How to Safely Catch a Snake




About: Proudly South African, Enthusiastic about the great outdoors, Natural Sciences, Photography, DIY, and all aspects of the natural world, with arachnids and reptiles being my absolute passion.

If you're looking for some cowboy celebrity stunt of grabbing snakes out of trees and so on, you're in the wrong place.

This guide works well in conjunction with the two other snake-related Instructables:
Snake (or Hook) Stick - which can be viewed here.
Snake Tube - which can be viewed here

There are a few things to remember when dealing with snakes:

1) Snakes are not toys. Only catch a snake for qualified research purposes, or if you absolutely have to. Remember, it's stressful for the animal to be captured.
2) Start small. Don't try catching a 2-metre cobra on your first day out, you'll come off second best. Start with practising the wrist movements and techniques on a rubber snake or a thick piece of rope. The rope works well because if it's as thick as a snake, it reacts a little bit like one in terms of flexibility. Once you're confident in that, move onto a harmless species, and practise on it. Preferably use a specimen bred in captivity as opposed to a wild snake. Captive-breds are more used to human interaction and you'll therefore cause it less stress.
4) Know your species. Pretty basic, but important. Know what snakes you're likely to encounter around your area, some are more aggressive than others etc etc etc.
6) Focus on the snake. Don't answer your phone with a snake in the hand, again, you'll come off second best.

And this is probably the most important thing to remember when dealing with venomous snakes:
COMPLACENCY KILLS. Just because you've caught a hundred snakes successfully doesn't change anything. 

Finally, this is obviously just a guide - I recommend attending a handling course or something similar where a professional can teach you face to face about dealing with snakes.

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Step 1: Pinning

Snake sticks have a flat head which can be effectively used to pin down a snake before it manages to slither into cluttered areas. This feature is helpful if you're catching one in a house or somewhere where the catching process can be complicated be objects.

It also allows you to subdue the snake while people vacate the area. Having too many people around you will restrict your movement and adds a serious danger factor to the equation, always have at least a few metres around you where nobody is allowed to stand.

Never squash a snake down like this, use only enough force to keep it from slithering away.

*The snake used in these photos is not real.

Step 2: Lifting (Hook Stick Only) Step 1

The one way to catch a snake is to lift it up in the middle. 

Start by moving your hook stick towards the snake about a third of the way from the head. (Almost all methods of catching snakes will involve dividing the snake up into thirds) 

Keep the hook stick fairly flat on the ground and move it in underneath the snake. 

Step 3: Lifting (Hook Stick Only) Step 2

At this point the snake will usually try to move away from you.

Turn the hook stick so that the hook points up.

Lift the snake off the ground.

If your timing is correct, you'll lift at the same time that the hook is nicely in the middle of the snake (Remember you started a third of the way from the head).

If you try hooking the snake up from the middle and not from slightly to the front, more likely it'll slither straight off the hook when you lift it up. 

It's no train smash if you don't get it right the first time, just try again.

Step 4: Tailing a Snake (Step 1)

Tailing involves actually gripping the snake's tail while lifting it up. 
This is a handy technique to use for two reasons:
1) You can catch much longer snakes this way
2) You'll have much more control over it

Tailing can be dangerous, and do not try tailing any adder/viper species!!

The first step is getting the snake's tail in your left hand. The reason for this is that all your left hand really needs to do is hold on or let go, your right hand (the controlling hand) has to constantly do fine adjustments to the hook etc. This is obviously the other way around if you're left handed.

Hook the snake at a third of the way from the back and lift the tail up to your hand. If it's a long snake, hook it at a third of the way from the front, then let it slither through the hook while you lift the hook back and upwards, timing it right so that you can get hold of the tip of the tail (just behind the cloaca) in your left hand.

Immediately readjust your hook and hook up the snake a third of the way from the head. The photo shows this step of once the tail is in your hand.

Keep a safe distance at all times.

Step 5: Tailing a Snake (Step 2)

Now the beauty in tailing is revealed. 

By keeping the tail elevated as you can see in the photo, you make it difficult for the snake to move backwards. This is the secret of tailing, keeping the tail higher than the head. 

Beware of a few things here though:

+ Boomslang, cobras and such species can zip up the shaft of the stick if the get a hold, stay alert at all times.
+ Adders should never be tailed as they are much too powerful when striking (I'm not sure about other species like rattlers, but with Puff Adders tailing is a death wish.) Adders and vipers have enough force in a strike to actually lift themselves clean out of the hook - Bad news.
+ Avoid letting a snake (especially an elapid) wrap it's tail around your wrist, they have excellent muscles and can lift themselves off the hook if they manage to get a good tail grip.
+ Also, because the tail is higher than the head and closer to you, if the snake gets his head out of the hook it'll come swinging right towards you.
In short, be ready to down tools (and snake) at any moment.

Step 6: Leading the Snake

Once you have the snake tailed, you can proceed to bag it.

Very simple,
Angle the snake so that the head faces the entrance to the tube, 
Lay the snakes head on the ground (don't remove the hook yet)
Once the snake's head and first third are in the tube, remove the hook and place it against the entrance just above the snake's back to prevent it from doubling back and exiting the tube again without warning.

Once the snake is inside the bag, lift the tube up and seal the entrance. Remove the tube, seal the bag and hey presto, you've caught a snake.



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    51 Discussions


    3 years ago

    I just wanted to know..... Is the baby russell viper is enough venomous to kill an adult...!! Let's say any baby venomous snake of nearly 1 or 2 ft in length.... What happens if we get bitten.?? Catching a long snake is less complicated than catching a baby one...
    Tel me the solution to how to catch a baby snakes....... Please..

    2 replies

    Reply 11 months ago

    make sure you get a good look at the snake and key features. then get to the hospital quickly, but one of the most important things is to STAY CALM! the venom, if it is a venomous species, will spread faster throughout your body! once there, tell them what happened, describe the snake as best as you can! (BTW this can and will apply to any and every animal) then they should tell you if you are fine or if you need the anti-venom or not


    Reply 3 years ago

    Get a fat non sharp stick find the target and move the stick slowly to the snake get it on its neck then reach down and grab it by its jaw it cant move its head so you can't get bit if you get bit go to a emergency room quick to get the anti venom and antibiotics


    1 year ago

    I was sitting under a tree on the lake shore fishing with my cut bait on the ground between my knees. Happening to look down what do I see but my bait being carried away in the mouth of a snake. Take a chair when you go fishing.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Hey, ShutterEye, I have to respectfully disagree with your method of catching and controlling snakes. As you have mentioned, some snakes can quickly reverse direction when you have them by the tail, and actually use their muscles to support their bodies when moving toward you. Even Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, had to drop snake tails when the heads started to move toward him, and he was an expert snake handler. His problem when handling snakes was more to showboat, rather than to be instructive. Of course we didn't see Irwin get bit on his show by anything poisonous, but I'll bet it happened more than once. In the end he got "bit" by a ray when he swam too close. He was careless with both snakes and rays.

    Better to just pin the head and pick the snake up immediately behind the head. Much better to control the head, rather than the tail.

    3 replies

    this is really really late comment but though it is true that pinning a snake behind the head is the best way to carry a snake with control it should also be noted that many venomous snakes have the ability to bring their fangs behind their head to the point of being able to actually pierce the skin of the holder so each way of holding a snake has its disadvantages. living in Fl there are many snakes and a friend of mine & I do field work for our class (disregard the picture its from about 5 years ago) and have been bitten multiple times due to this by both venomous(though usually low in potency such as a water snake) and non-venomous such as reticulated pythons which have become somewhat of a troubling species in recent years now that they are starting to invade and encroach on native wildlife. Basically there is no full-proof way to not get bit while handling a wild snake or even a docile house pet such as a ball python or corn snake for that matter.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Yeah, some reckon so, and I see why. Although in Step 5 I explain the dangers of tailing snakes. I should point out that any snake capable of getting off the hook once it's got the tail around your wrist WILL get out of your hand if the same thing happens, only if you have caught it be hand, you obviously don't have the distance advantage...

    To each his own though bud.

    A note of Steve Irwin: Make absolutely no mistake - anyone who says he was careless doesn't know much about him... Coming from a herpetological background, Irwin spent his life with reptiles (He worked with his first snake at 6, and caught his first croc at 9 years old), long before becoming a TV icon. What you interpret as 'careless' is in fact an astonishing knowledge of a reptile's body language as well as how to work with them - if the snake's not threatened, it won't bite...


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    yes if he was "careless" with the snakes and crocs he wouldn't have made it past his teen years.


    4 years ago

    In Georgia there are 41 known species of snake, only 6 of which are venomous, and u can scratch out winter they will be dormant and my only concern would be a timber snake which are venomous


    7 years ago on Introduction

    How likely is it that I would get bit by a poisonous snake in Georgia, while walking through my pasture, or timber? and what should I do if I encounter one on my walking trails?

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Well Susie, as far as snakes in your area, I have no clue... If you come across a snake in your path, relax, they got twice the fright that you did! Most snakes will bugger off as soon as possible, but some will lie still, hoping their camoflague will protect them. In that case, a few pokes with a long stick will let the snake know you see him and he'll clear off. Never corner a snake because then it will see attack as the only option of escape. Provided you give it an escape route, no snake will actually go for you.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I have a question about venomous snakes. Say you get bitten, on the lower leg or arm or something. what is the immediate action? i grew up being told to remain calm and get to the hospital immediately and never use a tourniquet because it will cause the venom to shoot through when you release is sorta like a kinked water hose. What the Seabee's have taught me is to put a tourniquet above and below the bite so as not to let it spread. i understand that military teaching is slightly different because you may be somewhere remote and better to lose a limb than a life but still. what is your outlook on it?

    6 replies

    Im a medic,

    Keep the extremity below the heart or the venom travels to the heart and you will have complications sooner rather than later. Get to a hospital immediatly. Once there - or on the way there the nurses have to shake anti venon for like 20 minutes straight losing time...Someone needs to come up with a cure for snakebites sooner , theres so many here in AZ and out in desert areas because people get curious or dumb. And dont drink water - I dont know why you think that might help dilute but it could speed up the process...who knows.


    Thank you, thats pretty much what i've been taught throughout my life. I'm from west Texas so there is ALOT of rattlesnakes around there. So no tourniquet? that was kinda my main question

    Im a Boy Scout. The only instance where you would use a tourniquet is when some one is bleeding very very very bad AND your are trained. You can't keep one on you have to un-tighten it at timed intervals, or you will kill the person.

    FlatLiner has given it very conclusively. I can add 2 things to first aid whic make the world of difference for the person on the receiving end of the patient.

    Firstly, be damn sure of the ID. The best thing to do is take a photograph or catch the snake (Don't get bitten twice though!) because it's really difficult for anyone to respond properly to "a snake bit me." the species of snake has a direct influence on the type of antivenom as well as the medical procedure they follow.

    Secondly, note as much as possible. Use your cellphone's voice recorder if you can't write it down, but whatever method you use, record the location and time of the bite, time and progression of all the symptoms etc ("Bitten on left lower leg at 09H00, immediate pain and swelling, dryness of through at 09H30" that sort of thing.). Record as much as possible because that will help the medical officer to figure out the reaction times and so forth.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    This not myself, but a rattlesnake hunter I know.