Snake Handling Course Notes
Important Information for New and Refresher Participants
The WIRES Reptile Team aims to provide safe, professional and enjoyable reptile training. This course is a blended format, consisting of an online component and a practical handling component. The online component will cover first aid, WHS, identification and rescue scenarios which will be reinforced in the practical component in addition to the handling of a variety of species.
During this course you will learn how to safely handle pythons and venomous snakes and basic first-aid for a snake bite. Our trainers have many years of experience not only in handling these animals but also in teaching people just like you to do the same.
Students will be split into a number of small groups, each with several trainers. We will be starting the handling course with pythons and then some ‘slow’ venomous snake species (usually red-bellied black snakes) to enable each of you to gain some confidence. Following that we will move on to ‘faster’ species like the eastern brown snake.
There will be an opportunity for you to provide feedback and constructive criticism of the training at the end of the course, please ask for a feedback form if you are not provided one on the day.
Please note that if the reptile team don’t have sufficient, healthy snakes available to conduct the training it may become necessary to postpone or cancel a course.
Members of any Animal Care Organisation or Essential Services (Police, Ambulance, Fire Brigade, SES etc) are welcome to enrol, but must be covered by their own organisations insurance. All current WIRES members are covered by WIRES Insurance. WIRES members who are authorised reptile handlers will already have completed a full Reptile Handling course.
What to Wear and Bring
- Suitable clothing must be worn at all times. For your safety we recommend: fully enclosed boots or shoes; long socks (not anklets); loose fitting full length jeans, work pants or equivalent (no tights or leggings); and a collared shirt with long sleeves (maximum protection for new trainees). If you are not suitably clothed you will not be allowed to handle the snakes.
- Protect yourself from the sun – wear a hat and sun block. Sunglasses may be worn, but if they are loose fitting and could fall off and distract you at a crucial moment you will be better without them.
- Unnecessary jewellery should not be worn. Please remove large rings, bangles, watches, long earrings etc.
- Refreshers must bring at least one pressure bandage and a torch with suitable illumination for indoor rescues.
- You are not required to bring your own snake bag or other handling equipment to this course, as the reptile team will provide all equipment necessary for the training.
- We will be selling hoops, bags and jiggers (hooks) if you wish to purchase equipment. Purchased equipment can only be collected at the course after a participant has been deemed competent by the Trainers. The training bags and other pieces of training equipment used during the course are the property of the reptile training team and must not be removed from the venue.
- Please ensure that no animals are brought to the course, this applies to animals in care and pets. The only animals to be present are the healthy snakes/monitors that will be used during the handling sessions and the Training Team must be made aware of every animal that will be used, prior to the course. If refresher students attend a rescue for a healthy snake or monitor in the lead up to the course please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 8977 3392 to find out if more animals are needed and if so, who can house them until the completion of the course.
- Your safety is paramount; the welfare of the animals we use comes a close second.
- Please listen to our trainers and do what they say. They have a great deal of patience and will not shout at you except for one reason – your safety. An urgent command such as ‘Drop the bag’ means just that – do it immediately - there will be time to explain later.
- Our trainers will treat you with respect and courtesy. Please treat them and other students the same way. Bad language, teasing and bullying will not be tolerated.
- Any student who persistently ignores the trainers is a danger to themselves and others and will be asked to leave the group.
- When an animal is being handled, keep your eyes on it, even when others are taking their turn to handle it. You will learn much from watching its behaviour that will help you in your turn and it is important for your own, and your fellow trainees safety, that you know where the snake is at all times. Never turn your back on a dangerous or venomous reptile.
- Smoking is not allowed at any time around the animals – if you need to smoke, please do so during the breaks. Move to the designated area, dispose of your litter responsibly and wash your hands after smoking before handling animals.
- Photography is not normally allowed during the course. If you wish to take photographs, please speak to a member of the Reptile Team and if we can we will allocate a time at the close of session.
- Mobile phones are to be turned off when handling animals. If you need to have your phone on for emergencies, please leave it with Reptile Team members who are not directly involved with the handling of reptiles and you will be notified if a call comes in.
- Once you have joined a group, please do not move around to look at what other groups are doing. Everyone will get a chance to practice with all available animals during the course.
- Should you for any reason feel uncomfortable with the style of your designated trainers, please let the Team know, and if possible we will transfer you to another group. No offence will be taken – we want you to find a trainer you are comfortable with.
- Please do not bring children to the Reptile Handling Course. All members of the public must keep a safe distance from the handling areas at all times (minimum 20 metres and behind roped-off areas where used).
- Snakes and alcohol do not mix – have an alcohol-free weekend. Snakes and drugs do not mix either. Apart from anything else, the presence of alcohol and/or drugs in the body will make it more difficult for medical staff to safely treat a snakebite if required.
- Be aware that some prescription medications have side effects that can affect your concentration and reaction times (some cold remedies, for example).
- Any student who is not fully cooperative will not be allowed to participate.
We will do everything we can to reduce risks to our students, but of course we cannot reduce the risk of injury to zero.
Pythons are non-venomous but have dozens of long, sharp, recurved teeth. A typical bite from a large python can cause you to bleed profusely due to the rows of sharp teeth. There may be some bruising but no real problems unless the teeth break off and remain in the wound. Wounds from a python need to be cleaned and monitored.
Bites from some venomous snakes can be fatal if not treated correctly. We will teach you the correct first-aid procedure. Should you be unlucky enough to be bitten by a venomous snake during the course, we will administer first-aid and take you to the nearest hospital for treatment. Keep in mind bites are often ‘dry’, that is, no venom is injected. You are surrounded by experienced people and you will survive.
Pre-existing Health Conditions
Handling fast, venomous snakes can be very exciting; adrenaline will cause your heart rate to go up and your blood pressure to rise. Therefore people with any type of heart or medical condition should consult their doctor before participating.
Students will need good eye to hand coordination. Problems with vision, coordination or reflexes may prevent you handling some species.
Snake rescues can be very physically demanding, requiring handlers to bend, run, lift objects and react quickly. If you have any physical impairments that may stop you from bending or moving quickly enough you may not be able to take part in the training. Please speak to a member of the team if you are concerned about your abilities.
In the event of a bite from a venomous snake, we need to consider not only the effects of the venom but also that of the anti-venom that may need to be administered. For this reason please consult your doctor if you:
- are, or may be, pregnant
- have a compromised immune systems
- have diabetes
- are HIV positive
- are taking corticosteroids
- are on or have had a course of chemotherapy
- have any long standing illness
Although reptiles do not produce dander like cats and dogs, contact with reptiles can aggravate people with chronic disease of the respiratory system or some skin disorders.
If you have experienced a bite from a venomous snake in the past please ensure this was noted on your registration form, and alert your trainers before the course commences.
The Reptile Team will be assessing your competency in all aspects of handling during this course. The assessment will be completed cooperatively by all members of the training team during the course, and you will be asked to sign your assessment form at the end of the training. You will also have an opportunity to discuss any concerns at this time.
The WIRES Reptile Team is committed to train individuals to be competent to rescue reptiles safely. Should the training team feel an individual is not yet able to handle reptiles in a safe and confident way, that person will be advised and encouraged to receive further training to increase their handling abilities before they can be authorised as a reptile handler.
If at the end of the day the trainers feel you are not yet competent, you may be asked to complete additional training.
There is a lot to learn and like all worthwhile skills the more you practice, the better you will get. If you feel that you have just not understood something, please feel free to request a one-on-one session with a trainer. Our trainer’s usually spot problems before you do and may take you to one side anyway – if this happens to you, please do not be embarrassed. Our trainers want you to be as safe as possible.
Tick of the items to make sure you are prepared for the course:
- Fully enclosed boots or shoes
- Long socks
- Full length loose fitting jeans or work pants (no leggings or tights)
- Long sleeved, collared shirt
- Medical conditions noted on booking form
- Accommodation organised (if applicable – accommodation available at venues for some courses)
If you have a complaint about the running of this course, or any of the trainers, please contact the Reptile Team Secretary and ask for a “Complaints Report Form” to be emailed or sent to you, once completed, please return directly to the Chairperson, Reptile Team. Please keep a copy for your records and also send one to the Reptile Team Secretary as a back up. Details of the Secretary and/or Chairperson of the Reptile Training Team can be obtained from the WIRES Administration Office.
Please be aware that should the weather become too hot or cold for the safe handling of snakes, or if there are any issues with access to the appropriate number of healthy snakes required for training, the Reptile Team may be forced for cancel the course. If WIRES cancel a course participants will have the option of a refund or booking into an alternate course on request (subject to availability). Please review WIRES course refund policy for more details.