Spring Time is Snake Time - 5 September 2007
Every spring snakes come out of hibernation on the hunt for a much needed spring meal. Hunting is done by sight and scent and sometimes, depending on the species, body temperature. Their sense of smell is extraordinary; thanks to a harmless, constantly flicking forked tongue that carries scent particles to a specialized sensory organ ('Jacobson's organ') on the roof of the mouth. Except for burrowing species, snakes have excellent short-range vision and can spot movement easily.
In contrast to their exceptional sight and smell, snakes are deaf to airborne sounds. When a snake-charmer charms a Cobra it is not the sound she responds to, but rather the movement of the flute. Snakes are, however sensitive to vibrations through the ground or object they are resting on.
Snakes do not travel in pairs. If you find one, that does not mean their mate will be looking for them. If you find a baby, however, there are chances that its mother and siblings are nearby.
We must consider being chased by a snake as a myth as snakes in general move slower than an adult human can run (please don’t try this at home – ask a professional).
What to do if you find a snake on your property:
- Never try to pick a snake up (alive or dead). Some can play dead, and even a dead snake can bite you.
- Never try to hit it with a stick! That will just provoke it and force it to try to defend itself.
- If children or pets are present, get them to leave the area and lock up your dogs and cats.
- You can contact almost any emergency services number (like 10111, Vodacom 911, your local Emergency services, and Vets) to get the contact details of your local snake catcher. There are a number of licensed snake catchers in the Western Cape, so there should be at least one in your area.
- You will need to keep an eye on the snake to ensure that you know exactly where it is when the snake catcher arrives. Most snake catchers will not come out if you don’t know exactly where the snake is, as the chances of finding the snake again are very slim. If the snake is found indoors, close the door and put a towel under the doors and windows to prevent it from getting out until the snake catcher arrives. As each situation will be different, you will need to take further instructions from the snake catcher once you have made contact.
- If you were unable to get professional assistance, another tip would be spraying it from a distance with a high-pressure hose or opening sprinklers. This will persuade the snake to leave the area.
Snakes will only defend themselves if threatened and will not attack anyone who leaves the animal alone. Killing a snake is nothing to be proud of as you are dealing with an animal that has no arms, fingers, feet, legs, eyelids and a long list of advantages over other animals. Let’s not succumb to ignorance and brutality by destroying what we fear, but rather learn more about snakes, their behaviour and why they are important cohabitants and why we should look out for them.
Shaun MacLeod, coordinator of the Snake Catch & Rescue Volunteer Team on the Cape Peninsula, advises that snakes will be coming out of their hibernation around mid September and, depending on the species, they will either pose a threat or just be a nuisance. Pick up a telephone and call the Snake Catch and Rescue Volunteer Team who will safely remove the animal and re-release it out of harms way (a petrol donation to assist with expenses is kindly requested).