They’re hypnotizing to look at, but they’re like a loaded gun. If you make the wrong move, they’ll strike. They’ll bite you, strangle you and even eat you in the blink of an eye. These fascinating creatures are deadly. Up to 138,000 people die every year as a result of snake bites, and that’s not even the only way these reptiles can kill you. If you have been thinking about making a switch to a career handling snakes, you want to watch this first. Which tradition involves handling venomous snakes? When should you let a snake wrap around your arm? And how could a python put you into cardiac arrest?
Number 5. Holiness Serpent Handling
If you think that religion and reptiles don’t mix well, you haven’t heard of this Pentecostal tradition where religious leaders get hands-on with rattlesnakes and copperheads. In this case, it’s all about slinging them over their shoulders. They hold multiple snakes at the same time while moving around, which makes it all that more dangerous. Snakes don’t like sudden and rapid movement as they perceive them as a threat. If you’re planning to engage in this tradition, at least make sure it doesn’t involve a baby snake. They aren’t used to people or being held. Make friends with the serpent. At least twice a day, rest your hand inside its cage for a few minutes so it gets comfortable with your presence and won’t mistake you for a threat.
Number 4. Zookeeper
Constrictor snakes, such as boas and pythons, have a particular way of killing. They get their name because they’ll coil around you, squeezing you until your limbs break and you go into cardiac arrest. In 2008, a Venezuelan handler entered the enclosure of a 3 m (10 ft) python alone during the night, only to be killed and swallowed. With constrictor snakes, follow this guideline. Always make sure you have at least one handler per 1.5 m (5 ft) of snake to not compromise your safety and keep control.
Number 3. Demonstrating
In 2013, an expert handler from France died just a few minutes after an Aspic viper bit him several times during a demonstration. Ironically enough, he was trying to get attendees to overcome their fear of the creatures. If that happened to an experienced handler, I don’t think your chances are high. You should always use distance handling. This involves the extra safety measure of tongs and hooks to avoid getting attacked.
Number 2. Snake Relocation
One career path that is almost guaranteed to involve close contact with snakes is that of herpetologist. They study amphibians and reptiles, and they have to know how to pick up snakes for rescue and relocation purposes. This puts them at risk of getting one of the 2.7 million venomous snake bites that occur around the world each year. Having proper gear and holding the snake with both hands is key. If it wants to adjust itself, let it wrap around your arm. If the snake is comfortable, the chances of it biting you are slimmer.
Number 1. Snake Milking
While most professions require tools that allow for distance handling, snake milking is the very dangerous exception. Snake milkers put their life on the line extracting deadly venom to create life-saving antidotes. Properly milking a snake without losing a limb or your life is not for the faint of heart. It involves holding the snake by the back of the head using your thumb and index finger. This position is crucial. It will immobilize its head and might spare you from a bite. Bill Haast, one of the industry’s most renowned milkers, survived more than 172 bites throughout his decades-long career. Until the last one caused him to lose his right index finger and retire at 92. Hopefully, you’ll give it a lot of thought before attempting any of these professions.
- How to Hold a Snake. Pawlisch, D. (2023). WikiHow
- See A 20 Foot Long Mama Snake Attack Her Handler While Defending Her Eggs. Martin, M. (2021). Giant Freakin Robot.
- How to Hold a Snake the Right Way. England, J. (2022). Reptile Advisor.
- 13 Tips To Better Reptile Handling. Vella, J. (2014). Reptiles Magazine.
- Snakebite envenoming. (2021). World Health Organization.
- Veteran rattlesnake handler dies after snake bite at Rattlesnake Roundup. Silver, L. (2022). Kiro 7.