Snake Handling Course Notes

Important Information for New and Refresher Participants

Introduction

Welcome!

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.

Insurance

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

Ground Rules

Health Risks

We will do everything we can to reduce risks to our students, but of course we cannot reduce the risk of injury to zero.

Monitors (goannas) are some of the most dangerous animals we handle. If we are lucky enough to have a monitor available for a handling course we will explain why.
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.

Assessment

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.

Checklist

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
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Torch
  • Medical conditions noted on booking form
  • Accommodation organised (if applicable – accommodation available at venues for some courses)

Complaints 

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.

Cancellations

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.