How to Hold a Snake

Snakes are amazing creatures, but holding one can be a scary experience for some people. Handling snakes is meant to be a fun and intriguing activity, that is safe for both you and the snake. While the best way to learn how to handle aggressive, wild, and/or venomous snakes is in person from an experienced professional, this article will help you learn how to pick up and hold a tame snake that has been raised in captivity.

Steps

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    Get some help. If the snake is over 6 feet (1.8 m) long, you will need another person there. Many deaths and injuries are caused by a person trying to handle a large snake; if the snake becomes stressed, it may constrict or bite, and you will need someone else to help get it off. If you're smaller than average in stature, don't even handle a 4–5 feet (1.2–1.5 m) snake on your own.
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    Wash your hands before handling your snake. If you have a scent on your hands that the snake may mistake for the smell of food, their response could be to nip or bite, especially when hungry. Snake rely heavily on their sense of smell, especially while shedding, when their eyesight is sub-par. Washing your hands also reduces the risk of harmful bacteria or parasites being transferred to your snake.
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    Announce your presence. You don't want to surprise the snake when you reach in to pick it up, so use a combination of sound and touch to let the snake know you're there. Gently talk to the snake and make sure the snake is aware that you are there. Be careful when picking snakes up, most will assume it is feeding time and may strike thinking your hand is food. Do not tap the cage, this may stress the snake out and cause it to strike when you go to pick it up.[1]
    • Avoid handling a snake that's just eaten or is about to shed. Shedding reduces the snake's ability to see, and a snake that has just eaten may still be in hunting mode.
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    Lift the snake. Be confident in lifting it up, and support its body as you do so. Slip one hand about 1/3 of the way down the snake's body and begin to lift it up slowly. Put your other hand under the last 1/4 of the snake to support its weight fully. If it's a constricting snake, it's likely wrap its tail around your wrist and forearm; let it do this. Just make sure it doesn't coil around both hands, your neck, or your chest.[1]
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    Avoid sudden movements. As you're holding the snake, you can move around freely, just do so carefully to avoid startling it. Stay calm and relaxed. Snakes like warm places so they might like to crawl into your shirt. If your snake attempts to crawl onto a part of your body where you do not want it to go, or if it attempts to climb off of you, gently pick up the snake and reposition its body.
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    Keep petting short. Some snakes are social and love to be held, while others tend to shy away from that. It is best to see how your snake reacts to handling and petting before you experiment. However, snakes, like all other reptiles, can become stressed when held for long periods of time. It is better to hold your snake for short amounts of time more frequently than to hold them for long periods of time every once in awhile.
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    Return your snake to its cage by lowering it in. You can place it on the substrate or let it move out of your hands to a branch or the cage floor on its own. Secure the lid when you are done, since snakes are great escape artists.
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    Wash your hands again. Reptiles can carry germs that are not safe for humans, like salmonella. Immediately wash your hands when you are done handling your snake.

Tips

  • You may let your snake smell you with its tongue. You should not be scared of it. It's their way of smelling you and recognizing you.
  • Snake handling is easy and fun, but for your first experience it's best to have someone show you. The reptile specialist at your local pet store or another enthusiast, or even someone from a local herpetology or reptile club. Use an internet search engine to find one near you.
  • Every snake is different. You can hold some around your neck, and some you can't. Get completely comfortable with the snake before you attempt to hold it, and if it's the first time for you, it would be wise to do it with a smaller one.
  • Always pet snakes in the "head to tail direction". Avoid petting in the opposite direction for this hurts their scales.
  • Wait at least one day after feeding a snake to handle it; its food has not fully digested yet, and handling the snake could be harmful, sometimes causing the snake to regurgitate its food.
  • Try to avoid any sudden movements, but don't be afraid to move. Snakes are not vicious animals and tend to only strike when threatened. It's okay to be cautious but there is no need to be overly cautious.

Warnings

  • Do not try to prevent a bite by holding its mouth shut. This will most definitely cause the snake to pull away and strike. If you want to prevent a nip or bite, it is best to either wait for help, or learn how to handle snakes the correct way.
  • Avoid going straight for the head of the snake when picking it up. Instead, aim for the body where the snake would not feel as threatened if you picked it up.
  • Avoid touching snakes that you do not know, or ones that are not used to humans. Any snake can be dangerous if scared, regardless of your level of experience. Do not touch a snake unless you have permission from its owner.
  • Never pick up an aggressive or stressed snake without the appropriate training and tools.

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