Why Aren’t There Any Snakes in Ireland?
If you were to search the countryside of Ireland, you wouldn’t find any snakes. Legend tells us that Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, destroyed all the snakes in Ireland by driving them into the sea. But St. Patrick did not really rid the island of snakes.
The Irish Sea is 50-plus miles wide. That would be a long swim for a land animal. A sea snake might have an easier time of it, but sea snakes live in warm tropical waters, not the frigid Atlantic.
In fact, there have never been snakes in Ireland! Because Ireland was covered by an ice cap in the glacial period, most of Ireland’s animals got there by migration.
The Ice Age made the islands inhospitable to reptiles, whose cold-blooded bodies need heat from the surroundings to function. And long before snakes could migrate there from southern locations, Ireland became detached from the European continent.
New snake species as pets are being introduced to Ireland on purpose. Pet snakes became a status symbol during Ireland’s economic boom in the late 1990s, but during the 2008 recession and afterward, tough times meant lots of people set their snakes loose.
The snakes turned up in a lot of random places, but so far they haven’t seemed to spread far in the wild.