Phrases in bold are important key concepts that you will be able to understand and apply in action situations after this workshop. Don't understand what this course is about? Click here to read the introduction.
R.A.D. – Realistic Assessment of Danger
If you are called on to deal with a snake problem, you must be able to respond appropriately. You don’t want to over-react or under-react, since inappropriate responses can increase the safety risks to officers as well as bystanders.
In some cases you may be able to call in a snake expert who has the specialized skills necessary to deal with a snake problem or help you deal with it on the phone. Snake Getters can always be reached for this purpose. In other cases, you may need to understand how to respond appropriately to a snake situation on your own.
As a general rule, it is safer to use appropriate tools to move and contain a snake than to attempt to kill it. Medical statistics say that the majority of snakebites (over 80% here in Florida) occur because of attempts to kill or inappropriately handle a snake. Good professional safety tools such as snake hooks and tongs are designed to allow you to stay at a safe distance so that you can safely move or contain the animal. A safe distance is about one snake-length away from the snake.
Learning to identify snakes and the proper way to safely move and contain snakes will help you respond appropriately and minimize risks to yourself and your community. You can learn to make a realistic assessment of danger by identifying the snake (venomous or harmless) and assessing its surroundings and the immediate circumstances of the call.
Is Officer Response Necessary (or possible)?
Some snake complaints require active intervention, and others do not. Here are some R.A.D. criteria you can use to assess the situation.
Is the snake venomous? Is the snake in a heavily populated urban area and not able to escape harmlessly into the neighboring woods? Inside a home or business? Loose at a crime scene that your officers need to search or investigate? If so, the animal needs to be safely moved or contained. Here are some common phrases that you will hear on a complaint call that will help you assess the situation and identify the snake.
In other cases it is better to leave the animal alone or frighten it away from a distance using a stream of water from a garden hose or a long tool such as a broom. If you decide to frighten the snake away, remember that you will be much safer if you only scare it a little and make it uncomfortable enough to move. If you hurt the snake on purpose or by accident, you are at much greater risk. A hurt, terrified animal is a much more dangerous animal since it knows that it is fighting for its life. Don't cause the snake pain, and the snake probably won't cause you pain.
In some cases, no officer intervention may be required. Is the snake harmless? Is the snake outdoors, within a few blocks of a large stretch of undeveloped land where it can escape harmlessly? If so, there is no reason to remove the animal.
In other cases, officer intervention may not be possible. Some types of snakes, most notably the harmless and common black racers, are very fast movers and are likely to be long gone before anyone can arrive. Experienced wildlife nuisance trappers suggest that it is pointless to dispatch anyone on a complaint involving a shiny black snake that was moving quickly. No snake is likely to be found at the scene.
If the snake is no longer visible and the caller does not know where it has gone, it is not usually productive to dispatch an officer to the scene. Hunting snakes in the bushes is a job best left to the experts, and even the experts can end up hunting for many hours and find no snake. The only type of call where anyone (including the Snake Getters emergency pickup service) should be dispatched is one where the snake remains visible or is in a known, confined location. "Lost snake calls" where the snake's location is currently unknown should be referred to a paid service such as Snake Removal (800) 339-9470.
Identify the snake - venomous, harmless or unidentified?
Identify the surroundings - high traffic, low traffic? Rural or urban?
Will the snake leave on its own with no intervention?
Will the snake leave before intervention is possible?
Decide whether you can (or should) respond.
Decide whether the snake should be moved or removed from the area.
If possible, call a local snake expert for help.