Snake Relocation

“Hey!  There’s a rattlesnake out here!”  Yeah……..sure, I thought.  Having just concluded a reptile presentation for some Yuma 4th graders visiting Imperial National Wildlife Refuge, I knew that they were thinking snake thoughts.  And one of our snakes I had shown them could easily be mistaken for a rattlesnake.

But when I emerged from the visitor center to check it out, to my amazement — and their satisfaction — the reptile under the creosote bush was, indeed, a four foot western diamondback rattlesnake.  This desert dweller was content to remain coiled in the bush’s cool shade.  However, since that particular creosote was a scant 25 feet from tables full of 10-year-olds, I decided to remove the danger from an otherwise comfortable picnic of peanut butter sandwiches, apples, and a cookie.

Proper Equipment

I searched for my snake tongs, snake hook, and a large plastic trash can with a lid.  Then, while teachers kept the students at a safe distance, I approached the snake to relocate it for the safety of Refuge visitors, as well as for the snake’s safety.

Rattlesnake Relocation

With other ideas, however, the snake slithered down the hill toward the picnic tables, increasing the concern for safety and the possibility of evacuation of the picnic area if we lost visual contact.  Fortunately, my persistence paid off and I was able to control the rattler with the snake hook and place it gently into the trash can.  The danger removed, I placed the container in the back of a pickup to await transfer to its new home.

New Home

The new home was not all that far from where the pit viper was found, but far enough to keep it a safe distance.  Some people would be quick to say, “Let’s take it a few miles from here and be done with it.”  Studies have shown, however, that most snakes relocated more than a mile or two from their capture point have less than a 50% chance for survival, mainly due to not knowing the new territory and its hunting grounds.

To hunt, rattlesnakes coil beside a rodent trail and pick off rats and mice that travel a common route.  That’s one of the reasons these snakes have been so successful for millions of years.  On the other hand, their look-alike cousins, gopher snakes (also called bullsnakes) actively hunt their prey by poking into holes, burrows, and even birds’ nests.

As I relocated the rattlesnake, at no time did it act aggressively.  Its main interest was fleeing the area after being discovered.  The minute it was released from the trash can, it made a beeline into a nearby rock pile, away from human contact.

Other Opportunities

This was only one of the opportunities I’ve had to relocate rattlesnakes at the Refuge.  When visitors report a snake or when locals call to ask to have one removed from their property, I am more than willing to respond.  I appreciate their concern for the welfare of the snake as much as their own.

3 Responses to Snake Relocation

  1. Bryan Hughes March 22, 2010 at 11:45 am #

    Good article, and thank you for moving it.

  2. ethel hogg April 2, 2018 at 4:38 pm #

    I have a den of blacksnakes in my house. My husband need to relocate them – how far should he take them so they do not return. Thanks for your response.

    • Chuck April 2, 2018 at 10:12 pm #

      Hello Ethel,

      You didn’t say exactly where you live, but it appears you’re in northern MD. The weather outside is not conductive to snakes or other reptiles, but with the warming that should happen soon snakes will begin appearing and perhaps leaving your house. Not sure if the blacksnakes you have in the house are adults living together for the winter or newly hatched offspring. I’m thinking as the weather warms, they may leave “home” on their own. But if you absolutely need them gone, I’d recommend that you try to wait for a sunny day to make the transfer. As I mentioned in our article, anything more than a mile from the point of capture could prove to be a challenge to survival to the snakes. However, my feelings are that if you move them within a mile, hopefully in a wooded area or near a waterway, they most likely wouldn’t return to your house. And, I’m wondering how they got into your house….are they in a basement, is is an older house with many holes/cracks in the construction for their entrances? Have you seen any mice or mice droppings inside the house….they would be a real snake magnet. If you had a mouse problem, removing them (mice) usually would mean the snakes would not return due to an abundance of food outside where they belong. If you do decide to relocate the blacksnakes, I suggest that you would use a plastic garbage can and broom to urge them into that. Then cover the top, take can and snakes outside and release at that point. I appreciate your taking the time to ask an important question and hope that both you and the snakes will succeed in your respective habitats! Thanks again for writing!

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