Kris Yanez takes a stab at removing a rattlesnake.
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***Editor's Note: KIDS please consult with an adult before attempting to handle any venomous or dangerous animals. Dr. Cecil R. Schwalbe is a professional and supervised the demonstration in a controlled environment. No snakes, students or adults were harmed during this demonstration. Read more about Dr. Schwalbe in this 2013 feature from Wick Communications: Snakes get a bad rap.**

This is BONUS How-To this week for safely removing RATTLESNAKES from your campsite, backyard, frontyard — or, in some people's cases, your toilet! 

Safely Snake Handling

Dr. Cecil R. Schwalbe, an ecologist Emeritus for the U.S. Geological Survey and affiliate professor at the University of Arizona, led a workshop on safely removing rattlesnakes from campsites.


  • 30-gallon trashcan
  • Snake tongs (You can buy some sturdy, but cheap ones online)

HISSSS!!!…Yikes! In Arizona, hotter months increase the chances of slithering into a scary situation.

Summer in the desert here. It is hot and is home to critters that are dusting off themselves after having been dormant during our "colder weather." Rattlesnakes are awake and around us. They can deliver a rather painful bite, but you can safely remove them from your area without needing to kill them!

Dr. Cecil R. Schwalbe, the first ever herpetologist for the Arizona Fish and Game department, fights through stigma using reptile education and safety training.  Caution drives our fear, culturally our family or friends have warned us to steer clear of these cold-blooded creatures, according to Schwalbe. But, he said, through familiarity and interacting with snakes, it is then that can we too learn to not be afraid.

I took my turn at relocating the rattlesnake too. The idea is scarier than actually doing it!

Relocating a Rattler

In the event that you are faced with a scaley visitor, Schwalbe gives tips on how to properly handle and remove a rattlesnake without killing the apex predator.

Remember, remain calm can help keep your wits about you. Remember (although, it probably won't matter to you in the moment) the snake is more afraid of you than you are of it! 

Once identifying the snake’s location grab a pair of trusty snake tongs (a must for desert dwellers!)

Move slowly, but also confidently. You want to be able to grab the snake firmly, but not too tight to kill.

Visualize a direct path to your open receptable — Schwalbe highly recommends a 30-gallon trashcan for this task.

Give yourself a proper estimate of the snake's size and double that length for the space you want to give between you and the snake.

Grip the snake, using the tongs, firmly around the middle of the snake’s body, lifting slowly, extending and keeping the snake at at least at arm’s length.

Move slowly with intent toward the open receptable, be sure to stay clear of any bystanders.

Once at your receptacle, slowly lower the snake and release only once the tongs reach the bottom of the bin — do not forget that rattlesnakes can strike up to half the length of their bodies. 

Place the lid on the receptable, for safety, and then you may relocate or wait for animal control to remove the animal.

Voila! Now you can become your own snake handler without needing to always have to call the professionals!

But remember, as Schwalbe says, "Safety first!"


Video produced by Amber Soland/The Chronicle, a Dow Jones Diversity Workshop publication.

**This Workshop was done as part of Bear Essential News' media sponsorship of the Dow Jones Diversity in Journalism Workshop at the University of Arizona School of Jounalism.** 



Kristopher Yanez is the proud father of 1-year-old daughter Kennedy, a journalism student at Pima Community College and is also the first-ever Bear Essential News Summer Apprentice. When Yanez is not doing school work, he is off doing daddy duties for young Kennedy.