Being attacked or constricted by a pet snake is unlikely, but isn’t uncommon. It usually occurs due to improper handling and feeding. Knowing how to safely unravel a snake when it’s wrapped around you can prevent harm to you and your pet.
Constrictors only coil around their prey and apply pressure. They rarely attack larger predators, such as humans. Therefore, if a snake does attack you, chances are it mistook your hand for food. This commonly happens when beginner snake owners offer food to their pet using their hands, instead of tongs.
- 1 How to Get a Snake to Release its Grip
- 2 How to Remove a Large Constricting Snake
- 3 Never Let a Constrictor Around Your Neck
- 4 How to Prevent a Snake from Constricting You
How to Get a Snake to Release its Grip
Constrictor snakes aren’t fast on land as they don’t have to actively chase their prey. They sit and wait for a potential prey to come near them. They have long and powerful strikes that help them capture their prey fast. Constrictors also have large, backward-curving teeth for effective gripping. The more you try to pull away, the more it burrows its teeth into your flesh.
Therefore, trying to remove a constrictor snake off your arm involves more than just unraveling its body – you have to get it to stop biting you as well. Make your snake realize that you aren’t its prey by remaining calm patient. If it’s a smaller snake, it can’t do much harm to you anyway.
If your snake doesn’t let go, soak a cotton ball with a small amount of rubbing alcohol or vodka and place it next to the snake’s mouth. This should make the snake relax its squeeze. Next, begin unraveling the snake from its tail. You can also try making the snake ball around another object or giving it something else to prey on.
Some experts recommend dunking the snake’s head in a sink or bucket filled with water. The snake will release its grip in an attempt to get air. Pull your hand away, turn off the water and place your snake back in its enclosure. While this technique does work, it’s best to use it as a last resort as it could risk drowning your snake.
Housing Larger Constrictor Snakes
Snakes that are eight feet in length or longer, such as a Burmese python, are typically recognized as a safety threshold. In other words, they need to be housed in a secure enclosure. You must also have another person present while handling a snake that 8 feet or longer.
It’s best to have one handler for every 4 feet of a snake. For example, if you have a 12-foot snake, there should be three people present during handling.
Feeding is the most vulnerable time for a snake owner with a large snake. Therefore, always have another person present when feeding your snake, and to help whenever needed. Most adult constrictors only eat every 10 to 14 days, so you’ll only need a spotter a few times a month.
According to the Humane Society, children are most vulnerable to attacks by large snakes. Many pet snakes have strangled defenseless children, some leading to their death. Therefore, it is recommended not to keep snakes over 8 feet in length in a household with children.
How to Remove a Large Constricting Snake
Any snake that measures over eight feet should be worked with a partner as it isn’t going to be easy to unravel a large constrictor alone. Someone with some snake experience would be ideal, but having any spotter is better than handling a large by yourself. Make sure you and your spotter discuss what needs to be done when your snake tries to constrict one of you.
Always keep a spray bottle of alcohol, such as vodka or rubbing alcohol somewhere close to your snake’s enclosure and let your partner know about where it is placed. Keeping an alcohol spray handy if you have a large snake is similar to keeping a fire extinguisher in the kitchen.
If a large snake constricts you, your spotter will have to do the following:
- Spray the snake in its face with the ethanol spray.
- Place the snake in a bath or stream of cold or hot water. Either extreme is likely to upset the snake’s body temperature, causing it to release. Restricting your breathing may help to speed up the process.
- Unwrap the snake starting from its tail. The tail end has a much weaker grip than the head. Therefore, pulling the coils from the midsection or pushing the coils to the side in order to pry off the snake’s head isn’t going to be effective.
Things to Remember During an Emergency Situation
As with any medical emergency, your airway and breathing status should always be a top priority. Ceasing the snake’s grip on a person’s neck, chest or head is much more important than trying to release a bite to a leg or arm.
Every second is crucial when a person is being constricted by a large snake. Housing a large snake is a specialized area. It’s your responsibility to know what to do during an emergency situation as most paramedics aren’t trained in removing a large constrictor wrapped around a human.
Never Let a Constrictor Around Your Neck
You should also never let a snake around your neck as this is the only way a constrictor can kill a person. Snakes are good at hanging onto cylindrical objects, such as tree branches and pipes. They’re highly motivated to hold a tight grip to prevent them from falling.
You don’t have to worry about a constrictor crushing any one of your limbs, however. The Journal of Experimental Biology explains that constrictors don’t kill their prey by crushing or suffocating them to death. Instead, they immobilize their prey by tightening their coils every time the prey exhales. According to Biology Letters, a snake will stop constricting once it stops detecting a heartbeat from the prey. In most cases, the prey dies within a couple of minutes or so.
Furthermore, a constrictor crushing the bones of its prey is only going to be bad for its health. Snakes swallow their prey whole so any broken bones sticking out may cause internal damage to the snake. Therefore, if you have a small snake that is wrapped around your leg or arm, just ignore it or watch some TV for a while. Soon enough the snake will get bored and loosen its grip.
With larger snakes, always have a spotter present during handling, in case one stubbornly coils around you and refuses to let go.
How to Prevent a Snake from Constricting You
A snake will try to avoid another predator, such as a human – even in the wild. So what provokes a snake into attacking a human? It mistakes the person for food. However, this doesn’t occur naturally. Most owners get attacked by their snakes because of common feeding errors, which can be easily avoided using the steps below:
1) Don’t Smell Like Snake Food
Never handle your snake’s prey just before handling your snake. Doing so can leave a scent of the prey on your hands, causing your snake to mistake your fingers for food. In a situation like this, a snake may bite your hand or try to wrap around your arm.
A snake may also attack if you’re reaching into its enclosure when there are prey animals in the same room. If your snake smells its food, its drive to eat will get activated and it will strike and constrict anything close to body temperature.
2) Never Feed With Your Hands
Again, this can cause the snake to mistake your hands for food. Once a constrictor bites your hand, it can be difficult to free yourself. Always pull the snake towards your body rather than away as constrictors have rear-facing teeth. To prevent this, offer your snake its prey using a pair of tongs.
3) Hook Train Your Snake
It’s common for captive snakes to associate feeding with the opening of their enclosure. You can train a snake to understand the difference between feeding and handling by simply tapping its head while opening its enclosure when it’s not being fed.
Over time, it will associate being tapped using a hook with being removed from its cage for exercise or cleaning. Never tap your snake while feeding as this can confuse the snake and cancel out any training.