Moving Rattlesnakes Humanely

We don’t bother the Northern Pacific Rattlesnakes that live on the wilder parts of our property. It’s easy enough to walk around them.  But when they appear near our yurt and garden, it’s a little close for comfort.

Northern Pacific Rattlesnake
Northern Pacific Rattlesnake

Since we live fifty miles from town and even further from any licensed snake removal service, we’ve taught ourselves how to move the snakes humanely. I don’t recommend this practice for everyone, but if you do it calmly, it’s probably safer than panicked beheadings with machetes or hoes.  That’s when a lot of people get bit. And, of course, our approach ends better for the snake.

Gentle Giant tongs
Gentle Giant tongs

We started out wrangling rattlesnakes into buckets or boxes with poles.  That seemed dangerous for us and often resulted in rough handling for the snake.  So I ordered Gentle Giant snake tongs from  J- was skeptical, but the tongs have been well worth the expense — easy to use and easy on a snake’s internal organs (yes, we care about that sort of thing)

We keep an empty — aluminum pail handy. Most of the rattlers we get out here aren’t big enough to crawl out or strike from the bottom. This summer, we did have a four footer breach the top.  That was the biggest we’ve seen so far. I’ll admit that was scary, but thanks to the tongs, J- safely recaptured the snake.

In the pail
In the pail

After I put a snake inside the pail, I take him or her for a walk.  At some spot, usually on the canyon rim far from our yurt and garden, I take the lid off the pail, gently pour the snake out and step away.  Most slither down the slope, though some will coil and rattle.  I figure they’re disoriented and are mustering all the sensory tools they have to figure out what the hell just happened and if they’re still in danger.

Thank goodness for zoom lenses.
What a gorgeous rattle!

It would be interesting to know whether the individuals we relocate return.  Perhaps rattlesnake tagging will be our next challenge. Any ideas?


  1. Nice photos. Hope others follow your lead.

    When we moved here about 23 years ago, we encountered a number of Copperheads and took the same approach to gentle relocation. Over the years containers have changed. We now use the tall kitty litter buckes with lids. Unfortunately the kl companies have now replace these with soft plastic containers but a 5 gallon plastic bucket with lid works as well. It feels a little more secure than an open container.

  2. Thanks, Joan. Good to know someone else out there does this — and with copperheads. Impressive. I definitely appreciate the sturdy lid on the aluminum pail. Wouldn’t carry a poisonous snake without that. I heard of people who carry them in cardboard boxes. That seems dangerous.

  3. I concur with your observations and general approach to the N. Pacific rattlesnakes. Here’s one of my descriptions on how I relocate and mark them.
    I’ve had some interesting comments from other experienced folks about studies on rattler relocation on some of my other posts. Each person and their relationship with the land and its inhabitants is different, but many of us keep adjusting with experience and input from others.

  4. I’m so pleased that you’re relocating your rattlers instead of killing them. Keep writing about that and spreading the word–maybe others will pick up your attitude.

  5. Thanks, Joy. I”ll do my best.

  6. Bravo! I hope others are inspired by your example. Those snakes are impressive! As I was reading your post, I thought of Cindy’s method of marking rattler tails with ink – calligraphy ink, I think.

  7. Wonderful post – thanks for showing others that you can manage rattlers on a property without whacking their heads off.

  8. Thanks, Amber. I like that idea of marking the tails and may try it next season. It would be fun to know more about their movements.

  9. Thanks, Bernard. I might feel differently if I had small children around, but so far, it’s been easy and effective to move the rattlers.

  10. Wonderful post – thanks for showing others that you can manage rattlers on a property without whacking their heads off.

  11. Thanks, Sharon. It’s so easy, and so much more pleasant, than killing.

  12. I’m also removing rattlers here in northern Calif. – 5 already this season, by far the most. A lot of mice in the woods here, and no cat! A neighbor has two cats, no snakes. Thanks for the Gentle Giant link, just what I was wishing for. So far I’ve had to pin the snake down with a long rake handle as gently as possible, then slip a noose at end of another rake handle, tighten noose, lift up snake and place in large jar with lid. Then a drive to far off woods. If you’re calm and careful and very focused, watching with a hawk eye every movement of the snake at every moment while fiddling with the equipment in your peripheral vision, then it’s safe. If you can’t do all of that, I don’t recommend this method. That’s why I want the tongs!

    I heard that if you move the rattler more than a mile or so from where you found it, it will die. Is this a myth or fact?

    Thank for the excellent post!

  13. Glad to meet another rattler relocator. We also tried sticks, poles, boxes,etc. for moving the snakes. The tongs are so much easier and safer for all involved (including the snake) — a very worthwhile investment (I suspect they’re also safer than hacking snakes to death with shovels and machetes). I have not heard about the dangers of moving them more than a mile. We never take them that far, but it would certainly be good to know more about the impacts of relocation. Good luck with the tongs!

  14. Thanx to your site and info i successfully relocated 3 large rattlers (6 to 11 rattles) from garden this summer! I sent away immediately for the gentle giant tongs. After moving the first one w/ help from a snake-savvy friend the subsequent ones were easy. This has transformed my relationship w/ rattlesnakes. ThankyouThankyou! z.r.

  15. Fantastic! So glad it’s working out for you.

  16. I have moved some and want encourage folks to watch them awhile. Not sure all are the same, but they don’t seem to want to bite, but they are pretty determined to stand their ground and get to where the had planned to go. Amazing creatures.

  17. Yes, I’ve heard that some species might be more temperamental than others. Ours in Oregon mostly want to get out of the way. They are amazing. I love learning about them.

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