What To Do When Encountering A Snake Unexpectedly


For those of us who are lucky enough to live in places where we have encounters with wildlife, here are a few do’s and don’ts for when you come across a snake!

Indoor Encounter

Here are a few tips for when you encounter a snake in your house. Do not try and be a hero, you could end up becoming a victim! Safety is the watchword here.

Some Don’ts

  • Don’t panic!
  • Don’t try and catch the snake
  • DO NOT try to guess whether the snake is venomous or not
  • Don’t approach the snake

Some Do’s

  • Clear people and pets from the room
  • Try to keep an eye on the snake so you can give it’s location to the snake catcher
  • If you don’t want to keep an eye on the snake, close the door of the room and block the gap under the door with a towel
  • Call a snake removal expert (if you are in the Johannesburg, South Africa area check our list of snake removal experts)


Encountering a snake in the outdoors is a little less distressing than finding one in your house, but still may pose a possible safety issue for pets and children or passers by. If you are in a wilderness area, the best option is to just leave the snake alone and it will move off of its own accord. If however the snake is in your yard or a public place, here are a few tips.

Some Don’ts

  • Don’t antagonise the snake by poking it with a stick
  • Don’t try to catch the snake yourself
  • Don’t try and kill the snake
  • Don’t try and pick the snake up, even if it looks dead – some snakes feign death when threatened

Some Do’s

  • Do clear people and pets from the area
  • Call a snake catcher to remove the snake
  • If the snake is not moving and is a fat bodied snake, you can try and place a large plastic container, such as a bucket over the snake and then place something heavy such as a brick, on top of the bucket. This will contain the snake till a snake catcher arrives
  • If the snake is not contained, keep an eye on the snake so you can point out it’s location to the snake catcher

What to do if someone is bitten

If you are unsure of what species of snake has bitten the person, you cannot take any chances. The good news is that modern anti-venoms are effective and have reduced the mortality rate from venomous snake bites. Another consideration is that snakes have control of the amount of venom that they inject and in some cases will inject no venom at all (referred to as a dry bite).  Here are some tips in the event of a bite.

Some Do’s

  • Keep the person calm
  • Immobilise the limb
  • If you can, try and take a photo of the snake with your mobile phone for identification -but don’t get bitten yourself trying to do this
  • Transport the person to a medical facility
  • Once the emergency is over, call a snake removal expert to remove the snake

Some Don’ts

  • DO NOT apply a tourniquet
  • Do not try to cut the wound and suck the venom out (this only works in cowboy movies!)
  • Do not try to kill the snake.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and is not intended to be medical advice. Dealing with snakes is always and unpredictable event, and each situation needs to be dealt with according to it’s unique circumstances. Snake rescuers are trained and have experience in dealing with these animals and are your best resource for dealing with an unwanted reptile guest on your property!