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.
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!