Its always best to have a safe and secure campsite. It’s important to ensure that no rattlesnakes get into your camping area, or you could be facing a very serious problem.
Campsite Features That Attract Rattlesnakes
- Wood and rock piles
- Caves and rock outcroppings
- Nearby trees and tall grasses.
- Rodents that feed on food crumbs.
- Open tents
- Tent overhangs, lean-tos, or tarps that make shade for snakes.
- Clothing piles
- Trash piles
- Water runoff, puddles, ponds, and small streams.
- Easy access to food storage and crumbs.
Campers that hike or drive into rattlesnakes’ territory are entering their world, not the other way around. A camper could setup their campsite near a snake’s den or hunting grounds. These snakes will then come out at night in the area to find food, which includes slithering into a campsite.
Rattlesnakes also like to eat, and they hang out in areas that have plenty of easy food sources. Hikers and campers that leave crumbs and open food containers make easy targets for rodents and the rattlesnakes that prey on them.
If you camp near a body of water, bugs, and snakes will likely be in the area.
Also, camping in the woods and near fallen trees means a rattlesnake may be living nearby hidden underneath one of these. Piles of rocks and rock outcroppings are also favorites for rattlesnakes to hide and make dens in. Large rocks are also very good at absorbing heat, so they allow a rattlesnake a place to cool down when it gets too hot.
Rocks are also places where a rattlesnake can find food, which also likes to hide underneath and between them. Predators such as hawks hunt rattlesnakes, so rock piles and outcroppings allow them to escape being eaten.
Food In Your Campsite
Rattlesnakes do not like human food, but small vermin do, including mice and large insects.
If you have a campsite in one place for long enough and you have food crumbs, open storage containers, or trash piles, then snakes will follow the rodents that feed on these. Even your cooking utensils that you did not clean can ultimately attract a rattlesnake into your campsite.
Preferred Rattlesnake Habitats
Rattlesnakes like desert regions, forests, and areas near bodies of water, especially rivers. These water sources will bring small prey close to the banks, which rattlesnakes hunt.
Rivers and lakes also often have rocky shores which allow snakes to hide close to the water. Always be careful about roaming along a shoreline and stepping between large rocks or getting out of the water.
Escape From Predators and Hot Summer Days
Rattlesnakes will seek cool resting places on hot summer days. This is due to their cold-blooded nature and the affect the hot weather will have on their body temperature. While they like it warm out, they do not want to overheat and need shade to cool off like other animals.
Predators, such as hawks, or large 4 legged mammals will eat or harm a rattlesnake. To escape these threats, rattlesnakes will seek for safe places to hide. If your tent is nearby and empty, a rattlesnake may slither into or underneath it to be safe.
Rattlesnakes will not try to get into your tent while you are in it because they do not prey on humans. In fact, rattlesnakes are mostly afraid of humans and try to avoid them. They also prefer natural shelters over manmade ones such as tents and sheds. But, like all living things that are threatened, a rattlesnake will do what it has to do to survive.
Are Rattlesnakes Attracted to Fire Pits?
Fire pits (whether they have a fire running or not) do not in themselves attract rattlesnakes. However, nearby woodpiles, if left untouched long enough, will attract rodents and snakes.
If you have a fixed camping spot where you keep a pile of firewood, a rattlesnake might make it a hiding space.
People leave crumbs and trash around fire pits, which will attract hungry vermin and insects. Fire pits that are left open during rainy weather can create standing water inside which will also attract insects and pests.
Make sure to always clean up the area near a fire pit and cover it when you are not using it.
How Far From Brush & Rocks Should Your Campsite Be?
Your campsite should be as far away as possible from brush and rocks. It is best to use well-worn campsites that have been used recently and do not have brush overgrowth. Previous campers could have stomped around quite a bit and scared away any small animals, snakes, and rodents before you get there.
If you camp in the wintertime, you are less likely to come across rattlesnakes as they will be mostly in their dens.
Definitely do not just make a tiny clearing in the brush right next to large rocks, fallen logs, or rocky outcroppings if you can avoid it.
Sometimes on long hikes, you need to set up camp quickly when the weather changes or it gets dark. You will need the energy and time to set up an appropriate campsite, so make sure to include this in your plan. Just keep in mind that rattlesnakes could be nearby and watch your step.
Should You Camp Next to Water?
Camping next to a body of water has its benefits, including great views and easy access to swimming and fishing. While you could come across the odd rattlesnake swimming across the body of water, this is not very likely. Most of the time, you may run across one hiding near the shore underneath rocks.
Also, the more campers and hikers are in the area, the less likely a rattlesnake will be hanging around because it will be too afraid.
It is not recommended to camp near small standing puddles, runoff or ponds with tall grasses nearby. These are prime locations for snakes to drink and hunt.
If you can, try to keep your campsite at least 200 feet (about 75+ steps) from the shore of a river or pond, as this will allow wildlife to move around freely.
Can Rattlesnakes Get Into Your Tent?
Yes! Although this is not very likely to happen, it can if you have any holes in the material or you leave the door or windows unzipped.
However, a rattlesnake not bite through a tent wall to the person inside. It is more likely a rattlesnakes will slither underneath your tent to sleep, so make sure to have a layer or two of floor protection (tarps, etc) so they cannot bite through while you are sleeping.
Check Your Tent For Damage
Being prepared for a safe and successful camping trip means including a thorough check of your tent and any holes, rips, or tears in the fabric. Also, make sure the zippers close completely and do not get stuck halfway. Snakes and bugs can easily slip through small openings in the walls, doors, or windows of the tent.
Also inspect your tent when you set it up at the campsite, because it may have been poked by branches on the way there.
When you leave the camp, or even just get out of the tent for a certain time, make sure all the windows and doors are closed shut. Even if you want fresh air to flow through and ventilate your stuff, it may not be worth letting a rattlesnake or bugs in.
Will Rattlesnakes Crawl Into Your Sleeping Bag?
If a rattlesnake manages to get into your tent, it will crawl into your sleeping bag. Its soft, warm, smooth, and allows them to feel hidden from view. If you sleep outside your tent, always make sure your sleeping bag is zipped or rolled up tight when you are awake during the day.
Will a Rattlesnakes Crawl Into Your Shoe or Boot?
Spiders, insects, and scorpions can definitely get into your shoes or boots if they are laying around long enough.
Small or baby rattlesnakes may slither into a hiking boot resting on its side, thinking it is a hiding spot.
For these reasons you should keep your shoes and boots tucked away inside your zipped-up tent when you are not wearing them. Regardless, it is always best to inspect your footwear prior to putting them on.
What To Do If You See a Rattlesnake in Your Campsite?
If you find a rattlesnake in your campsite, don’t panic. Do not approach the rattlesnake or try to pick it up. It will likely become frightened and quickly move into a defensive posture, which will mean coiling, hissing, and rattling its tail. If you get too close to the rattlesnake, it could bite you and inject a sizeable amount of venom. This is very bad, especially far from a medical center.
It may be best to move your campsite to another area during the daytime. You may have inadvertently set up camp in an area that is a rattlesnake hunting ground or near a den.
If you are seriously threatened by the snake and you cannot move your campsite (such as at nighttime or in bad weather), you may have to kill the rattlesnake. Before you try that, do your best to scare it away with noise and movement.
Nick Klamecki is a certified Fire and Workplace Safety expert with 15 years experience in product research and testing. He has a degree in Economics from U.C. Davis, is an active outdoorsman and spent years ensuring the safety of special needs children. Nick researches and tests workplace, industrial and safety products and provides advice on their safe use.