It's springtime, and snakes are coming out to play - here's how to stay safe

Snakes have had to adapt to city living and as we head into summer, here are some slithery creatures you should rather avoid.

2021-09-20 07:04:00 PM

Snakes have had to adapt to city living and as we head into summer, here are some slithery creatures you should rather avoid.

Snakes have had to adapt to city living and as we head into summer, here are some slithery creatures you should rather avoid.

It’s springtime, but blossoms are not the only debutantes at the tail end of winter. It’s also the time when snakes come out to play and, given that urban development continues to Pac-man their natural habitats, serpents have hit the proverbial streets over the past few decades with many now calling suburbia, home. Johannesburg-based snake catcher Conrad Prinsloo of Scales and More says that while sightings are common at this time of year, it doesn’t mean that the snake population is increasing. “In fact, across some species it is declining as humans keep destroying their natural habitats,” he says. And...

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It’s springtime, but blossoms are not the only debutantes at the tail end of winter. It’s also the time whenand, given that urban development continues to Pac-man their natural habitats, serpents have hit the proverbial streets over the past few decades with many now calling suburbia, home

.Conrad Prinsloo of Scales and Moresays that while sightings are common at this time of year, it doesn’t mean that the snake population is increasing.“In fact, across some species it is declining as humans keep destroying their natural habitats,” he says. And while fear might overwhelm you if you find a slithery creature in your home, handling or killing snakes by the public is strongly discouraged. headtopics.com

“Rather call a snake catcher immediately, there are a number of them operating in Gauteng,” says Prinsloo. “Just ensure that the service provider is accredited.” Often non-accredited or unqualified practitioners harm the animals or resell them into the exotic pet trade he warns.

“A lot of snake species have, however, adapted well to city living,” says the chief executive of theAfrican Snake Bite Institute(ASBI). He says the white collared rinkhals is particularly adept at surviving in the concrete jungle, as there are still plenty grassland areas in and around Johannesburg and Pretoria, with a lot of meals, like frogs, available.

“Night lighting attracts insects, frogs eat insects and are attracted to water features, for example,” says Marais. “Snakes like the rinkhals dine on frogs.”Rinkhals bites are neutralized with an antivenom but, as with all venomous snake bites, hospitalisation is necessary.  It’s also a spitter, and droplets on open wounds or scratches on both humans and animals can present severe symptoms.

Getting the venom in your eyes is no laughing matter,” says Prinsloo and adds that should this happen, rinsing your eyes for at least 20 minutes after exposure should provide some measure of relief. The same counts for unfortunate pets who may get in the line of fire, too. headtopics.com

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A dangerously venomous Rinkhals (Hemachatus haemachatus) snake. Picture: iStockHe adds that snakes are secretive animals and hide in piles of building rubble, holes dug by other animals like rodents and, of course, Mozambican spitting cobras feast on these tiny mammals too.

Also read: The Most Venomous Snake in South AfricaOther garden visitors of the venomous kind include the common night adder or herald snake. It feeds on toads, too, and can grow up to a metre in length.According to the institute, people are often bitten after standing on them, and though its venom is not considered potentially lethal, it can cause severe swelling and discolouration around the bite site. There’s no antivenom and symptoms may last up to a week or two.

Stiletto snakes, or burrowing adders, visit on warm summer nights, many times after a summer shower, with this brownish- black snake often ending up going for an unintended swims in pools.Though tiny, this little snake has large protruding fangs and, says the institute, cannot be handled safely. It bites, and the venom causes severe pain while victims often lose a digit or two. There’s also no antivenom.

While puffadders are common throughout South Africa, they seem to have a particular liking for Pretoria East, North and West, according to experts.A puff adder (Bitis arietans) in defensive position, southern Africa. Picture: iStockIt’s a lazy, fattish snake, but heaven help you if you step on it. Their bite causes severe tissue damage and incredible pain. Pets are at great risk from these animals, but thankfully, there is an antivenom for this critter’s fang-jection, and deaths are rare. headtopics.com

The ASBI says that of all scary slitheries, “the Mozambique Spitting Cobra is one of our most problematic snakes.”  It occurs from southern KwaZulu-Natal northwards into Swaziland, Mozambique, Mpumalanga, northern Gauteng, Limpopo, Northwest and elsewhere further north. These snakes are largely active at night and even bite unsuspecting victims while they are asleep. While fatalities are rare, and there is an antivenom available, severe pain and tissue damage are gifted on first bite. This snake also spits at its victims.

Mozambique spitting cobra. Picture: iStockEvery species has a different venom composition and even between different snakes of the same species there may be slight variances in composition, notes Prinsloo. “If you are bitten, elevate the bite area as soon as possible, and get to a hospital’s trauma unit. This, he says, is particularly important as outside of the venom alone, victims may suffer from anaphylactic shock, which could be equally dangerous.

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“When you encounter a snake, put at least five paces of distance between yourself and the animal,” says the ASBI’s Marais. “Call a snake catcher next.”But keep an eye on it too, as he says they have a great way of just disappearing between the time of sighting, running to get your phone and looking for it again. The African Snake Bite Institute has made a free, downloadable app available to South Africans on both

platforms where registered snake catcher details, information and other important facts are available. Read more: The Citizen News »

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