How to Hold a Snake
If you want to build a strong relationship with your pet snake, you may be interested in how to safely hold it. However, young snakes are not used to being held and need to be accustomed to the experience. To acclimate pet snakes to your presence, it is important to get your timing right, pick up the middle part of the snake’s body and use proper protection. With some common sense and a gentle touch, you can learn how to pick up and hold a tame snake that has been raised in captivity.
Establishing Your Presence
Wash your hands before handling your snake.If you have a scent on your hands, the snake may mistake it for food. They could nip or bite. Snakes rely heavily on their sense of smell. Washing your hands also reduces the risk of harmful bacteria or parasites being transferred to your snake.
Get the snake accustomed to your presence.If you recently purchased a snake as a pet, you will need to spend some time training your snake to accommodate your presence. Twice per day, let your hand rest inside your snake’s cage for two or three minutes. Over time, your snake will get used to your scent and learn that it is not something threatening.
- Your snake will eventually come out to investigate.
- Since your snake is just getting used to your presence at this time, you should remain cautious.
- Remember to wash your hands prior to putting them in the snake’s cage. If you forget this step, your snake could easily mistake your hands for prey.
Make sure your snake is aware of your presence.Don't talk to your snake to announce your presence as snakes can’t hear human speech.
Move slowly and predictably to avoid surprising your snake.Whenever you are around your snake, you want to avoid fast movements. Move slowly when you are around your snake’s cage, and avoid surprising your snake from a strange angle.
- Try to approach your snake from the side rather than from above.
Avoid picking up a hissing snake.If your snake is feeling fearful or aggressive, it may hiss. If you hear your snake hissing, it is not a good time to handle them.
- If you force yourself on the snake at this time, they may attack you.
Handle your snake when it looks a bit tired.You want to handle your snake when it is feeling tired but remains awake. You should avoid handling your snake after it has eaten. Similarly, don’t hold your snake when it is about to shed.
Picking up a Snake
Put on your protective gloves and boots.Slip on your safety gloves, which are especially important for non-venomous but snappy snakes.Sturdy boots can also be a good idea, since there is always some risk involved in handling a snake.
- For instance, if the snake gets onto the ground and becomes fearful or aggressive, it could bite your feet.
Use a snake hook if your snake is moving around the cage.If your snake is cruising around the cage, you can use a snake hook to get a hold of it. After you have lifted it up, you can then hold it with your hands or continue holding it with the hook.
- If you feed your snake in the same cage that it lives in, you may want to use a snake hook. The snake hook can be a way of telling the snake that it is holding time rather than eating time.
- Additionally, you should use tongs to place the snake's food into the cage. The snake may strike at the food, potentially biting your hand on accident. Using tongs will make it less likely that your hand is bitten.
Pick the snake up with tongs if it is aggressive or agitated.You should only use tongs once you have experience with them because you can hurt the snake. Apply the tongs just below the neck of the snake, using your snake hook to support the back of the snake.Make sure that you do not apply the tongs near the snake's neck, however, as this can injure the snake.Keep the snake safely away from your body so that the snake cannot strike you.
- Use the lightest amount of pressure possible so that you don't injure the snake.
Use both hands to hold the snake.Hold one hand a third of the way down the body and the other hand under the last quarter, so that you are supporting the whole body. Support the snake with both hands.
- If the snake is moving when you are picking it up, it may crawl away from you while you are holding it.
Pick up the snake from the mid-body area.You want to avoid approaching the snake’s head, as well as the tail. Instead, you want to pick up the middle of the snake’s body. Be gentle and try to support the full weight of your snake.
- If you try to pick it up from the tail, the snake could hurt itself trying to escape your grasp.
- If you try to pick it up from the head, the snake will likely bite you. Snakes are sensitive in the head area.
Let the snake adjust.The snake may wrap around one of your hands to stabilize itself. Let it adjust into a comfortable position.
- If it's a constricting snake, it's likely wrap its tail around your wrist and forearm, which is fine.
Stay attentive to the snake’s experience and safety.Snakes are emotional creatures so you want to attend to their experience. Young snakes may display some fear when getting used to being held. Some snakes like being held more than others. It is best to stay confident and calm, which should help your snake get used to the experience of being held.
- Stay calm while holding your snake.
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.
QuestionCould you handle ALL snakes even if you follow these rules?
Certified Veterinary TechnicianCertified Veterinary TechnicianExpert AnswerNo, not all snakes are able to be nor should be handled. Even professionals should use good judgement when deciding if they should pick up a snake.Thanks!
QuestionWhat do you do when a snake poops? Do you clean it right away?
Certified Veterinary TechnicianCertified Veterinary TechnicianExpert AnswerIt is best to clean up your pet’s feces right away. It will keep the enclosure sanitary and your pet clean.Thanks!
QuestionCan someone handle a viper?
Certified Veterinary TechnicianCertified Veterinary TechnicianExpert AnswerVipers are a dangerous snake. Only a trained professional should handle a viper.Thanks!
QuestionMy snake is used to being handled, but it shed 2 weeks ago and doesn't seem to want handled. Is there any reason he may not want to be handled? I've tried several times to get him out of the tank. Yesterday he tried to strike me for the first time. I've had him 3 months and always handled him.
Certified Veterinary TechnicianCertified Veterinary TechnicianExpert AnswerYour snake may be hungry and may have learned to associate the opening of the cage with being fed. If you always drop food into the cage, your snake will associate opening the cage with the coming food Eventually, the snake will bite the first thing that comes in when the lid opens, including your hand.Thanks!
QuestionI brought a ball python home Sunday and he was due a feeding, but it's Tuesday and he still hasn't eaten yet. Last night, he was exploring his tank. He also shed his skin on Monday. What should I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerDon't worry, when your snake moves into a new tank or home, it's hard for the snake to readjust and takes a few days until he can eat comfortably. Plus, when your snake is shedding, he won't be very hungry.Thanks!
QuestionMy corn snake bite me a few months ago. I cleaned the wound but didn't seek medical attention. Is that bad?Community AnswerDon't worry. Unless the wound smells, has an odd color, or is still painful/not closed, you're fine. The only danger of a corn snake's bite is it getting infected, but since you cleaned it, you should be fine.Thanks!
QuestionMy corn snake is always acting nervous when I get him out, as if he wants to stay inside. I wait a while, and its always the same. Is this normal,r or is he shy?Community AnswerIt is normal. Keep handling him until he becomes calmer around you.Thanks!
QuestionHow long do you have to wait to handle the snake again after you handle it?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerAfter a long handling, it is best to allow a snake several hours of down time. This allows the snake to become relaxed and rested again. As strange as it may sound to humans, snakes find human contact stressful if too frequent or the holder is anxious and jumpy.Thanks!
QuestionWhat is the best snake to hold, like the most docile? Is it the corn snake?Community AnswerMost people would say a ball python, but corn snakes are also docile.Thanks!
QuestionIs it a good idea to get a snake?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, it's a great idea, if you can provide it with the necessary items it needs.Thanks!
Before holding a snake, wash your hands to get rid of any scents that the snake might mistake for food, which may cause it to bite you. Next, put on safety gloves and boots to protect yourself if the snake becomes aggressive. Then, gently pick up the snake around the middle, using one hand to support the bottom third of its body and the other hand to support the top part. After you’ve picked it up, allow the snake to stabilize itself on your arms and keep calm while it adjusts. When you’re done holding it, slowly lower the snake back into its cage and make sure to secure the lid.
- 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. You will need someone else to help get it off.
- If you're smaller than average in stature, you should definitely get help.
- Exercise caution when holding a snake, since some snakes may mistake your hand for food.
- Tapping the cage may irritate your snake. The snake may strike out when you try to pick it up.
- 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.
- Avoiding handling larger and dangerous snakes on your own. If the snake is over 6 feet (1.8 m) long, you will need another person there. You should respect the long constrictors by handling them with care and by making sure you have help.
- Avoid handling longer snakes when there are children in the house.
- 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.
- Avoid touching snakes that you do not know.
- If a snake is scared, it can be very dangerous.
- Do not touch a snake unless you have permission from its owner.
- Never pick up an aggressive snake without the appropriate training and tools.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. If it is the first time for you, it would be wise to do it with a smaller one.
- Snakes like warm places so they might like to crawl into your shirt. If your snake attempts to crawl onto you, gently pick it up and reposition it.
- Always pet snakes in the "head to tail direction". Avoid petting in the opposite direction because it hurts their scales.
- Consider providing two enclosures for your snake, one for feeding and one for housing. This will help your snake understand how it is being handled.
- 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.
- Stroke in the direction of the scales.
- Wait at least one day after feeding a snake to handle it.
Sources and Citations
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Video: How to Hold & Handle a Snake | Pet Snakes
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