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The Animal Science Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about scientific and technological topics related to pets, livestock, and other animals. See how cutting-edge advances help - or hinder - species around the world.

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Snakes As Pets (Part 2): Common Snake-Owning Mishaps

Posted July 14, 2010 12:01 AM by Vi Pham

Snakes are fun, but they can occasionally get in trouble.

Nervous Handlers = Nervous Snakes

Never give your snake to someone who is nervous around or scared of snakes. If a friend insists on handling a snake – say, to try to get over his or her fear – make sure that your friend remains calm. Nervous people lead to nervous snakes. And you do not want your snake to get scared and escape or bite.

Snake Searching

Snakes are much more likely to flee than bite. As a rule, I stay in the same room with my snakes and any new handlers so that I can keep an eye on things. That way, if my snakes do get out of hand, I can see where they go.

If you know exactly where the snake is hiding, you may want to wait a short while before removing it. Give the snake a chance to calm down a little bit. After some time, the snake is more likely to recognize you as a help than a threat.

If your snake escapes while you're not in the room, here are some tips to help you find it.

Stay calm – no stomping around - Snakes can feel you walking around. They can also feel you yelling if you're loud enough. When they're scared, snakes will move away from any strong vibrations that they feel through the floor. Move furniture gently and have as few people in the room as possible.

Dark places are safe places - The snake knows that most of its predators can't see in the dark, so there's no better place to hide! Start by looking under the furniture and then work your way up. Begin closest to the escape location - by the cage or wherever the handler was standing/sitting.

Remember that snakes are cold-blooded - If it's cold in your house – or if you have wood or tile flooring – the snake will follow instincts and seek out a heat source to stay warm. You can use this to your advantage. If you set your snake's hide in an open space on your floor and heat the area with a heat lamp while keeping the rest of the room cool, your snake will eventually find it.

Keep in mind, however, that this may take a lot of time and patience!

Food helps - If your snake hasn't eaten recently, some food is very enticing. Do the same as above, but with a prey item in the hide. This tactic is especially useful if you know where your snake is, but can't quite reach it.

No space is too small - Never rule out a hiding spot or hole that you think is too small. Unless you're dealing with a very heavy-bodied snake, assume that if its head can fit through the space, so can the rest of its body. Also remember that a snake skull is flexible.

Personally, I've found snakes under bookshelves, seat cushions, heaters, and refrigerators (that one was quite a hassle!)

Snake Bites

Some snake bites happen because the snake mistakes your finger or hand for food. Angry snakes will sometimes give a warning bite. In either case, the snake will let go almost immediately. If the snake happens to hold on for a little while – or even a long while, which is rare – DO NOT pull away. You could inadvertently pull out some teeth. Just wait until the snake lets go. Unless you taste and wiggle around like food, the snake should let go in under a few seconds.

If a big snake bites and tries to constrict, waiting is not an option. If it bites you on the hand or forearm, put it and the snake's head in a tub of very cold or very hot water. This is more difficult if the snake bites you anywhere else. In this case, you should pour something that tastes bad or stings in its mouth. Most people recommend some sort of alcohol. Keep this near the snake cage. Avoid anything toxic.


Snake-proofing your reptile room is a good way to make owning a snake a much easier and more pleasant experience.

Cages - Make sure your animal's cage is easy for you to open, close, and lock. Also make sure that the cage is set up in a way that enables you to get your animal easily. Most importantly, make sure that your cage-securing methods work. If you use books to weigh down the cage top, make sure they are heavy enough. A stubborn snake can eventually nudge open a sliding door, so make sure you have a locking mechanism. I find that cage clamps on either end of the cage top are the best solution. They are simple and are designed to work on many types of cages.

Furniture - You can eliminate most hiding places in your room by making sure that your furniture either has tall legs or no legs at all.

Doors - Put foam or a door seal or sweep at the bottom of your door to prevent snakes from escaping into the rest of the house.

Most Importantly

Have fun!

This wraps up my snake series. I hope you all enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

See you around, CR4!

The Rest of the Series

Reptiles: A Scaly Introduction

Snakes: They're All Around

Snakes: A Family Affair (Part 1)

Snakes: A Family Affair (Part 2)

Snakes: Clever and Deadly Behaviors

Snakes: Do The Locomotion (Part 1)

Snakes: Do The Locomotion (Part 2)

Snakes: A Look Inside

Snakes: Feeling Sounds And Tasting Smells

Snakes: Feeding Time! (Part 1)

Snakes: Feeding Time! (Part 2)

Snakes: Growing and Shedding

Snakes: As Pets (Part 1)


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Re: Snakes As Pets (Part 2): Common Snake-Owning Mishaps

07/14/2010 11:02 PM

The information is very nice.

But.... why trouble those creatures. Let them in their natural abode.


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Re: Snakes As Pets (Part 2): Common Snake-Owning Mishaps

07/14/2010 11:26 PM

well, that's where the trouble is with domesticated animals.

animals that have been raised in captivity may still retain some of their natural instincts, but many are too familiar with humans and are accustomed to situations that wild snakes wouldn't normally face in the wild.

my snakes, for example, trust and rely on me. I provide their food, water and shelter. because of this, they don't mind when I hand them over to a new human for a little while.

and it's for that reason why they would have a hard time surviving in their natural abode.

if someone were to give me a snake they had just caught, I would say "put it back where you found it" - and I have. it's a different story for animals that have never been wild.

also, given proper housing and respect, I don't believe the snakes would ever feel troubled. snakes get curious sometimes and will wander if they aren't looked after. sometimes they get spooked. it happens to all animals.

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Re: Snakes As Pets (Part 2): Common Snake-Owning Mishaps

07/15/2010 1:57 AM

A long story about the danger from snakes...for some comic relief

Always carry a large flagon of whisky in case of snakebite and furthermore always carry a small snake." -W.C.Fields
Garden Grass Snakes, also known as Garter Snakes (Thamnophissirtalis), can be dangerous.
Yes, grass snakes, not rattlesnakes. Here's why.
A couple in Morro Bay, California, had a lot of potted plants. During a recent chilly spell, the wife was bringing a lot of them indoors to protect them from a possible freeze.
It turned out that a little green garden grass snake was hidden in one of the plants and when it had warmed up, it slithered out and the wife saw it go under the sofa.
She let out a very loud scream.
The husband (who was taking a shower) ran out into the living room naked to see what the problem was. She told him there was a snake under the sofa.
He got down on the floor on his hands and knees to look for it. About that time the family dog came and cold-nosed him on the behind. He thought the snake had bitten him, so he screamed and fell over on the floor.
His wife thought he had a heart attack, so she covered him up, told him to lie still, and called an ambulance.
The attendants rushed in, wouldn't listen to his protests, and loaded him on the stretcher and started carrying him out.
About that time the snake came out from under the sofa and the Emergency Medical Technician saw it and dropped his end of the stretcher.
That's when the man broke his leg and why he is still in the hospital.
The wife still had the problem of the snake in the house, so she called on a neighbor.
He volunteered to capture the snake. He armed himself with a rolled-up newspaper and began poking under the couch. Soon he decided it was gone and told the woman, who sat down on the sofa in relief.
But while relaxing, her hand dangled in between the cushions, where she felt the snake wriggling around. She screamed and fainted, and the snake rushed back under the sofa.
The neighbor, seeing her lying there passed out, tried to use CPR to revive her.
The neighbor's wife, who had just returned from shopping at the grocery store, saw her husband's mouth on the woman's mouth and slammed her husband in the back of the head with a bag of canned goods, knocking him out and cutting his scalp to a point where it needed stitches.
The noise woke the woman from her dead faint and she saw her neighbor lying on the floor with his wife bending over him, so she assumed that he had been bitten by the snake. She went to the kitchen and got a small bottle of whiskey, and began pouring it down the man's throat.
By now the police had arrived.
They saw the unconscious man, smelled the whiskey, and assumed that a drunken fight had occurred. They were about to arrest them all, when the women tried to explain how it all happened over a little green snake.
The police called an ambulance, which took away the neighbor and his sobbing wife.
The little snake again crawled out from under the sofa. One of the policemen drew his gun and fired at it.
He missed the snake and hit the leg of the end table. The table fell over and the lamp on it shattered, and as the bulb broke, it started a fire in the drapes.
The other policeman tried to beat out the flames and fell through the window into the yard on top of the family dog who, startled, jumped up and raced into the street, where an oncoming car swerved to avoid it and smashed into the parked police car.
Meanwhile, the burning drapes were seen by the neighbors who called the fire department.
The firemen had started raising the fire truck ladder when they were halfway down the street.
The rising ladder tore out the overhead wires, put out the electricity, and disconnected the telephones in a ten-square city block area (but they did get the house fire out).
Time passed! Both men were discharged from the hospital, the house was repaired, the dog came home, the police acquired a new car, and all was right with their world.
A while later they were watching TV and the weatherman announced a cold snap for that night. The wife asked her husband if he thought they should bring in their plants for the night.
That's when he shot her.

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Re: Snakes As Pets (Part 2): Common Snake-Owning Mishaps

07/15/2010 7:58 AM

This is a really nice collection of tips. It sounds like snakes are like any other animal in that they sense fear and pick up on that emotion.

I found the ways to make a snake release from a bite really interesting! They do make sense though, since they sort of shock the snake's system.

Anonymous Poster

Re: Snakes As Pets (Part 2): Common Snake-Owning Mishaps

07/15/2010 8:25 AM

There is nothing about snakes which matches any human relationship. Owners of snakes create a value or connection which could be just as easily be directed at anything alive or not. Snakes take a different discipline of management to be safe for the snake and the "owner", but so do tattoo's, motorcycles, cars, boats, horses, dogs, cats, wives and, children.

Do whatever you choose but at least do it well and take the advice of people like this blog writer if you intend to start out by befriending a snake.

Anonymous Poster
In reply to #4

Re: Snakes As Pets (Part 2): Common Snake-Owning Mishaps

07/15/2010 1:09 PM

I don't know if they sense fear or not, but when I was a news delivery boy, I learned to very loudly confront and run against attacking dogs (all of me trembling in fear), and they ran away, always !.


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