Im looking to get venomous snakes any tips on starters and practice.
Do you have permits yet? I know most places have levels of permits that let you get some things and not others. Kinda like a venomous tier system to make sure not just anyone can get black mambas and the like. @ballornothing might be able to help.
Also in some states require a mentorship before you get these permits. It’s kind of like volunteer hours. And like you noted those permits are for specific species ( or families ) that you worked with underneath that mentorship.
Be sure that you truly want venomous, some species can kill and it’s a huge commitment and responsibility. If you get one you have a risk, very small but still a possibility in an accident, not just to your health but to anyone else in your household or neighborhood. If you are still set on one and willing to put in the work, then great, these can be very rewarding snakes.
From the basics from my reading they should be given a lock box (as a hide so they can be transported), double locking enclosure, large enclosure (you don’t want a stressed hot in a minimalist enclosure), and some choose to make it bioactive (to remove or reduce the need for cleaning).
Let me know what state you’re in and that will help a lot with what recommendations I can give.
Venomous isn’t something you want to enter into without a lot of research and I strongly suggest having some mentorship.
Understand going in, that unless you’re independently wealthy you cannot afford anti-venom out of pocket and many insurances do not cover snake bites. If you are bitten, anti-venom is not necessarily available in your area or for the species you’re working with. Native venomous are much less of an issue because at least the anti-venom is likely to be somewhere in your state. For me, the closest anti-venom is a zoo that is 2.5 hours away. If I’m bitten, they are not obligated by anything beyond their morals to provide me with that anti venom. Further, most doctors do not have any training or education on treating snake bites. Venomous bites in the US are so rare per capita, there is just no reason for the medical world to pay attention beyond the few specialists that are out there.
When you keep venomous reptiles, you are on your own in the world. Safety protocols are all you have to protect you. You cannot necessarily rely on a local hospital to save you.
I would start out by researching envenomation and venom composition. Reading bite reports and watching interviews will get you a basic understanding of what you’re up against if things go wrong. Owning and handling venomous safely requires a VERY high level of attention to detail. You need effective procedures in place to ensure safety, so get used to boring rules and processes on the front end. I suggest consuming any podcast you can that discusses venomous.
The older episodes of Snakes & Stogies frequently discuss bites and venomous handling. Phil Wolf who is one of the hosts (The Nephrurus Initiative - @knobtails.ig on IG) is a highly experienced safe handler and is responsive to safe handling questions if you reach out to him. Brent Schultz from Venom Life Gear discusses venomous and some degree of bites on every podcast he’s on and you can find an episode with him on any of the major podcasts. Anything written or spoken by Dr. Spencer Greene on the subject of bites is also gospel. He was just on the Reptile Gumbo Podcast episode number 86. I would also listen to The Herpetoculture Podcast episode titled Venom Production with Nathaniel Frank of MToxins which was released 6/11/2020. Nathaniel describes a Stiletto snake bite he took in detail and it will give you an idea just how insane an envenomation can be. The Venom Interviews and the Snake Discovery tour of MToxins are good you tube videos.
You should approach this entire endeavor with the idea that you will one day be bitten. I suggest sitting down with your immediate family as well and discussing that reality. They’ll be the ones to drive you to the ER so they should be somewhat prepared for that eventuality as well. With all that said, you don’t ever have to be bitten. If you follow all proper safety protocols and handle responsibly, you may never be bitten. Assuming Mr. Murphy keeps his pesky law in check that is.
Get some quality snake hooks of various sizes. I personally recommend 1x or 2x 22" or 24" hook, 2x 32" hooks, and 1x 36" hook, and a set of safe tongs from somewhere like Midwest tongs. Depending on what species you choose those recommendations could change but that’s a good general handling set. I buy all of my snake hooks from Venom Life Gear because they’re made by people with extensive venomous experience.
As soon as you can, get two hooks and begin practicing making them extensions of your arm. Anything you have to pick up and move that’s fairly light, use your hooks. Phil Wolf who I mentioned above suggests learning to pick up and move your TV remote without dropping it or bobbling it with dual hooks which I think is a great exercise. Use your hooks on the snakes you have to learn how to maintain control of the hook, and practice being gentle but in full control. The calmer you can keep any snake the easier it is to handle, so remember if you’re doing it right, it’s slow and boring. I would also get a venomous bucket with a screw top lid and practice moving the lid with your hooks and securing it.
You should start practicing focus right now if you own any type of snake. Without being rude to it or stressing it out, work with a non venomous snake, as if it were venomous, to practice complete focus on the animal and elimination of distractions. Nothing exists outside of you, the animal, and immediate environmental obstacles. You have to learn to laser focus on the animal’s body language, while also being aware of environmental obstacles like trip hazards, and simultaneously blocking out basically everything else. You’re using this animal to start to condition yourself to always be thoughtful of strike range and hook control. It doesn’t have to be a bitey, defensive animal for this exercise. A very important foundational skill is learning when the animal has control of the hook vs when you have control of the hook.
You need to decide which room you’ll be keeping them in and if your state has no regulations, you’ll need to come up with your own escape proof room. Inside of it, you need escape proof enclosures. For beginners I would only recommend Venom Proof Cages sliding glass cages can let small baby hots escape through the crack if you were to accidently take in a gravid snake or have a partho clutch.
You also need to prepare the room for searching for loose hots. Remove any item you can live without. Any chairs or furniture they might climb up into. Coats in such from the closet, etc. Assume it will escape and you’ll have to find it in the middle of the night.
Once you master the things I’ve mentioned here you’re still a long ways away from being prepared, these are just training exercises.
Instead of jumping straight into hots, try some species, like the false water cobra, that is not necessarily going to be dangerous (it is rear fanged). You can hone your hooking practices, locking procedures, etc on a snake that gets fairly large, can sometimes be unpredictable and flighty, and learn behaviors to be diligent about noticing when handling these types of animals.
Maybe even a kukri snake would be a good plan. Not venomous but their bite is very painful, and they are not shy about biting either. @t_h_wyman has said they can make you need stitches if I recall. They will teach you not to free handle your snake.
I just remembered another tip I forgot to mention earlier. It’s a good idea to velcro an information card to the side of the tank with information like the scientific name, common name, venom type (hemotoxic, neurotoxic, etc.), venom info (chemical compounds), effective antivenoms, ineffective antivenoms, side effects, etc. If you are ever bitten you can grab the card on the way to the hospital and it will be a huge help and could save your life.
To take it a step further, put the card in a lanyard holder and velcro that to the tank. Clip it on a lanyard and put it under your shirt so it doesn’t impede handling. Do that every time you plan to open the cage for any reason.
I like that idea better, it avoids the risk of someone forgetting to grab it or someone else not getting it.
I am learning the preparation of everything
This. Right here. Read it. Then read it again. Then read it a third time.
I cannot more strongly recommend finding a mentor and getting hours in, even if your state does not require it.
If you are looking for a potential biter, kukri are a good candidate. That said, they are a small species so they might not work as a surrogate for technique if you are interested in keeping larger things. FWC are not a bad idea for a larger surrogate.
I have a few years of venomous experience, and this is what I’ll say:
Make sure you really, REALLY care for and respect these animals enough to commit to this. Hots are NOT pets. They are a dangerous animal you have the privilege to care for. If you don’t show them respect, they will take that privilege from you faster than you can blink. Seriously, most hots can strike, bite, envenomate, and pull back before you’re capable of reacting and moving your hand.
As other people have said, a bite is always a possibility. Every time you interact with venomous animals, there is a real possibility that you will die. It might be a small chance if you take necessary precautions and are well trained, but it’s always there. One mistake is all it takes, and mistakes WILL happen with enough time, and you need to be ready to handle them when they do. It only takes one time that you reach in to change their water because you’re in a hurry and didn’t check if they were under the bowl, or one time you shut their hide box without checking if the snake is inside before reaching in to pull out a fresh shed. The latter is a mistake I made a few months ago. I wasn’t bitten, but my hand was about three inches from the head of a monocled cobra as she came flying out from under her hide at me. I got complacent and made an incredibly stupid mistake that could’ve cost me my life, but I learned from it and thankfully walked away unharmed. I might not be so lucky if it happens again. Some people aren’t lucky enough to get away unscathed the first time. Is a cantankerous, defensive, deadly animal shooting towards your face something you’re 100% sure you’re ready, willing, and capable of dealing with?
Obviously I’m not trying to scare you away from the hobby. I love my hots, there’s an enormous amount of joy I get from caring for them and getting to watch them thrive, but it’s dangerous, and it’s something that requires dedication, passion, and a constant desire to learn and improve. If you’re ready for that, then find someone experienced with hots and get some hands on training before you make your first purchase. Best of luck to you!
a lot of venomous snakes can kill you but a slight venomous snake would be the mangrove snake which won’t kill you unless you don’t get treatment for a while. they are fairly hard to get though and are quite expensive
I would not call Boiga “slightly” venomous, their venom is certainly medically significant.
Personal thing for me, but I feel using phrases like “less” or “not very” or “slight” when dealing with venomous animals is asking for trouble because it leads to complacent thinking. One of the reasons there are so many complications with copperhead bites is because of the widely spread comment that they are the least venomous species in the US. People that have been bitten remember hearing that and then decide that means they can just shake it off at home with a little Benadryl and so they refuse to seek medical treatment until worse complications begin to occur
There is a wealth of information here in this thread. This should be a sticky or something to say the least. Many thanks for the sharing of the knowledge.
Exactly this. “The most venomous snake I the world is the one that just bit you.” It’s true that some snakes are more likely to kill you than others, but people forget that you can be allergic to snake venom just like with a bee sting, and you won’t know until you’re bitten. Every bite from a venomous snake is a serious emergency, and it doesn’t matter if the one that tagged you is technically less venomous than others. It’s like saying that eating lead is fine because it’s technically less toxic than cyanide.
Thank you so much for all the information and it has come to help me make my decision to get a couple years experience with Boiga, Dendroaspis gigas, and kukri snakes. I think I have the right mentality and focuses. I will never freehandle because of the increase of dangers. I am working on getting physically ready and a little more socialy ready (Family dosent like it)
Anything venomous is a threat to your life. Even if it isn’t, treat it that way so you’re safe.
This is how I think about
It is a head with a tail. The action part of their bodies are their heads. And that head is outfitted with two hypodermic needles that contain stuff that can ruin you life, plain and simple. It is their way to get food, and not to become food. They use those needles when needed. You should have a good healthy fear of any venomous snakes ( even rear fanged). It’s your life guys, I can guarantee that no one wants to die or be sick. It is about having a healthy perspective and not growing complacent which leads to you taking risks.
- Edited for clarity
I believe that, if your family doesn’t like it, and they are living in the same house that you would be keeping the snakes, then you should not get venomous snakes. It’s not right to put their lives at risk without their consent.