Now, this is not very common, however I have heard it enough times from people to know that it actually does happen.

When sleeping in the open or in an open tent (yes, i know you shouldn't), snakes can 'crawl' up on you due to the heat that you emit. I know of a few cases from friends of mine in which the snake was on top of the sleeping bag on the chest/stomach area. I don't know if that is usual practice or just accident. And both stories they got rid of it by either notifying other members of group, which took care of it, or by removing it by hand.

Is there a safer, more intelligent way to remove the snake from your chest?

And I know that you should avoid this situation all together, however if you've missed something out, you might wake up to that. What do you do?

  • I've heard and believed Prevention is better than cure when its about few things.
    – WedaPashi
    Commented Nov 28, 2014 at 14:45
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    Man, I would love to know where you are camping because I will never camp there. Where has this taken place?
    – Andrew
    Commented Nov 28, 2014 at 15:45
  • 1
    I've been bitten by non-poisonous snakes before, it doesn't hurt, it just startles you.
    – ShemSeger
    Commented Nov 28, 2014 at 18:15
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    I know someone who had realized a rattlesnake slithered into the bottom of their sleeping bag. They just waited it out (over 2 hours) for the snake to leave. Commented Nov 28, 2014 at 18:38
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    @WedaPashi. I had to look up "startling" because as a non-native English speaker I thought that it meant "surprising". So yes, it means "surprising". Holy shit - when I was bitten by a non-venomous snake I was terrified, yelled like if it took off my hand, and thought that I would die. All this in Central European mountains where there is only the viper that is venomous and not a big deal if you can get to civilization quickly (which was the case). So "startling" for real heroes, and utterly terrifying for me :)
    – WoJ
    Commented Oct 14, 2021 at 16:26

3 Answers 3


If you end up with a snake on your chest while sleeping, you can rest assured that the snake is not in an aggressive mood. It's on top of you because it thinks you're cozy and warm, if it's cozy then it's going to be pretty mild tempered. I imagine you could easily grab it behind the head and take it out of your tent. If you don't want to touch it, just flip the top of your sleeping bag over it, get out of your bag, gather it up, then go shake your bag out away from your tent. Snakes only strike when they feel threatened, if a snake is getting snuggly with you, then it obviously doesn't feel threatened. The most important thing to do would be to remain calm and don't make any sudden movements that might startle the snake, chances are good that it could be asleep, the next most important thing to determine is what kind of snake is it? You only need to worry about it if it's poisonous.

One way to prevent snakes from slithering up to you is to clear away everything on the ground around where you're sleeping. Snakes don't typically like to slither out into exposed areas, so if you clear away all the leaves, sticks and grass then the snakes may just stick to the shrubs and go around you. Sleeping in a hammock or off the ground some other way is also advantageous in preventing this kind of critter encounter.

Your situation could be worse. My aunt was camping alone one time and a big black bear found her and snuggled up to her in the middle of the night, it laid down right on the zipper of her sleeping bag, trapping her there. She had no choice but to wait it out. After a long night of loud bear-snores the bear eventually woke up and just wandered off. My experience with snakes is that they typically want to get away from you, if I had a snake on me I'd probably just bat it off and away from under the bag and roll away from it, chances are good it'll be like, "Holy crap that was a living thing I was on!" and just slither away back into the bushes.

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    +1, specifically for The most important thing to do would be to remain calm and don't make any sudden movements that might startle the snake
    – WedaPashi
    Commented Nov 29, 2014 at 11:26
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    Please note that clearing everything around your tent isn´t really a Leave No Trace technique. And when it would be necessary to do it, it may be a good decision not to camp there deliberately out of respect of nature. Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 9:36
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    Can I hike with your aunt?
    – Jason
    Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 9:17
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    Are you saying that the snoring kept her awake? What about bad breath?
    – ab2
    Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 18:47
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    @ab2 I'm pretty sure it was the fact that she was trapped by a bear which was keeping her awake. I doubt she was trying to fall asleep. Besides, who here can actually testify that bears even have bad breath? I've encountered a lot of bears, but I can't say I've ever been bothered by their smell.
    – ShemSeger
    Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 18:53

There was an old Reader's Digest story, apparently true, where a camper woke up with a very big rattler (as he saw later) coiled on his chest under the sleeping bag. He had trouble communicating to his friends what was happening and the things they tried (I can't remember what, maybe messing with the zipper) just seemed to agitate the snake. They ended up overheating it somehow, maybe with sun and mirrors, until it got uncomfortable and slithered out past the man's face.


I am not entirely sure if this answers the question at all and if it does then is it in best possible ways.

There is no solution to this unfortunate and freaking situation. Whatever you do, it is gonna bite you the moment you move. Although, one should consider covering own face (and, NOT the snake's face :D) by hands so that he/she may have a better chance to survive the bite and get away with a manageable physical damage but again, thats tough as we have slower reflexes than almost all of them.

The moment when you realize that a snake is there on your chest, in most of the cases it is going to be an obvious and a natural reaction to freak out and make a sudden move, and trust me 9/10 times, you will already have got bitten by it within 3-5 seconds from the time when you realize that its there and make a move out of panic.
I am not sure if grabbing the snake would help or not. Because if you grab it, it would definitely bite you even if it didn't want to a moment ago.

To put it in a simple way, Prevention is better than cure, follow the basics, don't end up in a situation like that. If indeed you find yourself in such a situation, protect your face.
Interesting piece of information to read if you are bitten: What are the first aid precautions to be taken in case of a snake bite?

  • 9
    It isn't necessarily true that the snake will bite immediately (see ShemSeger's answer below). In addition, depending on where you are camping, there is a very good chance that the snake resting on your chest would not pose any great threat even if it were to bite you, as most snakes are not venomous and a certain percentage of venomous snake bites deliver no venom (ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu/venomous_snake_faqs.shtml). Staying calm, covering the snake with a the heaviest cloth you can or placing some barrier between you and the snake would help help buy time.
    – That Idiot
    Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 17:31
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    @ThatIdiot: Yeah, makes sense. I am kind of a guy who would never want to be bitten by a snake, whether it is venomous or not. Yeah, you rightly pointed out about covering the snake with the heaviest cloth is the thing to do, but I doubt, if everyone can have that presence of mind as first natural reaction most of the times that one will have is panic!
    – WedaPashi
    Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 4:37
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    @WedaPashi All of the snakes in my region are nearly harmless. Just a few days ago we were parked in a Wal Mart parking log, and my son spotted a snake at the edge of it and begged to go catch it (he catches lots of snakes). I gave in, he tried and was bitten, and I responded by laughing even though I didn't know what kind of snake it was. The worst I have ever had happen from a snake bite around here was to have a small area of skin come away like a bad sunburn. I still avoid the bites, as they are dirty (hence my skin peeling off). Thank God I have few fatal critters in my area.
    – Loduwijk
    Commented Sep 27, 2017 at 19:06
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    @Aaron: Man, I am glad that the snake that bit your son wasn't a venomous one. But still, (and in agreement with you) I'd never want anyone to get bitten by a snake, immaterial of the fact that it may not be a harmful one. Because, We (you and I and other readers, who have got in touch over this a web-based place) may never know who is reading (and trying) the stuff we post. I always prefer the safest possible answer even at cost of freedom of handling harmless snakes. Snakes are harmless, importantly, they would love to be left alone than being handled for no apparent reason other than fun.
    – WedaPashi
    Commented Sep 29, 2017 at 12:50
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    @Nobody: I appreciate your feedback :-)
    – WedaPashi
    Commented Oct 17, 2021 at 8:17

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