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To more safely examine a snake that is likely to bite, use a clear plastic tube that is blocked off at one end and just slightly bigger than the snake's body. Get about a third to half the animal's body inside the tube, and grasp it firmly at the juncture of the tube and its body to keep its head safely inside. You can then examine it with much less difficulty.
You can purchase a set of snake tubes from Midwest (http://www.tongs.com) or Glades Herp (http://www.gherp.com), but you can also improvise at home using any clear plastic tube that is reasonably sturdy and that you can cut to a convenient length (usually about 2-3 feet). Some products such as large maps, posters and some specialized auto parts come packaged in clear plastic tubing; see what you can scrounge from the stores.