How Do You Ship a Snake Safely?

The decision to keep a pet snake isn’t one you should make lightly. Apart from the necessary routine care that a snake needs, it requires a special enclosure and cannot be shipped as easily as one would ship a cat or dog for a number of reasons.

For one, snakes are cold-blooded animals, which means that if special care is not taken, you could end up with a frozen or overheated snake. If you’ve made the recent decision to care for a snake, you should know how to properly ship your new pet without compromising its health. We advise you to thoroughly read this guide as skipping any bits can result in an error that could kill your snake.

What Types of Snakes Can You Ship?

ball python in human hands
Most shipping companies prohibit the shipping of venomous snakes.

©Krisda Ponchaipulltawee/Shutterstock.com

Before preparing to ship a snake, it’s important to know what types of snakes you can ship and those you can’t. If you plan to ship a snake through the usual snake shipping methods, you cannot ship a venomous snake. Due to several things, such as a misconception about snakes, most shipping companies prohibit shipping live venomous snakes.

In fact, quite a number of shipping companies, such as UPS, do not ship any types of live snakes, venomous or otherwise. In addition, most shipping companies do not ship snakes longer than 8 feet and thicker than 4 inches in diameter.

There are two major ways to get around this rule without breaking any laws. Your first option is to purchase a baby snake, and the second is to use an air freight service specializing in live venomous reptiles.

It is important to strictly adhere to all shipping laws, irrespective of how unnecessary they may seem. If you are found violating shipping rules, you could end up with a long-term or permanent snake shipping ban.

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Shipping a Snake Safely in Hot and Cold Weather

Another important thing to consider, even before beginning to prepare to ship your snake, is the weather. Since snakes are cold-blooded, excessive temperatures can kill them during shipping. You should delay shipping if the weather is colder than 40 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter than 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

The best weather to ship a snake is between 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, although the exact levels vary by breed. But waiting for the temperature to hit these levels isn’t always possible, so shippers often balance things with either a cold pack or a heat pack.

Cold packs are best for temperatures between 80 to 90 degrees, while heat packs are perfect for temperatures from 40 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Since these figures might differ from breed to breed, you should research your snake breed before deciding to ship it.

To ship a snake, you’ll need some tools to ensure the health and safety of your snake upon arrival. Let’s take a look at these tools.

1. Shipping Box and Tape

An insulated box is a necessity when shipping snakes. Some people make these by themselves using insulated box liners, Styrofoam panels, and several other tools. Without an insulated shipping box, using a heat or cold pack won’t do much to keep your snake alive. Ensure that whichever insulation material you pick is well-fitted and covers the bottom and sides.

Alternatively, you could purchase an insulated shipping box and save some time making one. Once your box is ready, poke a few holes in each side of the box with a screwdriver. Make sure the holes go through so the snake can breathe. You’ll also need a strong, secure tape that can firmly shut the box. When using tape, be generous; tape all seams and edges to avoid escapes.

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2. Cotton Bag for Reptiles or Deli Cups

During shipping, your snake shouldn’t sit directly in the insulated box. Instead, you’ll need a deli cup or a cotton bag. If you choose a deli cup, ensure it’s large enough for your snake and can sit comfortably in the box. You’ll also need to poke holes into the deli cup so your snake can breathe before sealing it with tape for extra security.

One alternative to deli cups is cotton bags for reptiles. These bags are designed to transport snakes and are soft and breathable. However, some people also use cotton pillowcases instead of deli cups or cotton bags. Irrespective of your choice, ensure that you tie it properly and knot it at least twice.

3. Fill material

Another major tool you’ll need is fill material, even if you’re using a deli cup, reptile bag, or pillowcase. Placing the snake directly in any of these might be uncomfortable, which is why fill material is required. Some of the best options are paper towels or shred up newspaper.

Your fill material should be generously placed in your deli cup, reptile bag, or pillowcase to act as a soft cushion during the journey.

Choosing the Right Shipping Company

Young boy putting snake into its tank
To ship a snake, you have to ensure that your package complies with the Lacey Act.

©iStock.com/SerrNovik

A lot of registered shipping companies do not transport live reptiles, and those that do charge significant amounts. Despite the prices, going with a registered company is your best bet. Not only are you leaving your snake in the hands of experts, but these companies also offer insurance and will reimburse you in case of a loss.

Your top options for live shipping are FedEx, Ship Your Reptiles, and Reptiles2You. Choosing a company that isn’t certified or FedEx-approved might endanger your snake and be illegal, so you should steer clear of this option.

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It is, however, important to know that shipping with any certified company isn’t a walk in the park, as they do not let just anyone ship reptiles. Instead, it is required that you are compliant with the Lacey Act and have obtained a Live Reptile Certification from FedEx.

The Lacey Act requires that you boldly list the following on the outside of your box:

  • Common names of the animal you are shipping
  • Scientific names of the animal you are shipping
  • Quantities of each animal you are shipping

Obtaining a Live Reptile Certification

Federal Express, Land, Truck, Delivery Person, Feeding
You need to create a FedEx account if you want to transport a live reptile through a FedEx-certified company.

©iStock.com/Sundry Photography

To transport a live reptile through a FedEx-certified company, you must create a FedEx account first. Once this is done, contact FedEx customer support and request that your account representative reaches out to you. They will be able to answer any questions that you might have on live reptile certification and how to obtain one.

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