When and what do the snakes eat?
The large snakes are fed once a fortnight and the smaller ones feed weekly. Depending on the animals’ size and species preferences they feed on fish, mice, rats, chicks and rabbits. We always ensure we work the snakes with empty bellies however, not only to prevent the risk of them passing faeces at an inappropriate moment but also because snakes get an upset tummy and can get grumpy if they are handled or travel with a full stomach! (Imagine being asked to go to the gym right after a huge meal). This however does not put anyone at risk of being bitten or eaten! Snakes only target foods that they would naturally consume in the wild and that they can fit in their mouths! They are much happier to work on an empty stomach and therefore are calmer. That story you’ve heard about the woman who’s python lined itself up along-side her while she lay in bed- urban myth!
Are the snakes venomous?
No. All the snakes used are species that kill their prey by constriction (squeezing/crushing/suffocating), so although they have many sharp teeth for grabbing hold of their food, they possess no venom.
Do they bite?
The only reason a snake will bite is if they are extremely scared, annoyed or mistake you for food (i.e. ratty smells or sudden movements). Our snakes have been carefully selected for their placid nature and trained to become accustomed to handling, large crowds, activity, and cameras, and routinely work in schools with young children, as well as crowds of rowdy adults at evening events, so due to their habituation and desensitisation, they are not afraid or stressed by these types of activity. That said, for their own comfort and safety, we do request that hire at evening events is limited to the hire concluding by 10pm where possible to avoid overly excited (intoxicated) guests.
How do you train a snake?
Lots of gentle, patient handling so they learn there’s nothing to be afraid of, then build up their confidence by introducing them to new places and experiences- being boxed and transported, socialising them, starting with small groups at home and low-key jobs, building it up and monitoring their behaviour carefully so they progress at a pace they are comfortable with. In scientific behavioural terms, this is referred to as “desensitisation” and “habituation”. If something stresses them out we go back a step and work on that area until they are happy with it, or remove it altogether from their work repertoire. No snake deemed unsuitable to work for any reason will ever be made to work, both for their own welfare, and also for the health and safety of our handlers and clients.
How can you tell if they are stressed/unhappy?
Snakes will display and array of subtle behavioural signals including overall body language such as becoming tense, making sudden movements or getting “jittery” similar to how a person or pet dog may behave when stressed or anxious. Our animal handlers are all qualified zoo professionals, trained and experienced in reading the animals behaviour and emotional states and able to respond accordingly to ensure their wellbeing. Some snakes vocalise too, and will hiss or huff to let us know they’ve had enough, though are very vocal, even when not angry, and some large snakes will huff if they’re heaving their body around simply because it’s a big effort, just like you hauling yourself off the sofa after a Sunday roast. Our larger snakes have also developed a very clever way of asking to be given a break by going floppy! They have learned that if they relax their body entirely they become dead weight and are very difficult to handle so this is a subtle, non aggressive way for them to let us know they need a rest! We allow the snakes to have a 15-30 minute break from a job whenever they ask for it, which is usually after the first 45mins to an hour. This often coincides with the handler needing a break too! For their welfare, no walkabout booking will be taken for a single animal to work more than two shifts in one evening. For longer bookings, extra snakes will be employed to cover the time slots required.
Do snakes like being handled?
Each snake is an individual, and just like people, some like cuddles and some don’t. Different species have typical temperaments too, some being naturally more placid, active or reactive than others. Snakes can learn to enjoy being handled because if their handler is warm, they can make use of their body heat to gain some energy and comfort, and being out and about is a good chance for them to explore, exercise, take in new smells and generally get a bit of interest in their lives. Some genuinely seem to enjoy it, most don’t mind it and only a small few don’t like it- or are of a risky temperament- and so for their welfare, those individuals are not expected to work live events, if at all.
Do they know you?
A tricky question! They are most certainly capable of recognising individuals based on their scent, but a snake’s level of relaxation is usually based on the technique with which it is handled and how relaxed its handler is, rather than who they are. Snakes are very receptive to sudden movements, heat levels, heartbeat rate etc, and so if you are tense they can become tense. Most of our snakes are routinely paired with the same hander to allow the handlers to develop relationships and get to know the individuals better as each require their own handling techniques. In a live event situation it is very possible that a snake will prefer to be with its handler than a stranger due to their familiarity with that person. Although it is likely that snakes can sense changes in hormonal states and detect pheromones, the notion that they can “small fear” and would respond aggressively or in a predatory way is quite simply a myth.
How do snakes travel?
Each snake has their own special bag, box or carrier. This is comprised of a pillowcase, duvet cover or towel (being in a dark, enclosed space relaxes them) which is then tied and placed inside a canvas holdall or rigid box or basket for protection and easy carrying. They also travel with a hot water bottle and a blanket to keep them warm and cosy (as being cold-blooded can become unwell if they get too cold- while working they can make use of their handlers body heat). While on location the snakes are kept warm with a specially designed reptile heat mat placed under their bag or box regulated by a thermostat and monitored continuously with purpose built thermometers. As well as heat provision, snakes are provided with quiet areas to rest and water to drink. If the snakes are being used for displays, they will also be provided with somewhere to hide if they do not want attention.
How often do snakes shed their skin?
Snakes shed periodically to aid growth and repair. As babies they are growing quickly so shed very frequently, every few weeks until they hit about 3 or 4 years of age then they slow down. Our biggest snakes shed roughly every 2 - 4 times a year
I am a performer/model planning on working with the snakes, is it ok if I wear lotions and potions- will anything harm the snakes?
Moisturisers, spray tans, glitter and perfume are all fine- the snakes have a bath after working so nothing will stay on their skin. However body paint will smudge onto their skin, making working with them messy. Baby oil is also a no-go as it is simply too slippery to enable the snakes to hold on, or to be handled safely. If you need to get a shine one your skin, we recommend cocoa butter instead as it gives a similar effect, but isn’t so slippery.
I am organising an event and would like to have snakes or other animals are you licensed and insured?
Absolutely! We carry third party public liability insurance cover for damage to property or persons up to 5 million pounds. We also have a performing animals license and valid Animal Transport Certification.
Can you provide risk assessments to help me organise my event?
Yes we can, we can provide all the necessary information for you during the organisation of your event with us.
Do you do children’s parties?
Yes! You can choose to book an hour-long educational “show and tell” style creepy crawly session that includes a selection of giant bugs and of course a giant snake for everyone to touch or hold, have a static “mini zoo” display for the day, or a large snake and costumed character or two with large snakes or bugs to mix and mingle for 45 minute slots. We are DBS checked for your peace of mind, and even have teaching qualifications!