Safer Snake Removals

If You Must Move A Snake:   If possible, you should not attempt to approach or move a venomous or unidentified snake yourself. It is safer for you to leave the snake alone, or call someone to remove it. Most snakes are as scared and unhappy to see you as you are to see them, and telemetry studies suggest that it is probably rare for a snake to let itself be scared by humans more than once in its life. They do learn, and chances are they will avoid moving in areas near humans after you frighten them once. If there is absolutely no alternative, here are some methods of removal that are much safer than attempting to kill a snake.

Use Long Tools - A snake can strike a surprisingly long distance, about half of its body length normally and even more if the temperature is above 85F. It's a good general rule to give a snake one snake-length of room. If you must move a snake by yourself and you can't wait for a qualified removal expert, use a long tool such as a sweeping broom or a mop to push the snake into a tipped-over garbage can. Carefully right and secure the can once the snake is inside. Do not hit or strike the snake, as this may panic the snake and cause it to move closer to you in an attempt to get away or to defend itself. Moving slowly and deliberately, use the soft end of the broom or the mop to push the snake where you want it to go. If you push gently but firmly, most snakes will just move with very little fuss. The University of Florida has an excellent photo tutorial on how to safely contain a snake in this way. Remember that if you hurt the animal, it is likely to try to bite in its own defense. If you merely annoy it or push it, it is likely to go away with little fuss. You can also chase a snake away by turning a hose on it from a distance. Again, it is better to walk away and do nothing, unless the snake is actually blocking your path and there is no alternative but to make it move. You can purchase high quality professional snake handling tools on Midwest's web site, www.tongs.com.

Snake Containment - If you need to contain a snake so it can be identified and removed, you can place a large, tall bucket or trash can upside down over it, or sweep it into a tipped-over wastebasket or garbage can. Hold the container carefully so you are not in as much danger of being bitten. You can duct-tape a large lightweight mixing bowl to a broom handle so that you can place it over a smaller snake from a safe distance. If you can safely contain a snake without hurting it, our volunteers and possibly your local animal control officers will come and pick it up at no charge. Do not leave a contained snake in the sun. You may be able to move the snake in the container into the shade if you do it carefully. If you cannot safely move the container, bring some shade to the snake, or drape a wet towel over the enclosure as a temporary measure.

Don't Hurt The Snake - Attempting to beat a snake to death is an excellent way to get bitten. A hurt, panicked snake is a dangerous animal that is very likely to move towards you and strike in a last ditch effort to defend itself. At close range, a snake is faster than you are, and it is impossible to render a snake harmless by hitting it only a few times. Even mortally wounded or dead, a snake can retain its biting reflex for some time. You are much safer if you simply move it away from you without hurting it. Shooting snakes that are out in the woods is simply unnecessary and unsportsmanlike, and using firearms around your home carries its own risks especially if you are excited or scared.

But You Can Make It Uncomfortable - There are things that snakes don't like and will move away from. Turning the garden hose on the snake is one good way to make it move, and so is tapping it gently on the tail with a long tool such as a rake or broom. When the snake starts moving, be ready to move quickly in the opposite direction. You can also stomp on the ground from where you are, slap the ground with branches or gardening tools and otherwise make some vibrations go through the ground. Remember, don't hurt the snake, just make it uncomfortable enough to want to leave. A hurt snake may strike back, but an uncomfortable snake moves away and is not likely to return for more of the same treatment. Only use these techniques if there is no safe alternative, ie, if the snake is too close to children or pets or if the snake is between you and the exit. It is better to walk away and call a qualified handler.

Learn how to identify North America's venomous snakes
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