Read this tip to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Handling and other Reptile topics.
The use of tongs in handling snakes has always been controversial. The old Pilstrom style tongs with their scissor-like interlocking closure were originally designed to snip fruit off of trees, not to pick up delicate fragile creatures with thin bones, but they were quickly adopted for use in handling venomous snakes during events like the cruel and brutal rattlesnake roundups . Unfortunately a lot of damage was done with them, since it is very easy for a novice to apply too much pressure or to use an incorrect angle resulting in broken bones or internal injuries.
Since then, much gentler and more "snake friendly" designs in tongs have been developed. Whitney style tongs are no longer being consistently manufactured and are very hard to come by (currently they are many months on back order and unable to meet demand), but they were among the first of the safer designs. However they still take some skill to use, and many of the recent and cheaper imitations of the WhitCo tong (such as the Latest Rage design) are inferior in construction and performance. The new "gold standard" in tongs are the Gentle Giants from Midwest (http://www.tongs.com), which are extremely safe and comfortable for both snake and handler, and come highly recommended by the experts.