Growing up on a farm in rural Manitoba I encountered garter snakes many times. Even though the little varmints are harmless as a flea, I would almost jump out of my skin when I noticed the creepy crawly. It was the slippery motion through the grass that was so bizarre and unsettling. It would take 5 minutes before my nerves settled. However I found out that there are places on the planet with no indigenous snakes. Snake-less nirvana.
Top places with no snakes:
Newfoundland, the remote province on the Canadian east coast, is a great place to go because it’s blessed with no native snakes whatsoever. The island was completely frozen over during the last ice age and so had to go through a big phase of species recolonization in its aftermath. Many animals came to Newfoundland and prospered, snakes however did not. Several garter snakes have been spotted in recent times unfortunately but it is unclear whether they were introduced, maybe as an extravagant pet or snuck in in crates or imported hay bales.
Hawaii is a snake-haters paradise. Beautiful rainforests and warm climates are normally laden with snakes, but not in Hawaii. The islands may be a U.S. state but they’re very remote geographically, making it impossible for snakes to slither/swim there That was until a few decades ago anyway. Pre-1980s Hawaii was excellent for avoiding snakes, 1980s Hawaii onwards not so much. An increased number of imports at that time resulted in some unwelcome stowaways arriving in shipping containers and inadvertently Hawaii welcomed species like the poisonous brown tree snake to its shores. There’s actually also one native snake but it’s not on land, the yellow-bellied sea-snake is occasionally recorded off the Hawaiian coast although chances of seeing one is unlikely.
The lack of snakes in Ireland isn’t just common knowledge, it’s legendary. According to folklore, St Patrick supposedly chased all the snakes out in around A.D. 400 and made quite a name for himself in the process. Scientists will tell a different story, something to do with an ice age, a vanishing land bridge and snakes being cut-off in Scotland by the sea. The 90’s messed that up however, snakes became popular as status symbols in the good times but when the economic downturn hit, many were simply released into the wild. Yet despite the odd news story surfacing about a rogue tame rattlesnake or viper slithering around, Ireland is a good place to be for snake-fearers. There’s actually only one reptile native to the entire Emerald Isle, the harmless viviparous lizard.
Cape Verde and the Azores
In the North Atlantic, there are two great candidates for snake-free paradises. Sovereign state Cape Verde and the Portuguese-governed Azores are blessed with no native snakes, despite their sunny climate and tropical vibes. This is entirely down to their distance from the mainland, Cape Verde is far enough west of Africa to not have any snake infestations while the Azores are far enough west of the European mainland. So what’s the catch? Well, there isn’t one. Not yet anyway. But stories from similar islands serve as a warning about what could happen if controls don’t hold firm, the Canary Islands for instance being blighted by a major influx of imported Californian king snakes.
Remarkably, despite its size and subtropical climate, New Zealand is completely absent of snakes on land. This is down to the islands’ very remote nature, continental drift pushed the country far out into the Pacific many millions of years ago, well out of the reach of the serpents lingering on big land masses like Australia. In order to preserve its fragile endemic wildlife, the New Zealand authorities make sure to keep it that way and take their no snakes policy very seriously. It’s strictly prohibited for anyone to keep a snake and a jail sentence may await for anyone looking to rebel. Regrettably, although the land laws are very much anti-snake, not much can be done about any sea snakes lurking around the coasts. Thankfully though sightings are rare and only two species have ever been recorded in New Zealand’s oceans, the yellow-bellied sea snake is seen infrequently and the other, the banded sea krait, is incredibly rare.
This is strange considering New Zealand’s neighbour to the northeast, Australia, is infested with every type of poisonous killer snake ever imagined. The poor Aussies also have to deal with big fat grumpy pythons that bite and try to strangle people to death.
A small, isolated, island nation in the Atlantic, Iceland is one of the very few places on Earth that never encounters a wild snake. That is unless you choose to believe in the mythical serpent-like Lagarfljótsormur creature of course, which has supposedly been spotted swimming around the country’s lakes since A.D. 1345. Tall tales aside, Iceland is probably never going to have any snakes and if any did somehow make it there, it’s not likely they’d survive long in the cool climate. Escaped pets aren’t even an issue here, exotic animals (and therefore reptiles) are banned and it’s a law that’s rarely broken.
Perhaps an obvious number one but for good reason. The only continent without reptiles, Antarctica is the coldest place on Earth and so not exactly the most welcoming of environments. There’s no way a snake could warm itself up there (even at the height of summer) and because there are no resident human populations on Antarctica, there are no homes from snakes to escape from. The difficult thing (aside form the cold) is finding a way of being able to stay there. The only people really able to enjoy the 365-day a year snake-free lifestyle are scientists so if you’re desperate enough to avoid snakes, a career in glaciology or polar biology is probably the best way to go.
Check out any of these places if you want to avoid snakes. No worries about dying a brutally painful death from toxic poison. Or meeting your maker in the manner below: