working with venomous snakes


Being a keeper employs a variety of tools; some of the most important ones are used in the husbandry of our two venomous snakes, the Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix), and the Canebrake Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus). We work entirely hands off with these two snakes, and have a very strict safety protocol. Two keepers always work together, and extra tools are near the door in case help is needed. The first of these tools is the radio (walkie-talkie) on our belt. Before feeding, cleaning, or changing their water, we make a radio call to inform other keepers and staff that we are opening the snakes’ doors. If for any reason we should need help during the process, the radio call ensures that other people are aware of what’s happening. The silver tongs (to the left of the broom in the picture) help us to handle the water dish, or pick up feces or a shed (a snakeskin) without putting an arm or hand within striking range of the snake. The hook ( to the right of the broom) is used manipulate the snake, and the trash can (with some warm bath water) is where we put the snake while cleaning it’s exhibit. Hooking a snake takes a lot of practice and skill. You have to balance the snake with it’s midsection on the hook. Often the snake will be moving, and can sometimes slide off your hook onto the floor. The broom is the perfect tool to pin a snake against the floor if need be, without hurting it, and can act as a shield between you and the snake. When it comes time to weigh our venomous snakes (about twice a year) we use the white snake bag (on the floor in the picture). The bag actually comes off of its handle and we can tie the top closed. We hook the snake into the bag, tie it off, remove from handle and then set it on the scale. We have to remember to subtract the weight of the bag to get the snake’s actual weight! The next time we weigh snakes, I’ll get a few pics!
There’s a great book on N.C. snakes (available in our gift shop) that can teach you more about venomous snakes, and don’t miss viewing these tools in action every Thursday at 4:00 at our Snake Feeding program!
Another pic of the tongs, snake bag, and our two venomous residents:

4 responses to working with venomous snakes

  1. Avatar
    kristen says:

    Good point Jeff. The very brief answer is venom is injected, while poison is ingested.Look for a future post on this topic.

  2. Avatar
    Valerie says:

    Thanks for the posts! We love looking behind the scenes. The snakes have been a favorite of ours for years. I like that the windows are down very low for good viewing by the little ones.

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