The Safe, Fun and Easy Way to Learn How to Handle Snakes
Cape Snake Conservation is now offering snake handling, first aid and identification courses!
If the thought of getting near a snake makes you shudder, then believe it or not, this course is perfect for you. In fact, I believe that anyone who spends recreational or work time outdoors, or who lives in or close to natural areas not only could do this course but should.
You may be wondering – “why should I learn to handle snakes?”. Let me illustrate with a story.
A Family Scenario
Once upon a time a family lived on a farm close to the mountain in Cape Town. Everyday the farmer’s wife, Chantal, and Emanuel, the gardener, would tend to her garden. One day Chantal saw something that made her panic. She screamed and Emanuel came to assist.
In her flowerbed was a large black snake. Fearful and not knowing what to do Chantal asked Emanuel to do something. Emanuel immediately picked up the rake and hit the snake. But he didn’t connect properly. The snake was hurt but not damaged badly. In the blink of an eye the snaked lunged connecting squarely with Emanuel’s hand, teeth penetrating the skin and drawing blood.
Fortunately for Emanuel the snake turned out to be a non-venomous mole snake and the bite was treated easily. The Doctor explained that the majority of snakebite happens when people try to kill or tamper with them and that the animal would certainly have moved off if given the chance.
After the incident, Chantal and Emanuel completed a snake handling course which covered local snake identification, snake handling, and snakebite first aid. Quite some time passed without incident until finally, one summer, they were faced with another snake in the garden.
This time it was a Cape cobra. Chantal and Emanuel both knew that now thanks to their training. Easily and safely, Chantal and Emanuel worked together and successfully caught and relocated the cobra to a nature reserve nearby. Their fear had turned into a quietly confident understanding and respect. They were empowered and they were safe. And so was the snake
Ok it’s Fictional But…
This chain of events was not based on a real experience but it is very close to what could quite easily happen.
Although local statistics are hard to come by, it has been shown in Australia that up to 95% of snakebite incidents are due to aggressive actions by people.
Trying to remove a snake ‘problem’ by killing it is the easiest way to get yourself bitten.
But you guys will relocate the snakes for us, why should I do it?
In many cases there may be no need for you to handle the snakes yourself. If you live in and around the CBD or any of the other areas that we cover then our snake handlers are more than happy to assist you.
But even with the service available you may find yourself in a position where nobody is available. Holiday cottage in Montague; a small holding in Swellendam; camping in an area with no signal; staff which work in rural areas: these are all potential situations in which action needs to be taken when a snake handler is not readily available.
And besides learning the empowering skill of safely catching snakes, you will gain valuable knowledge in snakebite first aid. Accidents do happen and you owe it to yourself to be prepared if you do happen to step on a snake accidentally while working in the garden or while hiking in the mountains.
Have You Ever Wanted to Save Lives and Make a Difference?
I started handling snakes to make a difference both to the lives of people and to the lives of snakes. I’ve always been interested in snakes but my passion to make a difference was ignited while living and teaching in the south of Thailand where I saw many snakes killed but was powerless to stop or to help them.
One day a young man came to a friend’s house. Her mother was known in the village for her ability to treat snakebite with herbal remedies. He had been bitten by a Mayalan pit-viper (Calloselasma rhodostoma) after trying to kill it.
The well-intentioned healer looked at the bite and, as no symptoms were showing, she sent him on his way after telling him that he had nothing to worry about.
To this day I have no idea what happened to him.
On another occasion I watched a man bludgeon a beautiful monocled cobra (Naja kaouthia) which had managed to get itself between my friend and the front door of his house. I tried to plead for them to leave it be but as I had no alternate solution they went ahead with the execution.
Verdict: the snake posed an unacceptable danger to both his family and pets.
What Could I have Done?
In both cases I could have made a difference. In the first some first aid and a trip to the Doctor would have been the right thing to do. But I lacked confidence in the face of local knowledge and had very little understanding of snakebite. I took the healer’s word for her diagnosis. Knowing what I do now – this was a very dangerous move.
In the second I could easily have relocated the snake somewhere safely. The killing was unnecessary and ironically increased the risk of a bite – although in this case the snake was not so lucky.
Fast-forward to See What Happened Next
After extensive searching I found the course that I was looking for. It was 2006 and when I enrolled in a snake handling course with Dr Tony Phelps. At that point my intention was to return to Thailand with better knowledge and the skills to make a difference.
But I decided to stay. I realised that I wanted to make snakes my life so I studied Nature Conservation to make that happen.
Over the years I got more involved in the snake world and to date I have directly made a difference to the lives hundreds of people and snakes. But the real treasure is what happens indirectly.
Snake Handling Fun for Everyone
With the right training and the right equipment just about anyone can safely relocate a snake. The indirect benefit of handling snakes becomes evident when colleagues and people who you help become interested in doing what you do. Many of the people I’ve helped went on to do snake handling courses themselves and are now also making a difference.
Indirectly, each of the snakes and people who these snake handlers help are people who I’ve helped. You could do the same.
Who is this Course For?
This course is intended for anyone over 18 who is interested in or may potentially come in contact with snakes.
Possible candidates (but not limited to) are:
- Farm Workers
- Land Managers & Staff
- Wildlife Managers & Staff
- Anyone that may regularly come across snakes
- Snake Enthusiasts!
Course Fees & Content
The price for this one day comprehensive course (excluding travel and accommodation) is R 750 pp which includes a course manual and covers the following:
- Snake Awareness and Identification
- Snakebite First Aid
- Non-venomous snake handling (mole snake)
- Venomous snake handling (boomslang, Cape cobra, puff adder)
On completion of both the practical snake handling and a written test successful attendees will be awarded with a certificate of completion.
Venue & Course Dates
Courses typically run over a weekend ( Saturday or Sunday) either at our Cape Town venue or at a venue of your own. This means that we are able to accommodate groups without the cost of transporting each person to Cape Town.
But I’m Afraid of Snakes
If you are able to draw or look at a picture of a snake then chances are you don’t have a snake phobia. We are not trained to deal with phobias, but fear can be overcome with a little exposure.
Thanks, Grant! My children will be SO impressed with their snake -shy Mum. Thanks for going a mile to help me get over a small part of my phobia – you don’t know how great this was! Have a great day. -Evanne
In my experience many people who fear snakes have had very little exposure to them. This creates a level of uncertainty and the unknown creates mystery. And because there is a degree of danger attached to this mystery it creates fear.
Getting close to snakes in a controlled environment with an experienced snake handler is one of the best ways to overcome a fear of snakes. During this course you will be gradually introduced to harmless snakes first and you are not obliged to move any quicker than what you feel comfortable with.
We pride ourselves on our patience.
As the invisible, self-created, barrier is slowly narrowed you may just find that your feelings change. There will be nerves (which is healthy) but as the fear turns into respect and understanding you will be ready to handle your first venomous snake.
The result – empowerment. That for me is the ultimate reward.
Now it’s Your Turn
As you can see there are many great benefits to snake handling courses. From overcoming fear to making a difference in the lives of both people and snakes.
And best of all – it’s fun!
And when one considers the tens of thousands that a snakebite can cost in hospital fees training your staff to avoid being bitten could be the cheaper option in the long run. And as land managers, farmers or conservation organizations it is our duty to protect the wildlife on which our ecosystems depend.
So if you think that a snake handling course is for you or your staff then it is your turn to take action!
Enter your name and email in the box provided to request a snake handling course now!