Snake handling tongs and their use – the thread on APS in March 2009 – Comments by Snakeman Raymond Hoser.


The APS Thread is at:

and started by a person calling themselves “Snakehandler” who is apparently either Sean or Stacey McCarthy, who run a newly started reptile demonstration business in Victoria.


Dear all,


I have been forwarded a thread from APS – a site that bars me from access to even read!

The moderators there have a strong aversion to truth and fact, so I apologize for not seeing the thread sooner or trying to correct some obvious lies posted there.


(I was barred from the site in early 2009 by a moderator called “Greebo” for daring to point out that “Liasis mackloti” is NOT an Australian taxon), which was against what was written by site sponsor, Jonno Lucas, who apparently cannot be contradicted on the APS site).


My comments on the tong handling thread are based on a pdf of the thread e-mailed to me by an APS subscriber on 26 March 2009.  Because APS “moderate” (censor and change) their site’s contents on a regular basis, material referred to below, may not appear on the site beyond the date of this communication.


Returning to Tongs however, most of the wrong and/or misleading information comes from “Snakehandler”, which is not surprising and is a smokescreen to justify their continued cruelty with these devices and their illegal use of them.

Copperhead killed through the illegal use of snake tongs

Fact: - The Tong mutilated Red bellied black snake (RBB) photo posted on their site post-dates the use of tongs by Simon Watharow as the original owner of “Snakehandler”, which is contrary to online claims recently by McCarthy.


Fact: Sean McCarthy recently purchased the business name “Snakehandler” and has no prior record of experience or even handling of snakes that is verifiable through press clips, papers in peer reviewed (or other) journals or the like predating 2004. Put simply himself and his company are novices making false and exaggerated claims of expertise primarly to try to dupe people into doing business with them.  They also routine mislead people with wrong and false information that causes risks to both people and reptiles.


Fact: McCarthy claims a study in the thread of over 132 snakes involving use of tongs.  To date, no such study has been published with data in any peer reviewed or other journal, or for that matter on the “eminently reliable” APS forums.  The claim as it stands is best treated as patently false.  Also in the absence of ethics committee and regulatory authority approval, such a study would be highly illegal.  The McCarthy’s claims on the forum should therefore be referred to the appropriate authorities for serious investigation.

Claims by McCarthy of vet involvement to X-ray 132 snakes is even more disturbing and I can assume is also false for the following reasons.

McCarthy has not named any vet and so I assume this alleged person does not exist.  I know all the reptile vets here in Victoria (their domain) and can safely say that none would be likely to countenance X-ray experimentation on 132 dangerously venomous elapid snakes!

Furthermore X-rays are highly teratogenic and cause cancer when overused (or for that matter increase risks with any use) and I can assume safely, no vet would engage in such practice on 132 random elapid snakes!

Use of X-ray machines is governed rigidly by laws and also the equipment is expensive, so in the absence of contrary evidence, I can safely assume McCarthy does not possess such equipment.

Furthermore ultrasound or X-rays may easily miss injuries, bleeding and the like caused by tongs, unless an extraordinarily large number of images were taken.

In other words, I assume that the McCarthy’s claim of x-ray experimentation on 123 snakes is made up by them and therefore false.  If they can correct my assumption/s, I would welcome this.


Fact: Recent and repeated claims McCarthy’s snakehandling and venomous courses are the only government accredited ones in Victoria are also false.  For the record, our company, “Snakebusters” have all the relevant bits of paper and are accepted by DSE, employers, etc.  The allegedly new RTO accreditation claimed by “Snakehandler” is simply irrelevant and does not in any way make their novice course superior to any others.

More importantly, our course completion certificates carry far more weight within the reptile industry than anything McCarthy issues which isn’t surprising as our course is run by a person (myself) with over 30 years verifiable expertise at the leading edge of herpetology and venomous snakes.


Fact:  McCarthy claims the RBB depicted on his site has injuries consistent with netting.  This is not so.  This is shown by the relative lack of injury elsewhere in the snake, which WOULD be consistent with netting.  Furthermore the mauled Tiger Snake depicted on the same site also has tong injuries on the head region.  The injuries are again consistent with tongs and not nets.

Now I assume McCarthy will claim that all the snakes they catch are similarly net injured.  This surely stretches credibility!

Note the heads of the snakes are visibly crunched (pressure), which is not the case with nets.


Fact: McCarthy claims that he is unaware of tongs injuring snakes.  This is not so.  Persons on APS and elsewhere have alerted the McCarthy’s to this.

Furthermore, an albino Copperhead handled by Snakehandler (Watharow) with tongs subsequently died and the diagnosis was death by septicemia through bleeding, then infection and/or other internal injuries caused directly by the tongs.  I have photos of the snake and this is no secret.


Fact: I have photos of and/or have examined several tong killed snakes including by the same tongs sold by Snakehandler on their website.


Fact: OH and S recommends against tongs – they increase bite risk dramatically.  This is well-known and documented.


Fact: OH and S dictates that snake catching is dangerous and recommends in most cases for snakes to be left alone and not caught unless absolutely necessary.


Fact: Tongs increase bite risk.  I have documented information that on 5 June 2006, a novice snake handler named Jason Hall, died from a Taipan bite after he grabbed it with tongs as taught to him by a “Snakehandler” who taught him the method.  A Qld NPWS officer was similarly bit by a Taipan at Airlie Beach when catching it with tongs (or trying to) as taught in a snakehandling course.  Tongs are dangerous to people and snakes!  In both cases there could not possibly have been an argument mounted that these were “one off” cases needing use of tongs or similar devices.


Fact: Facts about tongs are on our website at:



The use of tongs is highly illegal under the POCTA (Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act) Victoria, OH and S Act (Victoria) and the Wildlife Act (Victoria), and also parallel laws in other states.  Persons using them should be prosecuted.  It’s that simple.


Fact: Repeated claims that I (Raymond Hoser) does not publish in peer reviewed journals are false.  As far back as 1980 I published a paper on venomous snakes and others in a peer reviewed journal (Herpetofauna).  My publishing record on venomous snakes is continuous since then and involves a swag of peer reviewed publications.  Excluding the publications in the peer reviewed journal AJH for which I have editorial influence as editor, ALL my other journal publications this year (2009) have been in a peer reviewed journal, namely “Victorian Naturalist” (2 papers).  My papers (regardless of where they are published) are routinely cited in the world’s most prestigious journals including the likes of “Nature”, “Zootaxa” and “Journal of Herpetology”. None of my critics can match such a publication pedigree.


By all means attempt to repost this e-mail on APS, but please do so in full and unedited.


It’ll be interesting to see if the rat bag moderators there will actually tolerate a little truth on their site for a change.


Alternatively link to the URL I have posted this comment at which is:






Snakebusters website - Main entry - click here