Dealing With Snakes - Safely Handling Encounters

The vast majority of encounters between people and snakes are with non-venomous, harmless snakes. It is critical that you understand that snakes aren't "aggressive" and don't hunt or chase people, but they can strike without coiling first. Belief in myths such as these can cause people to behave rashly during an encounter, creating an unsafe situation for themselves and for the snake. Above all else, if you encounter a snake, try your best to remain calm! Snakes would rather not encounter humans, and it is probably as scary for them as it is for you.

There is no reason that people and snakes cannot get along peacefully, and there are some key techniques you can use to safely handle encounters with snakes -- 
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Outdoor Encounters

Keep children and pets away while you try to identify the snake as venomous or non-venomous - from a safe distance. Keep in mind that snakes will usually try to escape to the nearest cover, so try not to stand between them and bushes or other cover. When they're startled, some snakes will flatten their heads and puff up to make themselves look more intimidating. A snake may also act defensive or try to strike when cornered, so give it space! Remember - releasing a smelly musk and striking are a snake's only defenses, since it has no claws. Some non-venomous snakes will rattle their tails when they feel threatened -- this can sound like a rattlesnake if they are in dry leaves.defensive snake

After you identify the snake, or at least determine that it is non-venomous, the best course of action is to simply "let it be." It will probably soon be on its way. If you feel that you must remove the snake from your yard, spray it gently with a water hose to send it on its way while keeping your distance. If you find a snake in your pool, you can use a long handled leaf skimmer to gently remove the snake, as it may not be able to get out on its own if it is small or exhausted from swimming. If the snake is venomous or you're not sure of its identity, take a digital photograph and contact a professional! Don't try to handle the snake yourself!

Indoor Encounters

Try to identify the snake as venomous or non-venomous from a safe distance while keeping children and pets away. Most snakes found inside Florida residences are non-venomous, and can be easily and safely removed using a large wastebasket or outdoor trashcan with a lid and a broom. Tip the trashcan onto its side, and use the broom to gently "chase" the snake into the trashcan. Then, tip the trashcan upright and, taking care to keep your hands away from the open top, replace the lid. You can then easily transport and release the snake in a nearby natural area. A full description of this technique, with accompanying photographs, is available online as part of the Florida Museum of History Online Guide to the Snakes of Florida (see link in resources below).

If you find a snake indoors in close quarters in an attic or basement and are not able to use this technique, snake in bathroomthere are a variety of commercially available humane glue board snake traps that you can set along walls to capture snakes. You MUST check these traps every day so that trapped snakes don't die from lack of moisture and begin to smell. Captured non-venomous snakes can easily be set free at a nearby natural area by pouring vegetable oil onto the snake to release it from the glue. If you find a snake in the garage and can't capture it with a trashcan or glue board, simply close the door to your house and crack open the external doors to allow the snake to escape.

If you have a venomous snake in your home, or if you capture a venomous snake in a glue trap, leave it alone and call a professional. To find a licensed wildlife removal specialist in your area, see the resources below.

For more information, see the following resources:

Available to download and print -

Dealing with Snakes in Florida's Residential Areas -- Preventing Encounters

Preventing Encounters Between Children and Snakes

Available to purchase -

Venomous Snakes of the Southeast Poster

Venomous Snakes of the Southeast CD/DVD set

Also see -

How to Get Along with Snakes - Florida Museum of Natural History

Registered Nuisance Wildlife Trappers

Florida Snake Removal - AAAnimal Control

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