On this Saint Patrick's Day, I was pondering on this thought:

It's a common belief that Saint Patrick rid Ireland of snakes - by chasing them into the sea. It's true that Ireland doesn't have native snakes. But snakes are renown for being cold blooded and Ireland is renown for being cold - making them incompatible (I would have thought). It's likely that Ireland never had snakes to begin with.

Is there any physical evidence that Ireland ever had snakes?

  • 3
    I don't think Ireland's climate would be inherently incompatible with snakes. For example, Finland has a few native species of snakes. And as far as I can tell, the warmest parts of Finland are colder than the coldest parts of Ireland. Mar 17, 2015 at 4:20
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    Is the real claim that "St Patrick rid Ireland of snakes"? I think it would be better to focus on that, rather than one aspect of evidence.
    – Oddthinking
    Mar 17, 2015 at 4:20
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    See also: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/19937/…
    – Oddthinking
    Mar 17, 2015 at 4:22
  • This blog post is a bit vague but seems to suggest there are few or no reptiles found in the fossil record in Ireland. Mar 17, 2015 at 4:26
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    Britain has snakes. It's certainly not due to climate. Mar 17, 2015 at 10:05

2 Answers 2


It's likely that Ireland never had snakes.

This article by national Geographic says that there is no evidence of them having ever been there.

Monaghan, who has trawled through vast collections of fossil and other records of Irish animals, has found no evidence of snakes ever existing in Ireland.

The most likely explanation is that Ireland has been cut off from the mainland since the last ice age, when it would have been too cold for them to exist. As the climate warmed, snakes were unable to migrate to Ireland as they did to Britain.

  • 3
    Perhaps a swallow...
    – Zibbobz
    Mar 17, 2015 at 13:53
  • 10
    African or European swallow? Mar 17, 2015 at 13:57
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    I've always heard it put as you said, that snakes have not been in Ireland since the last glacial maximum. It's interesting that excerpt notes that there was never any snakes. I had wondered if there were any in the last interglacial period. Mar 19, 2015 at 5:07

There never were any snakes in Ireland because Ireland took a long time to thaw out from the Ice Age Britain and the rest of Europe froze out before Ireland and as you know a snake is a reptile and reptiles like the warm climate and the snakes in Britain cant swim to Ireland


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