Safer Snake Handling Tips: Mastering "Snake-Jitsu"

Key concepts in safe snake handling are extending your reach by using safety tools and remaining at a safe distance by giving the snake one snake-length of space. If you move smoothly and calmly and do not hurt or frighten the snake, you can often gain total control before the snake even reacts to you. But don't get overconfident and attempt "black belt" tricks with venomous snakes - leave those to the experts.

Professional safety tools such as hooks and tongs are available from Midwest Animal Capture Equipment (1-877-87TONGS, www.tongs.com, but you can make do with any tool that extends your reach and allows you to manipulate the animal from a safe distance. A safe distance is about one snake-length away from the snake.

Keeping a safe distance: Larger snakes (over 4 feet) can strike about 1/3 to 1/2 their own body length, and smaller snakes (under 3 feet) can strike from 1/2 to 2/3 their own body length. Very small snakes (under 1 foot) can strike their full body length. Snakes can move faster, strike farther and may be harder to handle on very hot days (over 85F). On cold days, a snake might not move at all. Keep in mind that a snake will not strike unless you hurt or frighten it. Many snakes that are moved never strike at all, as long as they are moved calmly and gently.

Move slowly and deliberately: Fast moves are more likely to result in accidents, and they may frighten the snake and make it harder to contain. If you can move smoothly and calmly, you can often gain total control and containment of a snake before it even reacts to you. It is not unusual to be able to walk calmly up to a snake and pick it up on a snake hook with the animal's total cooperation. If no one has hurt or frightened the snake, and if you are gentle, many snake removals can be managed with very little trouble.

Don't get overconfident: Overconfidence is a common reaction to finding out that snakes are really very easy to handle if you know all their secrets. You may see expert snake handlers casually picking up venomous snakes by the tail or holding them behind the head. You may decide that you want to try this too. Remember that tailing and pinning are advanced skills that take months or years to learn to do safely, and even the experts sometimes get bitten. Don't put your bare hands on any snake that you have not positively identified as harmless, even if you see the experts doing it.

Household Tools For Safer Snake Moving: Professional snake handling tools are always the best for the job. But you can safely use any common household object that will extend your reach and allow you to safely and gently move snakes around while remaining at a safe distance.

Tools You Can Use:

Any long handled household tool such as a broom, mop, shovel or hoe. Be careful not to hurt the snake when using a heavy tool like a shovel or a hoe. Hold the metal end and use the wooden end to manipulate the snake, or you are likely to end up with a hurting and angry snake which will be much more difficult to handle. You can also use a stick or a branch. Snakes can be swept or pushed into a tipped-over wastebasket or garbage can with a broom or a mop - click here for a photo tutorial.

Wire clothes hangers can be quickly transformed into a hook suitable for picking up smaller snakes by pulling on them as you would pull a bow.

Plastic gallon jugs or bleach jugs can be good scoops for smaller snakes. Cut off the bottom and duct tape a short stick to the top end, making sure to close off the open end completely with tape if your makeshift handle doesn't fill it up.

Duct tape can be used to fasten a handle to the bottom of a bowl or empty wastebasket to help you place that container over the snake. You can also use duct tape to fasten any useful snake manipulating tool to a longer handle such as a broom or a mop.

Sticky glue traps can be purchased at the hardware store. Attach a pole to a sticky trap to make a snake catcher. Once a snake is caught in a sticky trap, call a local snake expert or pour a bottle of vegetable oil over the snake to free it. Do not leave a trapped snake in the sun. Do not leave traps unattended.

Pool nets or butterfly nets work well so long as the mesh is fine enough that snakes cannot escape through it or become caught in it. Midwest makes an excellent professional snake net called the Pro Bagger.

Wastebaskets and garbage cans make good temporary snake containers, but don't leave a contained snake out in the sun for any length of time.

Summary:
Extend your reach by using long tools.
Remain at a safe distance - try to give a snake one snake-length of space.
If you do not hurt or scare the snake, you may gain control very quickly.
Don't get overconfident - leave advanced snake handling to the experts.
Professional tools are best, but many common household objects can be used
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