Spring time is snake time

Shaun MacLeod, co-ordinator, Cape Peninsula Snake Catch and Rescue Volunteers

Temperatures are warming up, and it’s time to think about sharing your gardens with snakes again.

Many harmless and venomous snakes make their appearance this time of year due to the change of seasons. During late November and December we can be called out six to eight times daily.

The most common venomous snakes relocated from urban properties are the puff adder, boomslang and Cape cobra.

It is rare to see venomous snakes but not uncommon. Snakes will avoid human conflict and confrontation whenever possible. All species of snakes will only defend themselves if given no other opportunity to escape. The general rule is that all snakes are harmless if given the necessary respect and space.

The puff adder is arguably the fastest striking snake on the planet so even though the creature looks sluggish and travels slowly do not underestimate the speed of a defensive bite.

They have chevron stripes from behind the neck, becoming bands closer to the tail (black on yellowish background). The triangular head is distinct from the neck. Their scales have a rough appearance, unlike the shiny, sleek scales of, for example, a mole snake.

Puff adder venom is a painful cytotoxic effect. This means it destroys cells and tissue. Anti-venom will be necessary to stop the necrosis and further cell damage.

Cape cobras are the most venomous cobra in Africa. Their venom is composed of neurotoxic compounds. This venom will cause a central nervous system failure. The effects will cause blurred vision, drowsiness, difficulty speaking, and eventual paralysis. If the lungs become paralysed life support will be needed.

Two key identifying characteristics of the Cape cobra, which can vary in colour from almost black to light beige, are that they spread their hood in defence and they have smooth, shiny scales.

Boomslang venom is a haemotoxic compound. This venom stops blood clotting, causes internal bleeding and bleeding from old scars, small cuts and mucous membranes, along with headaches, nausea and vomiting. Anti-venom is essential.

In the Western Cape, they are usually black on top with orange/yellow or green sides, while the females are brown. They have a small head, with big round eyes. The head is distinct from the body. Their scales are rough and do not have a shiny appearance.

If you see a snake in your house or garden, do not attempt to kill it or interfere with it. Rather get in the experts to safely capture and relocate it. While waiting for the snake catcher, do not lose sight of the critter, keeping about three metres distance.

For more information and educational awareness talks and demos, contact Shaun at 082 532 5033 or email macadderbite@yahoo.com