When the time comes to take a snake out of its cage, you want to correctly pick it up. In the interest of your own safety and that of the snake, you should not do some things.
Don't Make Sudden Movements
You want to avoid frightening the snake. If you move too fast around it there’s a chance the snake will become agitated.
Don't attempt to grab it by the head
Most snakes are extremely head shy. They will recoil and try to flee from a hand that is placed on its head. If they can’t flee, they will likely bite. Even if you manage to grab the snake by the head, it will be writhing and squirming so much that holding it will be next to impossible.
Make your presence known
Snakes are easily frightened. Before you pick up a snake, make sure you let it know you are there. A good way is a combination of sound and touch.
First, gently tap the cage, so it is aware of your presence. Watch for a tongue flick to indicate it senses something. Then gently place your hand on the snake’s body. If you grab a snake without warning, there’s a good chance it will launch a defensive attack.
Don't try to pick up an aggressive snake without proper tools
If you must hold an aggressive snake, be sure to use the right tools. Hooks, poles, and tongs can all help you to handle an aggressive snake.
Don't attempt to hold a snake that is striking at you
I hesitate to say this as there comes a time that to “tame down” an aggressive snake, you’ll need to hold it, but you need to use common sense.
If the snake is ten feet long and striking at everything that moves, don’t try to pick it up. At least not without the proper equipment. On the other hand, if it’s just a neonate that is aggravated and striking, just pick it up.
Don't try to pick up one over 6 feet without help
One common denominator that most deaths and injuries caused by pet snakes seem to have is that a person tries to handle a large snake over 6 feet in length.
The snake gets scared and begins to constrict, the person panics, the snake constricts more. The outcome is ugly. Obviously, the 6-foot rule is for an average size and condition adult. If you’re eight years old, a 4-foot snake could be a challenge.
Now that we’ve gotten the basic safety out of the way let’s discuss how you will pick up a snake.
Don't sneak up on them
The first thing you need to do is get within reach of the snake. As mentioned above, you don’t want just suddenly to walk up and snatch up the snake.
Let it know you are there. A gentle tap to the side of the snake’s tank will alert it that someone is there. You’ll generally see it become active; Its eyes will move, and the tongue will dart.
This is a sign that it is “thinking” and not just reacting. Since many snakes are ambush predators, you don’t want to risk being in “ambush mode” when you go to hold one.
First contact tips
This isn’t the literal first contact you ever have with a particular snake. Use it each time you go to pick the snake up. Gently pat it about midway down the length of it’s body.
Don’t try to pat it on the head, and don’t grab at the tail. Predators will often try to grab a snake that way, and it will become agitated. Once you’ve made your presence know to the animal, then you can move to pick it up.
Lifting them up
Gently slide your hands under the snake about 1/3 of the way down and lift up. As you are lifting, slip your other hand under the last 1/4 of the snake to fully support its weight.
Most constrictor snakes will instinctively throw a coil or two around your wrist and forearm. Don’t try to stop it, as that will stress it out. If you are dealing with a large, heavy snake, you’ll want to have more than one person picking it up.
Many pet owners don’t have anyone else available to help them. If that’s the case for you, be very careful. A large snake can easily and very quickly overpower even a well-conditioned male. Some tips:
- Do not let it coil, even partially around your neck.
- The tail is the weakest point. If it does begin to throw coils unravel from the tail first
- If it is large enough to be able to do so, keep it from throwing coils around your chest
- Always have one hand free. In other words, make sure that it doesn’t coil around both hands and arms
The idea behind those tips is to make it easier to escape from a large snake. These aren’t a replacement for common sense, which includes having more than one person holding the snake.
Moving them around
Once you are holding the snake, moving around is fine as long as you are gentle and don’t move too quickly. If you need to transport the animal any amount of distance, use a snake bag, a plastic tub, or some other container.
The more you handle a snake, the more comfortable both you and the animal will be with the whole experience. It’s important to start when they are young and small and get them used to be held.
Aside from a few days after being brought home, when they are shedding, and within 48 hours of a meal, they should be held daily. Just 5 to 10 minutes a day is enough.