How to Catch Snakes with Snake Tongs


woman using snake hooks to move rattlesnake
Good example of the double hook method, picture pulled from DoD PARC program video.

Snake hooks and tongs are an important piece of gear, especially when you are looking at removing a problem snake from your property. Or in my case more than once, when you’re terrified of snakes and need to move a nasty looking one, and your realize you don’t have the right gear.

While snake tongs are extremely helpful for dealing with large snakes who tend to be nasty, aggressive, or grumpy like a big bull snake, it’s even more important when you’re dealing with venomous snakes. Aggressive copperheads, agitated water moccasins, and big bulky rattlesnakes are just some of the big nasty snakes you may end up having to deal with depending on what part of the country you live in.

You definitely don’t want to get bit by any of those venomous snakes! That definitely leads to a bad time.

While some professional snake wranglers may use only snake hooks, we are going to focus on how to catch snakes using snake tongs as that is generally a safer method. We will still go over 1-hook and 2-hook venomous snake removal techniques, as well. These are generally the safest to0ls for the job and give you the most protection – which is crucial when dealing with potentially dangerous snakes.

Read this article for all the gear you need about wrangling venomous snakes, or use the table of contents to jump right down to the technique sections.

Important Note: We’re dealing with snakes native to the United States since that’s where 97% of our readership is from. If you’re dealing with snakes in other parts of the world you should definitely consult local experts before taking any action.

Have the Right Snake Catching Gear

The Snake Tongs and/or Snake Hooks

While similar in design or basic concept, there are some really important differences between these two types of snake catching gear. The first step is to make sure you have reliable and high quality snake tongs. This is not the type of equipment you want to cheap out on.

Good snake tongs come in multiple sizes, and it’s important to get ones that are long enough to keep you out of the striking distance of even the largest venomous snakes you are going to be dealing with. At the same time, depending on the length of your arms and upper body strength, you will also need to consider how long of a snake tong you can handle.

Keep in mind that even a little bit of weight can feel like a lot more, and put a lot of stress on the body, when it is out and away from you at the end of a 6 foot long pole. In most situations a 47-inch or 52-inch model of snake tongs will be more than enough distance without any handling issues, although for those dealing with large diamondback rattlesnakes might need to work with the 70+ inch tongs.

However, unless you have top-notch arm and shoulder strength you’ll have a hard time handling a seven foot rattlesnake with six foot tongs. That’s a lot of weight and pressure.

Whichever direction you go, make sure you have the right tongs.

Check out our Best Snake Tongs Guide

–or–

Click here for our top recommended choice from Amazon.com

Venomous Snake Buckets

You want strong hard plastic buckets to safely contain the snakes. These should not be air tight or water tight, but can be strongly and safely secured. They need to be deep enough that you’re not dueling with an angry and pissed off snake as you’re trying to move a lid into place. These should also come with lids that fit on firmly, ideally not press-on but screw-on because you don’t want your hand near the lid especially if anxious venomous snakes are eager to strike at the first sign of light. Which would be near your hand at that point.

Keep containers away from extreme heat, cold, or direct sunlight while they are holding live animals.

We recommend the Tomahawk Live Trap Bucket (Check Pricing HERE on Amazon.com) as these are specifically designed to safely hold venomous snakes and the spin on top makes it easy to rest assured that the bucket is fully secured and they’re not getting out by accident.

Snake Gaiters or Snake Chaps

You know we’re big fans of these. You should always have the proper leg and foot protection. Snake proof gaiters or snake proof chaps are great pieces of protective clothing that will help make sure you’re in good shape if things go really wrong. You don’t want to have your legs unprotected if a venomous snake gets loose and strikes at you.

The average cost of treating a venomous snake bite is over $10,000 in the United States and that’s assuming there are no allergic reactions, complications, or other recovery issues after treatment. Even with great insurance, the cost is often in the thousands of dollars that you’re still on the hook for.

Or you can spend under $300 for full leg protection and have most of the worst-case scenarios covered.

That’s even before looking at the possibility of death, bodily injury, and the severe pain that comes from even a quickly treated snake bite.

Check out our in-depth best snake gaiters review article

–or–

Buy our top choice, Snake Guardz snake gaiters, on Amazon.com right now

Hook & Tong Snake Removal Method

When looking for the best way to catch a snake with snake tongs, we recommend the hook and tong method. While snake tongs alone are capable of getting the job done in many cases, just as a snake hook can be enough all by itself in many cases, this combination often offers the best in control and safety.

When using both a hook and tong, the snake tongs should be used on the top third of the snake, towards the head of the snake. This is to control and keep you safe. The hook is then used around half way down the body or even a touch further back, and the main purpose here is to take care to properly balance the weight of the snake.

It’s important not to squeeze the tongs too hard because this can cause injury to the snake that can be life-threatening, in addition to making them angry and more agitated, increasing the chances of injury.

However, when properly done the hook and tong combination is often one of the very best out there for handling virtually any native U.S. venomous snake species.

The video at the bottom of this page shows all three of these methods in detail.

2-Hook Snake Removal Method

The 2-hook snake removal method gives a bit more control than the one hook method, especially if you are dealing with a much larger snake. This involves having one hook in each hand. The first is used about a third of the way down the snake’s body and can be used to gently encourage the snake to a position that makes it easier to get the second hook underneath it.

In this case even weight distribution is important. The first hook should be a third of the way back, with the second hook on the back third. This is safer for the large snake but it also evenly distributes the weight when moving a large snake. Ideally, you want an assistant with a spare hook and/or tongs to assist if something goes wrong or if you find yourself in need of additional support.

Take the snake over to the container, once again using the two hooks to encourage it into the hard plastic bucket or large garbage bin-type container and use the tongs to place the lid on, maintaining pressure on top, before securing it completely.

The two-hook method can also be used with smaller snakes that aren’t in the open, and thus requiring you to have more control to get them out of the area whether an open stump, wood pile, or whatever the case might be.

1-Hook Snake Removal Method

Out of these methods these are the ones we recommend the least, especially if you’re relatively new at this. However, it’s worth knowing because as this YouTube video from Midwest Snake Tongs shows, this technique can often be used with just snake tongs so you don’t even need the hook.

The same concepts behind this method will help you understand what you need to look for in order to just use the snake removal tongs to move a snake without having additional hooks to support. In fact many times if you look for a tutorial video on using snake tongs to remove snakes you’ll see it’s basically the 1-hook method but with tongs for a better grip.

There are plenty of professionals who use this method, but the snake still has plenty of movement and there are issues that can happen if the snake gets loose.

The video at the bottom of the page is a solid one from the Department of Defense on snake removal, but one line stuck out instantly while an individual was training by using the 1-hook method to move a coral snake: “Some snakes don’t stay on the hook as well as others.” Which was said before the coral snake slid right off. This is all the more reason in our minds to not use a one hook removal method.

Also from that moment in the video: Dude, put on the freaking snake chaps. Seriously.

Removing Dangerous Snakes: Common Questions

While we always recommend being geared up with plenty of snake protection and the right tools if you absolutely must do this yourself, we understand there might still be some questions regarding how to catch a snake using snake tongs or hooks.

Can I Legally Move a Snake?

This can become a gray area really quickly. If the snake you’re moving is protected under the Endangered Species Act then you need a permit in order to move them. Checking with the local DNR if you’re a civilian, or a Natural Resource Manager if you’re on a military installation, is a crucial part to getting this right.

If the snake is venomous you still may need permissions to move it or need to call in a professional as many pockets of venomous snakes are endangered, though there are rules stating that venomous snakes found on private property with children around can be shot for safety’s sake in most cases.

Ideally you can get a professional to move it, but if you have a frequent visitor you may have to do a little bit of research to see what you can actually do.

How Do I Handle Venomous Snakes with my Hands?

You don’t. We’re not trying to be overly cute or anything here, but there is absolutely no reason to do this and the catching and removal of venomous snakes should always be done with the proper tools that keep you as safe as possible through the process.

How Do Snake Tongs Work?

They are pretty self explanatory as it is a simple yet effective grip system. These are not only useful for picking up venomous snakes while keeping a safe distance from them but can also be used to pick up the lid of a bucket containing the captured snake and putting it on top, keeping you safe from the snake striking up and at the lid of the bucket.

How Do Snake Hooks Work?

The hook is designed to slide under a snake, being long enough to stay out of reach and strong enough to lift up even a relatively thick snake from around the thick part of the middle of the body. This prevents them from fully coiling up for a long strike and allows for the best amount of balance for moving the snake.

Snake hooks can be very effective, but many professionals often use them with tongs when dealing with larger venomous snakes since this can give more control. The hooks need to be around the thickest middle section of the snake before lifting for them to be used properly.

What Are the Best Snake Tongs?

There are some factor that can change the answer to this depending on a variety of things like the size of the snake, your size and upper body strength, and what you’re used to using. That being said, there are some brands that really stick out above and beyond the others. IC Clover, Fnova, and Tomahawk are the three that really stick out as being the cream of the crop out there.

That being said, there are several other brands that are also very high quality. The key is quality. If you’re going to be handling snakes, and especially venomous ones, you never want to go cheap. Once again if you want our opinion on the best ones based on research, talking to professionals, and actual testing, then check out our best snake tong review article.

What Are the Best Snake Hooks?

There are many different snake hooks out there, but in this case there seems to be one general brand that comes out at the top of everyone’s list: DocSeward. While there are mixed reviews for many of the snake hooks that are out there, no matter where you go these reptile hooks get incredibly good reviews.

Even from professional wildlife removal specialists.

Don’t cheap out, go with a high quality snake hook (or several so you can safely use the 2 hook method of snake removal). You can check out up to date pricing on the DocSeward snake hooks here on Amazon.com.

What Is the Difference Between Snake Tongs & Snake Hooks?

Snake hooks are simpler in construction. They are generally one-piece tools that are used to slide under a snake’s body and move it around as needed. The tongs have a trigger grip that controls the tongs at the end, which grip the snake. When used properly that means a firm grip makes sure the snake can’t get away without injuring it.

Snake hooks don’t keep a grip on the snake. The tongs do.

In Conclusion

There are several tried and true methods for being able to remove venomous snakes, but these are the best. Personally we’re fans of the hook & tongs combo because it is the most reliable and safe method. This is the one that offers the most control, especially if you’re dealing with a really large venomous snake.

However, these three methods show the best snake removal techniques using hooks and tongs out there. While it’s always smart to leave this to the professionals, or to get trained by them, this at least gives you the information to understand how to catch a snake with snake tongs.

Or if you’re adventurous, how to catch snakes with a snake hook (or two).

Department of Defense Removing Venomous Snakes Video

Resources of Interest

Important Legal Disclaimer

This is an informational article that is just that: information. We have given the best possible information to the best of our abilities however we are not DNR agents, we are not professional snake wranglers, and we are not legally responsible for your actions if you choose to attempt to move a snake (venomous or non-venomous) using any of the methods in this article (or any others, for that matter).  We highly recommend going to a professional whenever possible and letting them handle this. We are not legally responsible for any injuries, mishaps, or damages of any kind from actions you take revolving around snake removal.

We know this is common sense for 99.99% of ya’ll, but unfortunately we’ve gotta cover our bases.

Big Alaska Dayton

I've always loved the outdoors and have heard the call of the wild, so to speak, since a young age. Big-time camping, hiking, backpacking, and traveling enthusiast, I'm always up for another adventure or another activity that gets me away from the desk and out to enjoy the world. An Eagle Scout with an incurable case of outdoor wanderlust, this blog was a natural labor of love and personal expertise. Hope you enjoy it!

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