What it’s like to do a Venomous Snake Handling Course

In case you’re thinking of doing a venomous snake handling course, I thought I’d tell you about what to expect from the experience. You can find out more about groups that present snake handling courses in your area, at the end of this post.

I’ve attended courses by both the African Snakebite Institute (presented by Johan Marais), and the Cape Reptile Institute (presented by Dr Tony Phelps) — most of the clips you’ll see in this video are from the time I attended the Cape Reptile Institute course.

Your course will be structured more or less as follows:

We were given some reading material when we arrived for the course, and the day started off with a theory lecture discussing snakes, snakebite, and snake safety, followed by a written exam to test our knowledge of the theory.

Handing a highly venomous Cape Cobra.

After the written exam we had a hands-on identification test — there were a couple of snakes out on a table, we got to spend some time with them, look at them, touch them, and then we had to try and identify each of them correctly (which counted towards our final marks).

After that we finally got to the practical snake handling part of the course! As you can see in the video we started with a rope (so we could get used to picking up a snake properly with a hookstick), then after we finished with the rope we moved on to live snakes.

Guiding a highly venomous Puff Adder into a bin.

Starting with Mole Snakes, we had to pick them up properly, carry them in the right way, put them in a bin, close the bin the correctly, and so on, all under the watchful eye of an instructor. We each got a couple of tries with the Mole Snake, after which we moved on to Puff Adders, then Cape Cobras, and finally Boomslang.

As we practised, our instructor was able to tell us what we were doing wrong, help us correct our technique, and give us general guidance. After we finished up with the Boomslang we moved on to a final practical exam where we were divided up into teams of two and each team was given a scenario where there was a snake hidden somewhere — the team had to go and find it, identify it, and then safely capture & contain it.

If you have an interest in snakes or you live in an area where you often encounter snakes, I can highly recommend doing a course like this!

Handling a highly venomous Boomslang.

Take a look at the links below for more details about groups who present courses in your area, and feel free to send me a message if you have any questions!

Sign up for a Snake Identification & Handling Course:

There are a couple of institutions who provide snake-related courses in South Africa on a regular basis, send me a message and I’ll put you in touch with the one nearest you.

Find out more:

If you like what you saw here, please subscribe to my YouTube channel and like my Facebook page, I regularly post videos of the snakes I rescue from people’s homes all over Cape Town, South Africa.


Originally published at bloubergsnakerescue.co.za on June 21, 2017.