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It is a very bad idea to approach or attack a venomous snake. More than 80% of venomous snakebites recorded in Florida happen because someone tried to kill or catch a venomous snake. Zero percent of bites happen when the person moves away from the snake and calls a qualified handler to come and pick it up. The smartest thing to do is to move away from a venomous snake, or from any snake you cannot identify. It is illegal to kill some types of snakes, as well as dangerous. You should simply move away and phone a qualified snake handler to remove the animal.
Use Long Tools - A snake can strike a surprisingly long distance, about two thirds of its body length. If you must move a snake by yourself and you can't wait for a qualified removal expert (remember, we DON'T recommend this), use a long tool such as a sweeping broom or a mop. Do not use it to hit or strike with, as this may panic the snake and cause it to move closer to you in an attempt to get away or to defend itself. Moving slowly and deliberately, use the soft end of the broom or the mop to push the snake where you want it to go. If you push gently but firmly, most snakes will just move with very little fuss.
Snake Containment - If you need to contain a snake so it can be identified and removed, place a large, tall bucket or trash can upside down over it. Hold the container by the very end so you are not in as much danger of being bitten. You can also duct-tape a large lightweight mixing bowl to a broom handle so that you can place it over the snake from a safe distance. In a pinch, just tossing a sheet, a blanket or a large jacket or sweater on top of the animal may be enough to make it sit still under the "safe shelter" you have just given it. If you can safely contain a snake without hurting it, we will come and pick it up at no charge. Do not leave a contained snake in the sun for more than a few minutes at a time, as this will almost always kill it. You may be able to move the snake in the container into the shade if you do it carefully, or if you slip a flat cookie sheet or bucket lid under the container to close it. If you cannot safely move the container, bring some shade to the snake.
Don't Hurt The Snake - If you feel you absolutely have to kill a dangerous snake, do it with a gun and stay at a distance even after you think the snake is dead. Kill it quickly and surely with a shot to the head. Just hurting it is a good way to get hurt yourself. Attempting to beat a snake to death is an excellent way to get bitten. A hurt, panicked snake is a dangerous animal that is very likely to move towards you and strike in a last ditch effort to defend itself. At close range, a snake is faster than you are, and it is impossible to render a snake harmless by hitting it only a few times. Even mortally wounded or dead, a snake can retain its biting reflex for some time. You are much safer if you simply move it away from you without hurting it.
But You Can Make It Uncomfortable - There are things that snakes don't like and will move away from. Turning the garden hose on the snake is one good solution, and so is tapping it gently on the tail with a long tool such as a rake or broom. When the snake starts moving, be ready to move quickly in the opposite direction. You can also stomp on the ground from where you are, slap the ground with branches or gardening tools and otherwise make some vibrations go through the ground. Remember, don't hurt the snake, just make it uncomfortable enough to want to leave. Only use these techniques if there is no safe alternative, ie, if the snake is too close to children or pets or if the snake is between you and the exit. It is always better to walk away and call a qualified handler.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|