Slithery visitors in Cape Town

The Cape cobra, also called the yellow cobra, is a moderate-sized, highly venomous species of cobra inhabiting a wide variety of biomes across southern Africa including arid savanna, fynbos, bushveld, desert and semi-desert regions. Ian Landsberg/African NewsAgency (ANA)

With warmer weather bringing out the snakes, Table View residents heard about some of the slithery visitors they might expect to see in the area in coming months.

The Blouberg, Table View and Parklands areas are home to all kinds of snakes, but there are four which are considered very dangerous, according to Willem van Zyl, a snake handler from Blouberg Snake Rescue.

He spoke at a community meeting at CBC St John’s last week.

“We have the Cape cobra, the boomslang, the mole snake and the puff adder,” said Mr Van Zyl. “The cobra, the boomslang and the puff adder are venomous; the mole snake, although not venomous, has a very painful bite and can take the skin off your hand if it bites you and you try to rip it off.”

Most times, the snakes give a warning when approached: the mole snake and puff adder hissing, the cobra displaying its hood and the boomslang inflating its neck.

Mr Van Zyl said he and other snake handlers had most of their call-outs from the end of September to March. Those call-outs were now starting to happen, he said, as snakes, drawn out by the warmer weather, started to appear in people’s gardens and homes across the city.

According to Mr Van Zyl, South Africa has 171 types of snakes, of which 72 are non-venomous, 50 are mildly venomous (but not considered dangerous), 29 are capable of inflicting painful bites and 20 are considered dangerous and potentially deadly.

“There are many misconceptions and myths surrounding snakes that people often believe because they are fed the wrong information,” he said.

“Snakes do not chase people. They are probably more afraid of you than you are of them. You have more likelihood of hurting yourself running away from one and you have more of a chance of getting bitten by your neighbour’s dog than by a snake,” he said.

But getting treatment for a snake bite, including the hospital stay, could cost north of R100 000, he said. So he advises anyone who sees a snake to stay away from it and not try to catch it, even if it appears to be dead.

There are several things you can do to stay safe during snake season:

If you see a snake, contact a snake handler.

Keep pets and other people away from the snake.

If someone has been bitten, contact emergency services immediately.

Don’t lose sight of a snake you see in your home, but make sure you stay more than 5m away from it.

Don’t try to capture or injure the snake because this is how most people get bitten.

If you do get bitten, then it’s important to seek immediate medical treatment.

“The only thing that will help is medical treatment from the hospital or anti-venom. Don’t try any home remedies. Venomous snakes do sometimes give dry bites, but the only way to be sure that there is no venom injected is to seek medical attention.”

The African Snakebite Institute has an app — available on both Android and Apple — the lists snake catchers in your area, first-aid advice for snake bites, emergency numbers and other useful information.

Willem van Zyl can be contacted on 082 385 1589, on Facebook at Facebook.com/BloubergSnakeRescue or www.bloubergsnakerescue.co.za