How to Handle a Snake

How to pick up a pet snake

The skin of snakes has fascinated people for decades and many find a beautiful, calm and gentle companion in their new pet. Many beginner snake keepers have not had very much contact with these animals before getting one and are insecure about how they should handle their pet without stressing it out or provoking it to bite.

Snakes such as Ball Pythons make great pets because they are forgiving and easy to handle!

This post will offer you a detailed description on how we have to behave to avoid any issues with snakes

Keep in mind that every snake has an individual personality and may react accordingly different. I want to discuss how you should generally pick up a non-venomous snake, regardless of species, but there are always exceptions that require special care. Also, avoid handling wild specimen as you can never be sure that it is harmless or how it will behave.

How can I avoid provoking a snake to bite me

Nothing bites without a reason and snakes are no exceptions. Many people seem to be afraid of the snake wanting to eat them or kill them. This is completely absurd! Snakes, except for a few species, are way to small to regard us humans as prey or kill us.

So, the only reason why a snake, venomous or non-venomous, would ever bite a human is in defense. Snakes never act aggressively but they may be very defensive if they feel threatened in any way. This is why we have to make sure that we do not provoke our pet snake.

For some reason, people always mess with snakes. If you behave in such a way around a snake, a bite is not unlikely!

Not provoking a snake is a little harder than it sounds; don’t pose a threat to a snake and it wont bother you being there. This basically means that you should not give the animal any reason to fear you so that it won’t have to be defensive. However, when your handling a snake, you are basically already posing a threat, so the key is to show the animal that you are no predator and do not want to harm it.

To convince it that you are not threat, let the snake choose its own path and do not try to force it in any direction. It will soon find its own way in your arms. By not grabbing onto it tightly, you show it that you have no intention to hurt it. You should also always avoid rapid movements, which may cause the animal to freak out and try to escape.

The head is another sensitive area where snakes can easily feel like you want to harm them. So, if you do not have to check something on your snakes’ head, stay away from it and let it decide where it wants to go.

A snake will openly show you how it feels about you with its body language. Look for jerky movements, s-shaped neck position and hissing. Any of these are clear signs that the animal does not want to be bothered. It will seem nervous, flick its tongue in long intervals and get scared at any movement you make. In this case, it is best to just back off and come back another time.

The S-shaped neck position of this Crotalus durissus is a clear sign that the animal does not want to be messed with!

As long as you stay calm, respect the snakes’ path and do not hurt it in any way, the snake will behave the same!

Picking up a snake – 3 simple steps

Many beginner pet snake keepers struggle with picking up their snake. Here are three simple steps you should follow when picking up any snake, regardless of species. Remember, there are always exceptional individuals that require special care

Step 1

You should avoid trying to pull the snake out of a tight space. Instead, wait until it is on the move or in and open space where you can easily reach it and calmly pick it up.

Now you can proceed to step 1: touch the snake and show it that you are there. Do not stroke or scratch it because that will stress out most snakes. Instead, just gently place your hand on the middle body part of the snake, not close to the head. The snake will now show you how it fells about your presence; if it reacts by trying to move away quickly or turns in a jerky move, it may already be stressed out and not want to be bothered. If it only reacts moderately to your touch, you can proceed without worrying about a bite.


Step 2

Now that you are sure that it is not acting super defensively or jerky, you can go on to pick it up. Gently slide one or both your hands underneath its body and lift it up. If possible, make sure that the head is facing away from you and try to stay away from its head. At this point, you should not be holding on too tightly and let the snake escape if it suddenly tries to.


Step 3

Make sure that while holding it in the air you are supporting every part of its body to avoid injuring its rib cage or spine. Just slide your hand closer to the head and hold it gently above the floor as shown in the image below. If it starts moving about, perfect, just let it find its own path, relax and enjoy. Stay calm and the snake will not freak out either.

To place it back, follow step 2 and 3 in reverse order and let the snake escape back into its enclosure alone.


I hope you do now feel a little less afraid or uncomfortable about picking up a pet snake!

You are always welcome to leave a comment on my posts or contact me directly via e-mail with your questions!

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2 Replies to “How to Handle a Snake”

  1. Hi Timmy,
    Enjoyed reading your article on snakes. It was great to learn how to pick up a snake and you explained it very easily and thoroughly.
    One of my best friends is a huge reptile lover and it particular snakes. When we were in high school he would always have 2-3 large snakes at his house. Every time I went over there he would get them out and we would handle them. I always enjoyed the feel of their muscles and cool scaly skin as they moved around my arm. Very wild.
    Great website about snakes!
    Mat A.

    1. Thank you for your comment. Yes I agree, the skin of snakes is very fascinating and a great draw for me as well. I always love to hear stories like that! I hope you continue to appreciate snakes in the future. 

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