Handling Snake Standards


As bad as their bite?

Whistle blower has been given information from a variety of persons regarding concerns for the safety of those being trained as well as the welfare of the animals being used at WIRES reptile handling courses. 

Native venomous wild snakes are caught for use in training and are continuously chased and handled by amateur course participants over a long period of time. This has to be distressing and stressful for the animals.

Go to topGo straight to commentsAdd a commentIt has been reported that the same snakes were used for training at each of the courses during the entire season in 2010. In 2011 there will be 6 training courses over 2 months.

It has been observed that the regard for the welfare of snakes at these training courses is poor. On one occasion a number of snakes died due to heat exhaustion and dehydration. It is also alleged that many others are injured during the training and require months of rehabilitation before release. 

ReformWIRES has been notified that last weekend at a reptile handling course held at Mitchell Park in western Sydney an Eastern Brown snake from Dubbo escaped and could not be found despite an extensive search! A worrying situation for the snake and local residents; a troubling incident also because some of these courses are run in the grounds of primary schools on occasions. Has it happened before? Can it happen again?

Is it standard practice for the reptile management team trainers to bring pet snakes and lizards to training sessions? Is it true that some of the snakes brought to the courses are illegal in Australia? Is it appropriate to kiss and cuddle these pets in front of the participants as has been reported to reformWIRES? 

Were the reptiles kept in a hot van while not being used?

Concerns were also expressed for the trainer who had problems moving about and was obviously a lot slower than the snakes. Some reports making their way to reformWIRES claim the new van driver was bitten by a brown snake but an ambulance was not called for her. Others claim she was simply exhausted but had complained of symptoms similar to invenomation, and as a precaution she was taken to hospital. Did a trainer actually get bitten or did the trainer have a health problem?

These are some of the questions raised.

Is it time to find a better way to train snake handlers, or is it simply poor practice that is the problem? Are the standards currently used good enough?


# WIRES are not legally permitted to remove snakes, period.StrikerOne 2016-02-21 13:00
This is an old site that unfortunately reflects the same problems occurring still now.

Everyone is missing the real point here - which makes their snake handling course standards a non issue anyway..



A perfectly healthy snake in someone's backyard is a snake being a snake - removal of that snake is a personal choice of the property resident that does not come under the definitions of an injured animal requiring rehabilitation and it is no different to say, possum removal from a private home being requested by a resident who just doesn't like possums in their roof - doing what possums do.

The point is, there is a special permit issued to specially trained and evaluated people which allows them to remove '' 'unwanted' snakes from houses And yards. The permit they hold is solely for addressing this requirement.

The same way a 'Catch and Release Reptiles' permit holder may not remove possums or rehabilitate injured wildlife (snakes included technically!), wires are not permitted to interfere with a perfectly healthy snake - period.

Injured snake yes, uninjured snake, no.

Simple as that.
meal worm
# Snake Handlingmeal worm 2012-06-16 09:36
Hi Carla, It is all very well that the correct procedures are written, but in practice people are clearly NOT following them. The current atmosphere of WIRES is that if you make a complaint you are the enemy, and nothing seems to changes anyway. We are suppose to be an animal welfare organisation aren't you at least concerned with what you are reading? Have you made any follow up to te issues in this thread? Do Reptile team members complete training run by other organistaions, if so which ones?
# CarlaCarla 2014-08-08 20:11
Hi meal worm (maybe others can use their real names? It would make your posts seem more valid I think.
This is really old to reply to but thought I would now, since reading this reply to my post.
I can't speak for what handlers do outside a course unless I am with them. I know a lot of what I read is not true and can only speak from my own experience at courses. I don't know exactly how other courses go but I have always been aware that reptiles are cared for at and inbetween courses in a safe and humane way.
I don't know if other WIRES members on the reptile team have completed training elsewhere. It is possible but as you know not all courses outside WIRES are accepted or seen as an accredited course.
THere is room for improvement in most things and the team is always trying to improve things. I just hope there are enough courses on offer this season for those interested.
Happy to answer any questions.
WHich procedures aren't people following? Do you mean rescuers in general or the Team members?
Julian A
# RE: Handling Snake StandardsJulian A 2011-12-16 16:13
I wish to make the following points Reptiles are not fed between handliling courses .There isno standard of care .Most reptiles are kept in very poor conditions .When released snakes are left at the nearest convenient location for the reptile trainers .Two of the reptile trainers are past their use by date and have trouble walking...
# RE: Handling Snake Standardsguest 2011-12-28 00:01
What you are saying is correct. Reptiles are just dumped at the convenience of whoever is doing it.
Not only are they not returned to the area they came from, they don’t even know where they did come from so how can they take it back. They don’t know because they don’t keep the records in most instances and if they do have records they don’t refer to them. This is mainly because they simply don’t care. You are also correct about the poor conditions and lack of care/feeding they are given.
It costs a fortune to buy rats and mice and that is something that is paid for by the person holding the animal. You need a couple of jobs to pay for the costs by the time you’ve added in the cost of the electricity and housing.
# RE: Handling Snake StandardsMcGuyver 2011-12-02 08:03
Both sides appear to have entitely different stories. Where does the truth lie? The RSPCA may need to come in and investigate how these animals are treated and make recommendations.
This course is not only taught to WIRES members but also to outside authorities should the course be certified by any external independant body and is this even able to be done; access the trainers, OH&S, animal handling and standards and the course itself, this would provide confidence to participants, government the public and edify the trainers involved?
Is there any other snake handling course taught in NSW?
# guest 2011-12-06 00:19
Yes, other wildlife groups provide reptile handling and some independent people and licenced by DPI. TAFE also provides some handling of venomous snakes and teach more advanced techniques appropriate for and needed by herpetologists and the keepers and breeders of venomous snakes.
WIRES reptile handling is fairly basic but for what it is being used for - catch and release, its probably all thats needed. Some people will come away with enough confidence to go out and do it but most do not and many never do their first rescue, most drop off fairly quickly for snake rescues. Caring for injured venomous species is a more advanced activity and more advanced courses are required.
Mr know it all
# RE: Handling Snake StandardsMr know it all 2011-12-01 17:14
Ive been to 3 vens courses (wires) in 2 years and in my experiance ive never seen an animal health issue come from a course. Not only am i trained in animal husbandary (from an outside training provider) but im also trained in the rehab and care of ven reptiles (WIRES accred). With the issue raised about the snake that got away, assuming it was an eastern brown (commonly found through out aust) the snake would be common within the area the course was held and although it was irresponsible, the loss of the snake wont cause mass eco plight nor would it add stress onto the animal living within a hostile eco environment. Using pet snakes in courses would be unrealistic as the would be used to being caught and rereleased over and over again and would not give the desired escape behaviours exhibited with wild caught snakes.People get on here with their steel fingers and make some pretty big claims backed by word of mouth or by something they saw on an accreddited "website". I was told about this forum and its pretty much what i expected. another one of those to much time on their hands "know it all" website.
# RE: Handling Snake StandardsOwlEyes 2011-11-25 19:09
And the snakes are not caught just for the training courses. They are rescues.
# RE: Handling Snake Standardsguest 2011-11-27 20:20
Are you saying the snakes used at the training course are injured or are they rehabilitated and then used then rehabilitated? Why can’t there be a buddy system set up where experience is learned on the job?
# RE: Handling Snake StandardsGuest 2011-11-27 22:17
You got to be kidding. Scared new epople handling their first snakes with mops and dogs aroud in back yards? and gung ho buddies who might have done 3 snakes then think they can teach? With training you go from carpets and stuff to easterns with trainers next to you and do it till you have confidese and do it right. and most rescues are just snakes where peol=e don’t want them not injured. If they got anything wrong they dont get used and they get used a time then rested. then go back to where they came from. You can’t train people without live but everybody gets talking and first aid practise befoe handling then like I said go from the non venmous to venmous with supervision.
# RE: Handling Snake StandardsOwlEyes 2011-11-25 19:04
It was in a National Park guys - there are were no "locals" around.
I’m mortified about this website to be honest. I actually mentioned it in passing to some people there, on this exact course and now this appears! Mortified, totally mortified.
The snaked were treated VERY well. At the first sign of stress the snakes were taken away. They were constantly checked for dehydration and were not handled for long periods of time.
I’m now convinced that you are here just to stir things up.
# RE: Handling Snake StandardsBB2 2011-11-22 15:47
I am so amazed at all this "talk"
no one even knows the facts about any issue here. they just keep talking like they do know
I was there when the poor trainer got bitten!!!
it was a female (time for a change you have no idea!!) the bite did NOT go into the skin thankfully
she did NOT strip off (EDIT). she was looked at assested and then taken to hospital for 2 days for Observation!!!
the dr wanted to take the bandages off that night, so maybe this is what we need to be aware of. NEVER let the dr or anyone take the bandages off for 24 hours!!!!!!
this was AFTER all the traning and most people had gone. I personally cant think that a piece of rope is going to train me to handle snakes. they were checked and always assesing the snakes for stress. everyone needs to stop trying to cause trouble and look after what we are meant to
# RE: Handling Snake StandardsConcerned 2012-03-18 17:23
I was also at the course in question. It was the trainer who was bitten. I do feel sorry for her and what she went through. However, there were two main trainers at the course and they were training the 2 groups in a completely different way. When this was pointed out, the had a stand up arguement in front of the course participants. Very unprofessional.
The reptile team seem to be a law under themselves. They seem to enjoy telling people how they have been bitten before and act like it is a badge of honour. I would be happy if I never had to do another ven course, but I want to help mops in my area, and therefore I must.
Time for a change
# RE: Handling Snake StandardsTime for a change 2011-11-21 09:07
No it was not the van driver bitten at the training that day it was a trainer that was only bitten on the clothes luckily, but I heard he got his trousers off very fast, the van driver thought she was bitten on her first day on the job went to hospital but was not a bite after all, I thought that you had to complet the reptile catching course before you could go and rescue snakes doesn’t sound like it here.
Reptile Carer
# RE: Handling Snake StandardsReptile Carer 2011-11-19 09:32
This is all crap - as usual - the welfare of the animals is always upmost in the minds of the trainers - we purchased digital temperature guns to be sure the animals were not being overheated and they are rotated regularly and not used again on the same week-end, and are well rested and fed between courses.
Whomever is posting this crap has no idea what really happens and listens to unfounded gossip amongst people who have nothing better to do.
If we did not use live animals, there would not be any new trained reptile rescuers in WIRES or other groups, and more anmals would be killed because we don’t have the members to go out and rescue them.
NPWS is not only aware, they send their own people along for training as well.
The van driver was NOT bitten by anything, she was simply heat stressed from running around helping people.
The van is NOT HOT it is air-conditioned and always parked in the shade and the animals are also kept in the shade.
The postee for this thread needs to come to a course and see for herself what is happening instead of listing to idle gossip from others.
Brown Snake
# RE: Handling Snake StandardsBrown Snake 2011-11-19 13:33
[This comment was edited. S.]
As a participant of the training day in question I would like some clarification on the whereabouts and use of the temperature gun you mentioned. As I did not once see a trainer use anything other than his/her hands to determine temperature I cannot help but wonder if the gun was lost by the same trainers who lost the brown snake? Or perhaps it was in the care of the organiser who due to her health issues needed to sit down inside all day?
Maybe it was with the 85 year old trainer who, while selling his goods out of the van, was half warching the snake bags and half napping? Or it might have been with the [unfit] full time van driver who had to be taken to hospital due to heat exhaustion? If not it might have been in the care of the older gentleman who constantly smoked and dropped his butts on the ground ... In a national park? It could have also been with the wires general manager who attended [EDIT] her mandatory refresher in shorts and sandals, or her boyfriend? Not sure really as during my refresher, not once had I seen a temp gun or any sort of concern for the animals. It is true that NPWS sent along maintenance personal to be trained for snake encounters. However same as in mostorganisations, the maintenance crew does not also cover licensing and audits.
# RE: Handling Snake Standardsguest 2011-11-27 22:17
There must be some OH & S concerns if this is true. Surely members have to attend snake handling in proper clothing, long trousers and boots and long sleeves. Wonder how the new van driver passed her pre employment medical, or has it got something to do with word that she is an alleged friend of a board member. Why is it still who you know that gets you a job with Wires.
Time for a change
# RE: Handling Snake StandardsTime for a change 2011-11-21 08:49
Sorry to differ with you I have seen the terrible condictions these retpiles are in care by some of the members of the reptile team so disgusting you may be very good at what you do but others are not
Fred flinstone
# RE: Handling Snake StandardsFred flinstone 2011-12-05 22:20
A digital temp gun only gives you the surface temp of the animal, it does not give core body temps. Even if the snake is heat exhausted the temp gun will only give you the surface temp which will be the same as the environment. You need to use a thermometer in the cloaca to read the real body temp
# RE: Handling Snake StandardsGuest 2011-11-18 20:08
When things go wrong its the respnsibilty of everyone did any present object at the time? Prbably there is no way to train proply without wild snakes but they could be better looked after maybe but all the trainers I know really love snakes and wouldn’t be cruel on purspose
# RE: Handling Snake Standardsreptile 2011-11-17 21:17
i am a snake handler. when i did the wires course they would use the same snake for 10 to 15 people to chach over and over again. when i got a turn the brown snake was so tired i put the bag on the ground and it put itself inside. i did nothing to chach it. and the weather was about 40 degrease. that day. the snakes are keeped in a tin trailer and also one did get away but it was court again. it would be stressful as they are not pets and are not use to people and they just want to run away from us as we are a predator to them.
a guest
# RE: Handling Snake Standardsa guest 2011-11-18 06:55
This is so sad. there must be a less cruel way to train snake handlers than abusing our wildlife.
Wonder if National Parks agrees with these methods and why they are never looked at.
# RE: Handling Snake StandardsMutt 2011-11-19 10:00
It is my understanding that parks rangers were taking part in this training aswell.
Carla Jackett
# RE: Handling Snake StandardsCarla Jackett 2011-11-01 16:37
Just to clarify for some of you
All venomous snakes at courses are wild caught rescues awaiting relocation. They are well cared for and assessed throughout the course and released after a course or several courses, depending if needed and how long they have been in care. They are released back to the wild near where they came from or to a safer suitable location of the same habitat if necessary. It is important we use wild snakes to train people correctly so they can understand their behaviour as each species behaves in its own way. It is unfortunate that some have a poor view of dedicated and passionate people who go to great lengths a number of times each year and travel long distances to provide necessary and important training at the request of members of WIRES and other organisations. I encourage all of you to come along to a course and I will be more than happy to talk to you about your concerns. Negativity does not solve issues but positive feedback and opinions do. Reptile Team Trainer

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