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National Snakebite Initiative

Addressing a Neglected Tropical Disease

Snake Safety Guidelines: Summary

Once you have made a realistic assessment of danger and determined that there is a need for intervention, you need to safely move or contain the animal in a way that minimizes risks to officers and bystanders. In some cases you may have the option of calling in a local snake expert who can dispatch the closest licensed volunteer to the scene, but in other cases you will have to deal with the problem yourself. It is important to not to over-react or under-react, but to calmly gain control of the situation. Keep your cool, move slowly and deliberately and keep safety risks minimized by not causing the snake pain, because an injured animal is always a much more dangerous animal. Use long tools or professional snake handling tools to extend your reach.

Realistic assessment of danger - In many cases there is no need for officer intervention. Factors to consider are whether the snake is harmless or venomous, native or an escaped pet, how likely this particular species is to cause problems in the future for humans or pets, and the area (crowded urban or rural). Click here to identify INDIAS'a venomous and harmless snakes.

Move or contain - If the snake is determined to be a safety risk to humans, pets or livestock and must be removed from the area, you may have to move or contain the animal using appropriate tools that extend your reach. Don’t put your hands on a snake you have not positively identified as harmless. Don’t assume a snake is harmless because it does not look like one of Central Florida’s four known venomous species.

Call a local snake expert – GCI's wildlife rescue team is an informal network of licensed volunteers who are qualified to deal with nuisance snake removals. Response time can be slow (from 15 minutes to up to 30 minutes or even longer) depending on the location and time of the call and how long it takes to reach a local volunteer. In many cases a snake can be identified as harmless with reasonable confidence over the phone by a local snake expert, and no intervention may be necessary. Click here if you have a live snake contained right now and need to call for an emergency snake pickup.

Keep you cool – Panicking or moving too fast is a common cause of accidents. Move slowly and deliberately. Remember that if a snake gets away from you, that’s okay - the immediate danger is past and you can call in a local snake expert to advise the residents on how to prevent future encounters. Make a reasonable effort to contain the animal, but heroic efforts are not necessary and may put you at risk. Chasing snakes into the bushes is a job best left to the experts.

Don't cause the snake pain – Snakes can usually be moved and contained safely if they are not injured. The more frightened and uncomfortable a snake is, the more it will struggle. A snake that is hurting and in real fear of its life will try much harder to bite and escape. A snake that is can be maneuvered to hide under a box or a jacket tossed on the ground will probably stay still until an expert snake catcher can arrive to identify and capture the animal safely.

Summary:
It is safer to properly move or contain a snake than to injure or kill it.
Keep your cool - always move slowly and deliberately.
Do not cause the snake pain and it will not cause you pain.
Do not escalate the situation and increase your risk by using unnecessary force.
Try to give a snake about one snake-length of space.
Use long tools or professional snake handling tools to extend your reach.