Some time back I was on a very narrow mountain trail with a cliff rising to my right and a steep gorge dropping to my left. The trail was blocked by by the viper below (with the gorge just out of shot). The weather was chilly and the viper was sluggish, but quite aggressive and hissy.

I stamped my feet and clapped which normally scares snakes off, but it wasn't going anywhere and we had a bit of a stand off. I could have swept it off the trail with my walking poles, but this would have sent it over the edge of the gorge and killed it. I was short of daylight so eventually decided to rock-climb around it on the cliff above, at some risk to life and limb.

So my question is, when it's not practical to sweep a snake off the trail with a pole or stick (as recommended in the answers to this question), is there anything else I could have done to persuade it to withdraw without endangering the snake or myself?

Assume I'm carrying a sack with all the usual overnight trekking gear at my disposal. For example, could I have done something with fire or smoke?

PS - the encounter happened in the Italian Grians in the gorge above this photo - a very lovely spot!

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  • 2
    So, the snake won't move, you won't move the snake, and you can't go around the snake? There are not so many safe options left... You could try harder to scare it away (throw small stones or twigs), or you could immobilize (long stick) or cover the snake (clothes, backpack, both on a rope for safe retrieval), and step over it. note: this is not safe! the snake could move without you being aware of it, and attack. Your scenario does not leave many safe options, so stubborn efforts of scaring the snake away would be my way to go.
    – Peter1807
    Jul 4, 2016 at 9:18
  • @Peter1807 - it's quite a venomous snake so stepping over it wasn't too attractive, especially as the path was so narrow and the drop so terminal. I was also on my own in a remote spot. I was really looking for something non-obvious that an experienced snake wrangler might know. Jul 5, 2016 at 12:22

1 Answer 1


In this situation, if you wanted to preserve the life of the snake, I would have recommended you used your poles to pick it up, swing it out over the gorge side of the trail and place it back on the ground behind you. You may have also had success using the basket of your pole to hold it's head down while you walked past.

Myself, I would have simply flicked it out into the gorge, there's no sense risking life and limb for the sake of a snake, the snake would probably land in some branches and survive the fall anyways.

  • The question specifically says "So my question is, when it's not practical to sweep a snake off the trail with a pole or stick [...]". However, in your defense, his question is a lot like "the snake won't move, I won't move the snake, and i can't walk around the snake" ... yea, not so many options remaining... So besides your answer not being the answer OP is looking for, I would agree with you (just to make clear that you are not wrong!)
    – Peter1807
    Jul 4, 2016 at 9:11
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    @Peter1807 My answer was to pick the snake up and put it back on the trail, not sweep it off.
    – ShemSeger
    Jul 4, 2016 at 15:04
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    Didn't think of that at the time (it was the end of a looong day of very steep trail!). It might have been practical, through when I did try prodding the snake it went into strike-mode -it was alert and would have been quite hard to pin down. It would have been low risk to myself and lowish risk to the viper, provided I could have got a good grip. Though the path was so narrow I'd have had to be careful we didn't both end up in the gorge... Jul 5, 2016 at 12:12

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