keeping venomous snakes

Keeping venomous snakes – A Guide To Keeping Deadly Snakes as Pets

America, and indeed the rest of the world has some deadly snakes. Venomous snakes are aggressive. They have potent venom, and a number of deaths have been attributed to their bites. Venomous snakes rarely bite humans, but when we intrude into their territory, they may strike back.

Keeping venomous snakes

The private possession of dangerous snakes is popular, and while many US states ban private ownership of venomous snakes, Florida doesn’t. They are however looking to tighten the rules surrounding possession of these reptiles. Many believe that venomous snakes post dangers to the community as well as to emergency responders.

There are many snake owners who don’t really understand all the ins and outs of handling- and taking care of them. They don’t know that because of the dangers with some animals, some states simply prohibit keeping them all together, while others restrict possession to certain species.

It is important to note that keeping venomous snakes in your particular state may not be legit. Most states has some kind of permit or license required to possess specific animals. Snakes are wildlife, and in Texas, if they are native to the environment, they are not allowed to be owned. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, but these animals require appropriate permits.

Ensuring the Future of Snakes

It is important to do some research about capturing or killing a snake. The answer to keeping a venomous snake in the USA is not as simple as you’d like. In many states, more snakes are being added to the list of endangered animals threatened by human intervention.

People wanting to keep venomous snakes often get angry at the laws. They don’t realize the laws are there to ensure the future of the snakes. Their very existence is maintained because people can’t just catch, buy or own reptiles as they please.

Examples of Venomous Snakes

The Black Diamond Rattlesnake has several different subspecies and their toxic venom attacks nerve endings. This means you’ll need a higher dose of antivenom for treatment. The copperhead is responsible for the most bites of any snake. This isn’t because it is more aggressive, but because the snake freezes when threatened as opposed to slithering away. Step on a Copperhead, and you’re likely to be bitten.

Even the least deadly venomous snakes such as the Copperhead can cause serious reactions from just one bite. What gives these snakes a bad name is that many inexperienced people are able to obtain these reptiles. They are readily available in states where they are legal.


Copperhead Snake

In North America, the Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake is the largest and most venomous snake, It has the largest fangs among the Rattlesnake species with potent venom. The snake’s bite has a mortality rate as high as 30%.

Approximately 10,000 venomous snakebites occur in the United States each year. Some of these bites are from snakes kept as pets. Many fatalities are also reported each year. In June 2018, 70-year-old golfer, Lawrence Walters was bitten by a Rattlesnake on the ankle. He was playing golf at Spearfish, South Dakota. CPR was performed at the clubhouse but he was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Most snakebites occur between April and October. This is when the weather is warmer and outdoor activities are popular.

With their potential to bite and kill, why do people keep venomous snakes as pets?

  • Some people breed them to make money, selling them to those who need them.
  • The demand to own an unusual pet feeds the supply.
  • Some people keep these snakes for the venom they produce.
    Some people just want to impress by having an exotic pet, and a dangerous one at that.
  • Venomous snakes are undemanding, fairly low maintenance pets.

Handling Venomous Snakes

Handling venomous snakes can be dangerous. Keeping a venomous snake is totally different from keeping a ball python or a corn snake. Certainly, unless you’re a trained venom extractor, you shouldn’t be picking up a snake with your hands. Even herpetologists scoop specimens up with a social snake hook. The safety of both handler and snake is a top priority at all times. Handle snakes correctly to reduce injuries.

Tips for ‘Working’ with Your Snake

  • Look at your pet snake and understand the serpent’s behavior so you’re guided on how to handle it.
  • It’s a good idea to always have someone close by when handling venomous snakes.
  • The idea is to handle venomous snakes as little as possible – only when you really need to.
  • Always wash your hands after handling snakes.
  • Proper snake handling equipment is absolutely necessary for venomous snakes.

Those who want to show off and insist on using their bare hands are just asking for trouble. The only time holding a snake with the hands is accepted is for milking.


The professional snake handler holds the back of the snake’s head with the thumb and index finger. Immobilizing the snakes head, the handler puts their fingers on the venom glands. The handler forces the snake’s mouth open, pushing its fangs through a latex membrane stretched over the snake milking jar.

When handling venomous snakes, backup is always a wise strategy. No matter how skilled a snake handler, you may require the services of 911 and anti-venom.Whether you handle deadly snakes for pleasure or for a living, caution is key.

Snake handlers often deal with venomous snakes that could bite them. If a handler knows that he or she will be working with a particular type of venomous snake, they should keep antivenom available. If bitten, the antivenom can be injected immediately into the bloodstream to counteract the venom.

Handling Tools

Watch any snake program on TV and you’ll quickly discover that the universal tool for handling venomous snakes is the snake hook. This is a pole of various lengths with a 90° angle hook. The end is rounded to prevent injury to the snake. animal and the top should have a rubber or wooden handle for optimum control. Any snake keeper should have an assortment of snake hooks to accommodate any size of the snake. Popular lengths are usually 12-16″ hooks.

Things You’ll Need to Own a Venomous Snake

Snake tongs and hooks keep venomous snakes out of strike range while moving them or displaying them. This is a grasping device to restrain large, aggressive snakes. The tongs can be roughly 24-60″ long. The tongs come with a pistol-type grip and lever as well as a couple of 6″ fingers at the bottom end. These are connected to the long rod and clamp onto the snake.

Snake Hook by DocSteward

The Copperhead Series brings snake owners a rugged 33’’ hook. Crafted in the USA, the hook is made from materials such as copper and stainless steel. The hook has a rubber grip and is lightweight. Two options are available – Standard and Max.

The Standard is ideal for working with smaller snakes in a captive environment while the Max design works well for larger snakes.

Allglass Terrarium by Exo Terra

Different reptiles have different needs and the terrarium you buy or build will need to accommodate the type of snake you want. Some venomous snakes can grow quite large. Snakes like different areas to hide, sun, swim and cool down in. Choose a terrarium in keeping with the size your snake is or will become. Make sure your enclosure is totally escape proof.

The nice aspect with a terrarium from Exo Terra is that is comes fully assembled right out of the box. It has a raised waterproof bottom frame and you can fit a substrate heater. This enclosure has been designed by European herpetologists. There are 12 different sizes which ensure an excellent environment for your snake.

The large, tall one measures  36”x 18”x 24” The dual front opening doors allow for easy access. A specially designed lock is an additional safety measure against snakes with escape on their minds. Full-screen top ventilation completely removable and encourages UVB and infrared penetration. Five closable wire inlets mean you can install water features, heating, sensors etc.

Reptile Heating Pad by Sudotack

These are fantastic tools for providing heat to your snake enclosure. The heating pad conducts heat to the enclosure floor and substrate. This energy-efficient glass terrarium heater comes with UL certification to guarantee safety and quality. Comes with US standard plug and voltage – no need for an extra adapter. The pad is perfect for tropical- and desert loving reptiles and measures 8’’x 6’’. The pad comes with adhestive mounting and you can op to install it underneath or on the side of the terrarium.

Safety Goggles by Uvex

These trendy Anti-Fog/Anti-Scratch coated goggles ensure clear vision in many different work environments. The goggles are made in the USA. Over-the-Glass design means the eyewear fits comfortably over your prescription eyewear. The protective goggles protect your eyes from chemical splashes, airborne particles, dust, and impacts. The soft elastomer body flexes and conforms to the shape of your face ensuring a gap free fit. The goggles come with an adjustable headband. Available snap-on-lens replacement, allowing for multiple tints.

Bulb Light/Lamp by Evergreen Pet Supplies

Reptiles know how much heat and light they need and captive snakes need suitable heat, light, basking areas, and UVB gradients just like they would in the wild. This lamp from Evergreen produces UVA and UVB light and heat, mimicking sunlight.

Excellent Daylight bulb for your snake. The mercury vapor bulb will provide your venomous snake with warmth as well as vitamin production. Ideal for snakes and compatible with all enclosures. This 100-watt reptile light has been tested for quality and completely self-ballasted.

How to get a Venomous Snake Permit

Each American state has different laws regarding exotic pets. In some states, you can have a pet snake while other places you can’t. Many states have cryptic rules regarding exotic animals as pets.

Some states at least list which species are legal and which aren’t. Many states require permits that are all but impossible to obtain and which aren’t distributed to ordinary people just looking to keep an interesting pet.

In Texas, for instance, permits will be available from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.  You can also request that a copy is sent to you through the mail. Should you have any questions regarding these permits or the application process, you may email [email protected] In Maryland for instance there, applying for a permit requires a $10.00 annual fee. The license in this region is valid from the date of issue till December 31.

Owning a Venomous Snake


 The State of Michigan is known for its unspoiled nature. It has the nation’s longest freshwater coastline, huge lakes, sandstone cliffs, a marine sanctuary, and state parks. The snakes of Michigan are found in these different landscapes – woodlands, grasslands, desert-like areas, and marshes.

There are some 18 species of snakes found in Michigan, playing an important role in the state’s ecosystems. The Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake is the only venomous snake in the state of Michigan. It prefers wetland habitats. The snakes can reach a little more than 3 feet and they have a rattle on the tail. These snakes are shy and try to avoid humans.

Michigan’s venomous snake receives federal protection as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The shy, non-aggressive, reclusive rattler is listed as threatened and endangered in every state in which it lives. It is often killed when encountered. People recoil at the fangs and rattling tail as it tries to protect itself.


Owning venomous snakes in Pennsylvania can be confusing. Pennsylvania is notorious for having complicated requirements for keeping exotic pets. Their hard-to-get exotic wildlife possession permit comes with a 2-year hands-on experience requirement from an approved facility for the specific species requested.  The Pennsylvania Game Commission provides some conflicting information on what you need to do to be legal with snakes and other exotic pets.

Pennsylvania regulates exotic pets, and nearly all exotic animals are illegal without a permit. Not only is it illegal to bring exotic creatures into the state of Pennsylvania without the proper permits, just traveling through the state can get your exotic pets confiscated.

There are three venomous Rattlesnake species native to Pennsylvania –  Timber-, Eastern Massasauga- and the Northern Copperhead Rattlesnakes. All three are pit vipers. Officials believe people should have permits for animals native to the state too. The Pennsylvania Game Commission handles the distribution of these permits.

If you want to get a permit for a native species, you can, but then you also need to meet the 2-year experience requirements. Also, the facility where you get your experience needs to submit a letter detailing your experience. The snake cage must be approved according to provided specifications. Once approved, a  permit is granted.


As far as other states are concerned, to legally keep venomous snakes in California you need to apply to the department of fish and wildlife for a permit. California has some strict laws on owning animals. They have a detailed list of animals that can’t be kept as pets. Some of these animals would pose threats to native wildlife or maybe they’re not domesticated and should be kept wild.

All native reptiles in California are protected under California Fish and Game laws and may not be taken. There are several species of rattlesnakes in California which aren’t considered endangered and which California residents can take in a legal manner without a permit.


Australia has some seriously venomous snakes. The Land Down Under actually has more venomous snakes than nonvenomous snakes. One of these is the Eastern Brown snake. Extremely venomous, the snake can grow to about 2 meters in length. They are fast and agile and can fit into the tightest spot when trying to hide.

The Eastern Brown raises the front part of its body into an ‘S’ shape ready to strike forward. The snake’s venom contains powerful neurotoxins and blood coagulants. No other snake in Australia has been responsible for more human deaths than this snake.

It is because of dangerous snakes such as the Eastern Brown and the Taipan as to why the country has a venom research and production facility. One of the other most venomous snakes in Australia and indeed in the world is the Inland Taipan. It grows to be about 2 meters long. Although extremely venomous, this serpent is shy and reclusive. Instead of striking out at human beings, it prefers to escape.


Keeping venomous snakes Australia is looked upon as a privilege and not a right. The keeping of reptiles is regulated differently in the different states, and laws can change. Licenses need to be applied for before a reptile is obtained. Reptiles have to be acquired from a legitimate source. It is legal to privately own an Inland Taipan in Australia – the pet owner just has to have the highest venomous class reptile license.

In Australia, anyone wanting to keep a venomous snake in captivity must hold a Specialist Keep and Sell Permit. Venomous snakes are classed as ‘Specialist Animals’ and they can only be acquired legally.  Venomous snakes are protected and a permit is required to take them from the wild. Anyone applying for a permit to keep and sell a venomous snake must show that they have the means and experience to safely and properly care for the snake.

There’s an Illegal Trade Happening Online

You need to find out what your state’s exotic pet laws are. You need a permit to own a deadly serpent in many states, while in others you don’t. A little bit of research will tell you that there are people who could care less about permits and laws. Venomous snakes are being traded online. Sellers violate conservation laws when selling venomous snakes.

The Internet has many ads offering to sell the likes of cobras and rattlesnakes. Most sellers act responsibly and ask for proof of permits, but others could care less. There are sellers who sell their venomous snakes with no questions asked. The people who buy these snakes have no permits and no experience on how to handle the venomous snakes they buy.

When you start researching permits for keeping venomous snakes, it may seem that the United States particularly doesn’t favor people keeping venomous reptiles. I suppose you could say they’re being careful with good reason. The news often reports on reptile escapes and bites, not to mention legal violations. Incidents like these have unfortunately negatively affected keeping reptiles as a hobby. Many states now brought in new laws regulating the possession of venomous reptiles.

If you’re uncertain about the laws in your state, most states have rules available online. An Internet search on your state and the words ‘permits for keeping venomous snakes’ will lead you to some information on permits and legislative laws.

Sources for information –

  • Your state’s Department of Natural Resources
  • The nongame division of the Department of Fish and Game


Reptile keeping is a popular and fascinating hobby.  To enjoy responsible keeping- and perhaps breeding of venomous reptiles is it important to do it legally. You don’t want to conduct your hobby under a shroud of nervousness because of unlawful conduct.

Laws and permits are in place for the safety and wellbeing of snakes and their owners. Safe snake handling is an acquired skill and it requires knowing everything about snakes.

Have doubts about how to care for a venomous snake? Contact one of the responsible breeders or vendors of the particular reptile you’re interested in keeping. If you need help with the permits and laws in your state and area, contact the Department of Natural Resources or Fish and Game.

You find snakes abandoned because people didn’t realize what they were taking on. Some of these snakes turned out to have nasty temperaments or they turned out to be far larger and need more space.

Before capturing or buying a venomous snake, do your research. Snakes are fascinating, convenient, low maintenance pets suited for people with busy lifestyles. When you’re knowledgeable about the habits of a venomous snake, allowing one into your home can bring a lot of happiness. You may feel that your hunt for an extraordinary pet is at last over.


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