Part of taking proper care of the cattle on a range is eliminating all dangerous vermin or predators both for the safety of self and cattle.

Rattlesnakes are the worst example, and most rangeland owners in the US will eliminate them on sight, some even sweeping entire areas to keep the population down.

From what I understand, Jews are only allowed to slay kosher animals via schechita, and many not slay any others aside from immediate self-defense. I understand that killing any animal in the wild unless it is attacking you is considered 'hunting', causing unnecessary suffering to the animal and therefore prohibited.

But it would seem that a rattlesnake is so dangerous that it is an intrinsic danger and should always be killed when seen to protect livestock or handlers.

Can a Jewish ranger only shoot the rattlesnake immediately threatening him, or can he traverse the range periodically to seek out and destroy all he sees?

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    Nachash meud lolam
    – sam
    Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 5:51
  • The beginning of Sanhedrin discusses certain animals, 15b. Maimonides says that if a snake kills anyone can kill it, (Laws of Sanhedrin 5:2 or 3). But I haven't found anything about wandering wild animals. It seems that these sources are discussing animals that are raised by humans.
    – Baby Seal
    Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 6:49

2 Answers 2


To clarify -- the Noda bihuda makes it clear that there is never a prohibition of "tzaar baalei chayim" per se when your intent is to swiftly kill an animal -- by any means. He says that to go hunting for fun is technically permissible, but a horrible thing to do.

That discussion was only about hunting for fun. If a wild animal is threatening me or my livestock, that's very good reason to kill it. Just try to do it as quickly as possible, e.g. shoot it, don't cut it apart into a thousand pieces for sadism's sake. (Duh.)

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    1.) Others disagree with the Noda Biyhuda and maintain that killing harmless animals in a painful manner is strictly prohibited as tza'ar ba'alei chayim. 2.) The Noda Biyhuda addresses the case of harmful snakes: נזדמנו נחשים הרגן בידוע שנזדמנו לו להרגן כו', אבל לרדוף אחריהם ביערות מקום מעונתן כשאין רגילין לבוא לישוב אין כאן מצוה ואין כאן רק לרדוף אחר תאות לבו ועצת הנדמה כטביא. Basically, you should kill snakes that potentially pose even a non-immediate threat, but you shouldn't go out to the middle of nowhere to kill (for sport) snakes that will almost certainly never pose any threat.
    – Fred
    Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 18:27
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    Further, the "horrible thing" that the Noda Biyhuda refers to, namely being cruel by harming animals for fun, is not quite permissible. Although the action of killing animals isn't inherently forbidden by a particular statute, any action that demonstrates cruelty flies in the face of broad, overarching Biblical instructions such as והלכת בדרכיו. I think that's all he meant by "technically permissible".
    – Fred
    Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 18:38
  • I believe the Noda B'yehuda also forbids hunting for fun as unnecessary danger, and lest one say that he is good enough at it that it isn't dangerous, he cites that even Eisav who was known as an expert hunter was putting himself in danger to go hunting without his special clothes. Commented Jan 19, 2014 at 1:58
  • @YEZ Correct, he forbids hunting on the grounds that it is dangerous. It's unclear whether this would extend to all cases of hunting, though.
    – Fred
    Commented Jan 19, 2014 at 4:32

The Gmara on Baba Batra 23:A says:

"רב יוסף הוה ליה הנהו תאלי, דהוו אתו אומני ויתבי תותייהו, ואתו עורבי אכלי דמא, וסלקי אבי תאלי, ומפסדי תמרי. אמר להו רב יוסף: אפיקו לי קורקור מהכא".

R' yossf had palm trees and doctors set benethe the trees and doind their practice. crows came and ate the blood that was left and staind the datse. R' yossf said - Banish the crows out of here.

Althought he didn't ask to kill the crows, that is still "Tzar Baley Haim" but it's allowed because the crows do damage - way less then rattlesnakes

  • His claim was against the doctors not crows,also there is a debate I believe what bothered Rav Yosef,either the noise of the crows or the placement of blood that the crows put on the dates
    – sam
    Commented Jan 19, 2014 at 0:33

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