Can You Shoot A Snake In Self-Defense?

Depending on where you live, you could hear stories around the proverbial water cooler about dangerous interactions with local fauna. That could include getting chased by an alligator (happened to me), nearly hitting a black bear with your car (happened to me), or even accidentally stepping on a cottonmouth while wearing flip-flops (yeah, that one too).

But if you’re like me, you’re a responsibly-armed citizen out here carrying concealed as often as you can. So. Can you shoot a snake in self-defense?

The short answer is, well, it depends, but it’s probably not the right call.

We’re going to start this with two enormous caveats, here.

First, what we’re talking about here is an animal that has the potential to end your life. We’re talking venomous snakes, or potentially comically large constrictors if you’re out there playing real-life Florida Man.

Second, I am not a lawyer. I don’t anticipate being a lawyer any time in the near future. Because of that, anything we talk about here does not constitute any form of actual advice on a legal course of action, or anything of that ilk.

Fair enough? Good.

We’re Talking Self-Defense, Not Hunting

There are a lot of snake hunters out there, and to you I say: “Salute!” If you can imagine that in the iconic Tony Soprano tone, I’d appreciate it.

That’s not really what we’re looking at here, though. We’ll be talking snake-shooting guns in a later post.

So, if you’re faced with a potentially deadly animal in front of you, what do you do?


First off, try not to panic. I know that’s a tall order in this context. I’ve been there with a cottonmouth, copperhead, and timber rattlesnake to date, and the amount of times I go wandering into the wilderness like short, fat Bigfoot, there’s a solid chance it happens again.

If said snake is more than six-ish feet in front of you, there’s a very good chance that the story can end well for all parties involved. It’s very possible that backing away slowly will be enough to get you and the snake out of an unpleasant situation.

Cottonmouth snakes are the closest things to tube-shaped demons, but even they can frequently be disengaged with a calm person using their head.

Let’s say you’re real close, anyway. It still might be your best bet, unless the alternative is literally dying.

The Wisdom And Practicality Of Shooting A Snake Outside Of Hunting

Here’s what Dynamic Combative Solutions has to say about why it’s not the optimal way to go:

Many people on the internet boast about keeping snake shot in a revolver for shooting snakes on sight, but as we discussed in our previous post on defense against wildlife. Using a firearm against wildlife can carry some considerable burdens, including reasonableness, the elements of deadly force, the use of force continuum and the duty to report the incident to Arizona Game and Fish. The best form of defense against snakes, is not a firearm.

Rattlesnakes, when startled, will use its rattle as a first defense to warn you of its presence.

Rattlesnakes will not chase you. They have a top speed of about 3 mph.

They can strike up to 2/3’s of their body length, most are less than 6 feet long so 6 feet is a good safe distance.

Do not handle rattlesnakes, live or dead.

Slowly move away from the snake and alert others of its presence.

Since a snake can not chase you and you have to be closer than about 6 feet for it to be of immediate risk to you (which is arguably too close to discharge a firearm without risk of ricochet injuring yourself or another), firearms just aren’t the most reasonable form of defense. In your yard, a good shovel will do the trick just fine. But I suggest simply walking away.

Dynamic Combative Solutions

I have to agree. Granted, you can’t guarantee every time you stumble upon a snake will be near your house, it feels as though the amount of instances that would satisfy the threefold criteria of:

  1. Not being a situation you can easily walk out of.
  2. Not being a situation you can resolve with a shovel.
  3. Not being situation that happens so quickly a concealed carry draw is completely impossible.

Have to be slim-to-none. Creating some sort of legal explanation for what you did after the fact would be extremely difficult.

On top of all of that, you have to contend with the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and state and local laws. You can get a fantastic state-by-state breakdown on this subject here, by Snakes For Pets.


In a lot of comment threads, I see people saying that they can’t suffer venomous animals to live where they have kids and pets. I totally get that.

However, when humanly possible, take the time to remove them safely, both legally and physically.

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