They like these places because they are able to hide from their predators and to avoid extreme weather changes. Snakes are also able to slither away fast in the grass and light brush if attacked, for their own protection.
Snakes don’t hear sounds. They feel vibrations. Be careful on your movements so as to prevent snakes from interpreting you as hostile, which can make them attack you.
If you see a snake raising its head, interpret that as getting ready to attack you. Even if you see a snake on the ground don’t make the mistake of thinking it can’t attack. It is very easy for it to attack you from any position.
If it helps, you can hike when it is cool, morning and evening. Snakes are cold blooded reptiles and therefore they are most active when it is warm. Do not bank on this too much though because even when cold, a snake can still strike.
Have fun hiking, backpacking and camping in Texas. However, also learn how to keep copperhead snakes away when camping. This will save you a whole lot of trouble.
A very well written article. I’m surprised how many little and common sense items you mentioned. That most people wouldn’t think about. Camping in a clear area or a sealed tent.