Professional Snake Handling Tools and Techniques

Familiarize yourself with the use of snake hooks and snake tongs. Practice with toy snakes or harmless snakes until you can use these tools with good control. You can purchase snake hooks and snake tongs from Midwest at www.tongs.com.

Hooks: When picking a snake up with a hook, aim roughly for the middle of the body and lift. Be careful not to stab the snake with the hook. Try to be slow and gentle. A snake is less likely to slip off the hook if you can get it all the way off the ground in one smooth move. Donít use too much force or you may end up wearing the snake on your head when it comes down from where you threw it. Remember that snakes donít weigh very much; a healthy 4í rattlesnake weighs less than 4 pounds. Larger, heavier snakes (over 4') should not be lifted entirely off the ground for more than a few seconds as it makes them uncomfortable and more likely to struggle. You can use the hook to lift and partially drag them.

Constrictors (colubrids) such as rat snakes and king snakes are likely to cling to a hook and may be harder to get off a hook than to get on a hook. If a wild North American snake wraps tightly around the hook and clings strongly enough to fully support its own body weight, it is not venomous, and you can use gloves to handle it.

Always have an open temporary container such as a garbage can or bucket ready before you attempt to pick up a snake on a hook, so you can dump it inside in a hurry if you have to. Your goal is to minimize the amount of time and distance you need to carry the snake on the hook. Some snakes will not stay on a hook for more than a few seconds, so that may be all the time you have to decide where to put it down.

Snake scoop: Rattlesnakes can be difficult to hook, and you may need to use tongs for large rattlers or a makeshift snake scoop for very small rattlers. You can make a snake scoop by cutting the bottom off of a clean bleach bottle or plastic milk jug. You can extend your reach with the scoop by attaching it to the end of a broom handle, a dowel or a night stick with duct tape. Click here to learn about other common household objects you can use as safe snake moving tools.

Tongs: Some types of snake tongs (Pillstrom style) can be dangerous in the hands of a novice user because they are likely to cause a snake pain and injury if gripped too hard. A snake that is injured or in pain is more likely to struggle and bite, so it is important to be gentle and not grip too hard. Professional "Gentle Giant" snake handling tongs by Midwest (1-877-87TONGS, www.tongs.com) are the most effective. You can also use foam padding and electrical tape to make a pair of tongs grip more gently and give them more traction to hold a snake steady.

Never grab a snake by the neck with tongs as this will cause pain, injury and increased struggling. Grasp a smaller snake or a harmless snake midbody or lower. Grasp a large snake about 1/3 of the way down from the head. You may also try to tong a snake on the lower third of its body, but make sure that the tong is longer than the remaining length of snake. Do not lift a snake fully off the ground for longer than a few seconds, as this can cause it to struggle. You can use the tongs very effectively to slowly drag a snake across the ground in a "come-along" hold, pushing the animal into the sturdy safety container you have ready for it. Once the animal is in the container, you will need to secure and possibly transport it, or call a local snake expert for pickup.

Snake nets or bag sticks: Midwest makes an excellent collapsible snake bagging stick called the Pro Bagger. You can make your own bag stick by using a triangular frame and a large pillowcase, or use any net that has a large and deep pocket made of solid material (not mesh that a snake could push through). Snakes cannot usually be scooped with a bag stick; they need to be pushed, lifted, chased or manipulated into the open end. Fortunately this is usually very easy. Place the open end of the net in front of the snake and very often the animal will cooperatively bag itself with just a little push from the handler. Snakes like to hide in dark tunnels, so putting one in front of them can be very effective.

Once a snake is inside a bag stick, twist or flip the handle and lay it on the ground so the snake cannot exit. Shake or push the snake into the very bottom of the bag. Lay a stick across the bag entrance and step on it, after determining that the snake is not under the stick. Secure the bag with a cable tie, keeping the blocking stick between your hands and the snake. Remember that a snake can both see and bite through a cloth bag, so use solid objects to contain and manipulate snake bags.

Summary:
Snake hooks, tongs and bag sticks are the safest and most effective tools.
Learn to use hooks and tongs firmly but gently to minimize your risks.
Move the container to the snake to minimize handling time.
Do not lift heavy snakes off the ground for very long - dragging is more effective.
Bag sticks should be used like portable snake tunnels.

   Index