Snakes form part of the unique biodiversity of South Africa’s natural areas. Snake encounters may occur may occur within the Estate. Many harmless, non-venomous snakes are destroyed indiscriminately, as snakes are regarded as a threat that should be killed - before it kills. Proper identification and following proper procedures can prevent this. In the Western Cape, there are 44 snake species. Approximately one out of every ten is potentially harmful to humans. Summer is the time of year when snakes are most active. The three most commonly occurring venomous snakes are the Puff Adder, Cape Cobra and the Boom slang. Other non-poisonous snakes that may be found are the Mole Snake, Brown Snake and Olive Snake. Snakes invariably move to urban areas to seek shelter, food or water and may pose a significant threat to the unwary.
HOW TO AVOID BEING BITTEN BY SNAKES
- Awareness is the key – be alert during spring and summer when snakes are most active.
- Keep to the footpaths.
- Don’t turn over rocks and stones, hiding places of certain snakes.
- Step onto large rocks and logs and NOT over as a snake may be lying onthe other side.
- Never put an unprotected hand down a hole in the ground or crack in arock because a snake may be using this as a lair.
- If you find a snake, leave it alone because it will be far safer for you andthose with you. Stand still or back away slowly.
- Do not touch or handle seemingly dead snakes with bare hand. Snake venom stay poisonous long after snakes die.
- Don’t leave piles of fire wood, rubbish lying about, corrugated iron, asbestos sheeting, piping, crates and cartons provide excellent cover for snakes and their prey. Keeping your property tidy will make snakes easier to see and discourage them or their prey from seeking shelter.
- Do not leave litter lying around, litter attracts mice and mice attract snakes.
- MOST IMPORTANTLY – TREAT ALL SNAKES WITH RESPECT
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ENCOUNTER A SNAKE
- Stay clam and still, keep a safe distance from the snake (approx. 8m).
- Ask for someone to monitor the snakes’ movements from a safe distance.
- If the snake is indoors, isolate the room, shutting windows and doors.
- Call someone to remove the snake – this is the preferred way to handle thissituation.
- The snake will be released in the nearest, suitable natural area.
IN THE EVENT OF A SNAKE BITE
- Stay calm.
- Call for medical help.
- Try and identify the snake responsible for the bite, taking note of the time ofbite.
- Keep the victim still and limit movement of the affected limb.
Poison CentresTygerberg Hospital: 021 931 6129 Red Cross Children’s Hospital: 021 689 5227
Emergency ServicesLandline: 107 / (021) 957 4700 Cape Medical Response (CMR): 082 782 4444
Snake RemovalSean Thomas: 082 493 7713 Jeremy Keyser: 082 306 3111
A large heavily bodied adder with an average size of around 0.8 – 1.2m. It has a distinctive large triangular head. Colouring is greyish to reddish brown. In the Western Cape puff adders tend to be more colourful - reddish brown with yellow black edged backward pointing chevron-shaped markings. These snakes are slow moving, bad tempered and excitable snakes that may hiss or puff when disturbed. They are active by day in the cool part of year and nocturnal during the summer months. They are often attracted to property where rubbish has accumulated where they can feed on rats and mice. The puff adder relies on its excellent camouflage preferring to freeze rather than move off and may easily be trodden upon. Although sluggish, will strike rapidly. It has one of the fastest strikes in the world. As it relies on camouflage to escape detection, it is considered Africa’s most dangerous snake and accounts for most serious snakebites in South Africa. Most victims are bitten on the leg. Venom is cytotoxic and slow acting - usually taking 24 hours to cause death if not treated.
A large, robustly built snake, easily recognized if it spreads its hood. It is a non- spitting cobra with an average length of 1.2 to 1.4m but often up to 1.6m. Colour varies from pale creamy yellow to orange yellow to dark reddish brown to black and is sometimes confused with Mole snakes. When disturbed it will raise the forepart of the body and spread a long narrow prominent hood. They are active in the day and early evenings and thus frequently encountered - especially as it is attracted to the rodents surrounding human habitation. They have a wide range of prey including birds, lizards, other snakes, rodents, frogs and toads. It is a quick moving snake that rapidly retreats if approached - although it will often spread a hood as a warning. Venom is a potent neurotoxin and onset of symptoms is rapid with difficulty in breathing and loss of muscular control being quickly evident. If bitten, a person should be taken to hospital immediately. Treatment requires anti-venom and failure to treat is likely to result in death.
A large snake with an average length of 1.5m – can reach 2m. Very large jewel like emerald-green eyes with round pupils and a stubby head. Colouration is varies from twig-coloured light olive or brown to leaf-green, bright green or sometimes even powder-blue. A shy but dangerous snake which when cornered will inflate its neck to expose brightly coloured skin and may strike. They are active during the day. Spends most of its life in trees and shrubs. Bites are rare as the snake is back-fanged and it is usually snake-handlers who are bitten. The amount of venom it injects is minute but it is a potent hemotoxin that prevents blood clotting, causing death by hemorrhage. Specific anti-venom may be required. Usually only available at leading city hospitals.
A large, powerful constrictor with a pointed snout and a small head, adapted for its burrowing existence. It spends most of its time underground in search of moles and rodents. Usually in soft sand, grass lands, mountainous and shrubbery areas. Average length is 1 -1,4m and may exceed 2m in the Cape. They are usually uniform light grey to light brown, dark brown, brick red or black above and yellowish below. These snakes are harmless but adults may inflict a painful bite. Treat with respect.
A small snake with an average length of between 45 -85 cm, but may reach 1,4m. Yellowish brown with 3-4 rows of dark- edged markings on top and on each side of body. This snake is quick moving, nervous and actively hunts its prey of rodents, birds lizards and frogs. Not considered harmful but may be mildly venomous.
With an average length of between 45-70cm (sometimes reaching 1m) this snake is olive green or grey with white speckles with a darker head with top lips being red, white, orange-red or blackish. They are common in marshy areas and Fynbos and are nocturnal by nature when it hunts for frogs and amphibians. They are not regarded to be harmful to man and the mild venom may cause some bleeding when a bit is suffered.
The carapace is light straw-yellow in colour whilst the top scutes have dark brown areolae and black edges. The marginal have a black triangle on the posterior edges. The plastron has a dark, irregular center and the abdominals are light orange to bright red.
CAPE DWARF CHAMAELEON
These Chameleons are somewhat larger than other dwarf Chameleons. Coloration is uniform leaf-green, usually with an orange to rust-red lateral stripe.