Culling Snakes

Does anyone have experience or could share thier own technique with culling a snake? It’s something I think about with a heavy heart and understand the necessity of knowing how to and being comfortable with doing. I’ve read that the way to do it is basically, quickly smash the head. Also that freezing or seperating the head from the body is not suggested. I’ve thought that some type of press might be useful as opposed to two bricks. Is this even the best technique?

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I can’t remember what one of our members here had to go through culling some snakes recently, but this video is one that I use as reference whenever I have to do it.

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I had to unfortunately cull a hatchling that had a ruptured belly. I put the head in a ziplock bag, then used a hammer to give it a quick whack.
I probably could have used the palm of my hand as well, but at the time I didn’t think of that.

I hope I won’t have to do anything like that anytime again soon, it’s rather saddening and heartbreaking for me.

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Thank you.

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While it’s something I hope I never have to do, in an emergency I plan on using isoflurane to euthanize

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Well I thankfully only had to cull less than a handful of animals but I euthanized them with blunt force to the head and made sure to do it forcefully enough to where one strike would instantly kill it. I have heard some people use Co2 but the thing is that it wont kill a snake, especially not right away and best case scenario is that it would cause brain damage first and then kill it. Doesn’t sound like a peaceful way to go if you ask me. Another local breeder told me they use a small pellet gun which kills the snake instantaneously so I have thought about getting one if I would ever have to cull again. I also know I will get flak for the previous sentence so I apologize if anyone did not like the part about the pellet gun but the thing people forget is that it is sometimes really hard as a breeder to have to kill not only a baby snake but one that you produced. At least with a pellet gun all you have to do is point and pull.

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I have some very extreme feelings about this, but I’m worried others might interpret my strong feelings as attacks. Should I chime in, or is it best to sit this one out?

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I’d say share your thoughts. As long as you don’t target anyone specifically, it should be fine.

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Chime in Marla.

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(Just in case someone reading this doesn’t know, I am a retired dog/cat veterinarian, so I am very biased.)

Reptile euthanasia is pretty heavily debated in the veterinary field, in large part because exotics vet med is a newer field, and there’s much less legit research data available to consult. Before I get into my personal opinion, here’s the definitive reference (for 2020):

The AVMA guidelines for animal euthanasia- reptiles on page 92

Officially, the recommendations there are those that have been agreed upon by the highest level of professionals- by veterinarians, and intended for veterinarians to use. When discussion of animal euthanasia comes up, the AVMA should always be consulted.

The laws surrounding animal euthanasia vary a lot, so I am stating here that I am not advocating/recommending any given procedure or product, and am merely sharing my thoughts. Officially, I only endorse licensed veterinarians or veterinary staff performing euthanasia in accordance with all applicable law.

In my experience, amphibian and reptile euthanasia are very very different. Amphibians absorb things administered topically, so there are additional tools available. For example, I used Oragel to sedate the axolotls in my undergrad thesis, then brought them out of anesthesia by placing them in a new bowl, with water with no drug in it.

Reptiles pose many metabolic issues, when it comes to traditional euthanasia methods in the veterinary setting. There are many horror stories of pentobarbital being given by a well-menaing dog/cat vet, the ‘body’ being returned to the grieving owner, and the animal wakes up half-way through their drive home.

My personal opinion is that no reptile should ever be placed in a freezer until it is 100% no-doubt dead (using the primary and then secondary/confirmation method). If placed in a freezing environment, reptiles maintain consciousness past the point of crystals forming in their blood. It is hypothesized that the pain must be unimaginable.

I have seen many methods of reptile euthanasia in practice. My ‘favorite’ is when an animal can be sedated heavily (to the point of anesthesia), letting the owner say goodbye, prior to pentobarbital administration. An alternative is to gas an animal down with iso or sevo, then use an ultrasound to visualize the heart for guidance as you do a heart stick with pentobarbital. ( @chesterhf - Using isofulourane alone will not kill a reptile, just anesthetize it. ) For all ‘ideal methods,’ it’s 2 step- first sedate heavily to the point of unconsciousness, then give the lethal drug. (Again, ‘ideally,’ there would also be the secondary/confirmation method, but this isn’t always used.)

However, culling neonates is a whole different thing, in a way. When it comes to euthanizing neonates that are clearly suffering (so a ride to the vet is out of the question), one thing you must never do (just as with any reptile) you must never use decapitation as the sole method- reptiles will remain conscious for quite some time afterward if they aren’t pithed. Decapitation is only ok as the secondary/confirmatory method.

In the emergency scenario, there are a bunch of things a non-vet could do. But, yeah, smashing the entire head, in one massive blow (as in obliterating between bricks) would be acceptable. I would think a pellet gun would be too small and imprecise to work- the brain may not be where you think it is (many well-intentioned, ignorant people try to euthanize their livestock by shooting them ‘right between the eyes,’ but that’s not where their brain is, so you get pretty horrific scenarios that result). If you do use a weapon, you should look while you do it, to make sure your aim is good- think of it as a gift to the animal you are euthanizing.

But here’s another scenario- let’s say you have a neonate that clearly has something wrong with it, is unquestionably not breeding material, but it’s not clear how viable it is as a pet. In these situations, if possible, that is where I recommend a herp vet. Sometimes they can tell conditions just with a glance- they can give you better info about the potential for it to grow into a healthy pet. Every now and then, they might come up with a fix for a problem. And, if necessary, they can euthanize in a way that is most likely more humane than most breeders are able to administer, because they don’t have the tools (controlled drugs).

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That was a very well worded and in depth description of proper culling/euthanasia procedures.

I can’t agree with that statement enough.
I’m a part time shooting instructor. You never never NEVER take your eye off anything you intend to shoot. The slightest movement( which can happen even as easily as squeezing the trigger) can make your aim misplaced and that usually results in a wounded animal. Which is then a worse place that it was at currently. Just like you never point a weapon at anything you don’t intend to kill, you never take your eye off your target. Safe and proper gun handling 101.

I would even advocate further to say if you have to look away while culling or euthanizing your hatchlings, you shouldn’t be breeding.
I understand it’s not something any of us take joy in doing, but when you do it you are helping that animal to not live a life in pain. The least they deserve is your respect to witness their death, even if it doesn’t come by your hand. If you’re going to witness their birth or hatching, you too should be prepared to witness their death.

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Aww, thanks! I tried my best to try and think outside my own perspective.

The issue of owner presence during euthanasia is an interesting one (it parallels the issue of private versus general cremation versus burial). I used to think it was horrific that anyone wouldn’t want to be there, but my mindset has changed. Some people simply get hysterical. In those situations, I’m glad when they opt ‘not present,’ because it distresses the animal being euthanized. Issues also arise with children involved, especially children with developmental disabilities.

I don’t really have a problem with the idea of an owner not wanting to view the culling of their neonates, with the caveat that they make other arrangements humanely and immediately. For example, if I went to a friend’s house to hang out, but she discovered a crippled hatchling then and there, and then asked me to perform the euthanasia, I think that’s fine. Because the alternative arrangements were immediate, and the person performing the procedure was qualified.

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I understand that for sure. I’m not saying anything against people who react that way to euthanasia/culling. That’s completely understandable and valid as everyone looks through a different eye.
But I’ve always felt that if you’re going to breed and create life which may have not been created without you, you in turn should deal with the misfortune of having to take that life(as long as you know how to properly do so). Not everyone shares my view on that and there is nothing wrong with them doing so, just the way I was raised and taught.

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Aspedites. Or Drymarchon. Or a large getula

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I know you have already responded but in the future don’t ever feel like you shouldn’t respond or that people don’t want you to. Your opinions and information are very valued on here and I am glad you are a part of this community!

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I agree one thousand percent with what the two of you have said. All I meant by saying you didn’t have to look if you don’t want to was my attempt to try to prevent anyone getting mad or offended in anyway. But that attempt still failed because I woke up to 3 new messages telling me off lol.

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Yeah I wasn’t sure this would be a subject that would be acceptable. It has everything to do with what we do but it’s not pretty. I was worried it would get banned and people wouldn’t want to talk about this type of thing.

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The topic has come up in other post but never in a post all by itself. I think its completely acceptable for you to ask and bring up this topic because it will be inevitable if you breed long enough. It is just what comes with breeding snakes.

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Nothing about this topic violates the guidelines of this site, so you had nothing to fear there.

How some people may choose to react to a topic like this might violate the guidelines, but that is true of any post on this board. And if someone reacts inappropriately… That is why we have Mods/Admin :grin: :+1:t4:

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This really is a touchy subject, to the point that I was uncomfortable reading the posts. Honestly, in this animal kingdom we love, this situation is very real, but I personally prefer to take the approach that nature most likely would, by offering euthanasia in the form of nutrition to another animal. If at all possible, anyway. A friend with a large turtle, a cobra, a kingsnake, the list goes on. That one animal could contribute to the life of another is at least a positive outcome from a sad situation.

This may not always be possible for everyone, but I would strive for it whenever necessary.

To each their own. The circle of life isn’t always pretty, but it works efficiently.

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