Missouri Wildlife with Kaje: Snakin’ Tools

Yellow-bellied water snake. This pic was not fuzzy when I uploaded it.

Everyone has a hobby. One of mine is catching and releasing snakes. This practice of searching for reptiles and amphibians is known as “herping,” but to be more specific and avoid assumptions that I’m into a weird STD fetish, I use the term “snaking.”

Why on earth would one go herping/snaking? Aside from being fun, there are other, practical reasons to do so:

1. If someone has a problem snake on their property, they can call you instead of getting the garden hoe. You’re helping the environment and stuff!

2. People think you’re totally hardcore. Most of the people in the world (especially, for some reason, grown manly men) are absolutely freaked out by snakes. People who handle wild snakes expertly and nonchalantly get props from everyone. Babes follow. Get a foreign accent and you can get your own TV show.

Being a reader of my blog, I assume that you hang on to my every word and ape everything I do to make up for your own sad lack of personality. You poor dope. Well, don’t let me rain on your parade. Here’s what you need to catch snakes:

Knowledge. Read everything you can on snakes, herps, local wildlife and nature in general. You are ready when you can tell what kind of snake it is just from a glance.

Knowledge. Do it again.

Knowledge. Actually, just never stop.

Ethical boundaries. A subset of knowledge, you have to follow ethical guidelines. If you can, always release the animal where you found it. Don’t remove the animal from the wild unless it needs medical assistance (moot point, unless you have a herp vet or conservation office nearby). Do your best to not harm or exhaust the animal.  Et cetera, et cetera– there are tons of resources on the internet to aid you in this.

A good camera. You will want to take pictures of everything you find. Be sure it has a good macro setting, so you can get good pictures up close. I’m thinking about stealing Jim Stone’s camera for the future. Don’t tell him about that.

My tool of choice.

A snake hook. A snake hook is all you need to transport a large snake. You can make one yourself out of an old golf club and a metal hook, or buy them ready made.

Snake tongs. You can also use these to handle snakes. I don’t use them because (A) I don’t have the hand strength to use them even if I wanted too and (B) the risk of injuring the animal is greater. If you want to use tongs, get a Gentle Giant from Midwest Tongs– don’t use the crappy non-cushioned metal grabbers!

A canvas bag. When the need arises to relocate the snake (or show it off before you let loose), you’ll need a bag.

Hand sanitizer and hand wipes. Snakes are germy. When you pick them up, they smear musk all over you. If they bite you, you need to clean the bite even if it isn’t a venomous snake, since snakebites are usually full of salmonella and other tasty germs. Always wash your hands before and after handling a snake.

Fist aid for venomous snake bites. I don’t bother with these, since there aren’t any venomous snakes where I live. Your mileage may vary.

Gloves. If you’re a wiener. I personally don’t worry about bites, since I have a high pain tolerance and the immune system of an ox. I like to think of them as battle scars.

Mad skillz. A snake’s vision is poor and responds to movement and color. Try to limit sudden movements (let the snake know you are there, don’t spook them!). Use motion to distract the snake so you can grab it. Snakes only hear vibrations through the ground, so don’t worry about making sound. Reflexes are a must!

I think I covered about everything. Next up: my top ten favorite snakes to catch!


5 Responses to “Missouri Wildlife with Kaje: Snakin’ Tools”

  1. 1 Calvin and Luther Will Kick Your Atheist Behind
    March 29, 2010 at 2:36 am

    BUT, if you buy a garden hoe you are helping the economy.

  2. 3 ansonburlingame
    March 29, 2010 at 3:51 pm


    I have been out of town for a couple of weeks and not read any local blogs of late. Yours usually give me a jolt of adrenaline so I am glad to be back for another “wake up call”.

    Snakes. Hmmm! I sort of like watching the creatures and only if they are poisonous do I steer clear. Otherwise they are part of nature which I too like to observe and ponder.

    I would be interested in your views on dealing with human snakes, sometimes called politicians or political observers. As a class they do not hear, see or listen very well, sometimes stink up the area in which they reside and prey on the unaware and uninformed. Some of them have the brains that function as their predecessors, the dinasors which you admire as well.

    What does one snake do when it encounters another? First if the climate is right they may propogate the species by “getting in bed with one another”. They rarely if ever eat their own. If sex and survival are not at stake they ignore one another and go look for a mouse.

    What do we as mice do when confronted with such a creature? I can’t wait to see a picture of your tools or list of preparations for such encounters.


  3. 5 Jim
    April 3, 2010 at 3:44 am

    This reminds me of the result of the Voyager 1 spacecraft. It escaped the solar system with the ‘Voyager Golden Record’, a phonograph record with sounds and images of earth – a message for alien civilizations. It was an improvement over the simpler messages of Pioneer 10 & 11. Included among the sounds were musical performances from around the world, such as a Peruvian wedding song, a Bach concerto, the rockin’ “Johnny B. Goode”, and a New Guinea Men’s house song.

    A few years after Voyager 1 left the Solar System, we received history’s first communication from aliens. After an extensive effort to decode the message, it was revealed to be “Send more Chuck Berry.”

    After reading Anson’s comment, I am disposed (being something of an alien to Anson’s hominid) to say, SEND MORE ANSON BURLINGAME.

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