Could the times be a’changing?

Snake Country by Pat McKrill

Weavers weaving in July? Boy frogs calling up the girls in late June? Aloes flowering haphazardly? What’s up folks?

Surely I’m not alone in thinking that something is amiss. These anomalies get pointed out to me almost on a daily basis. Added to this, the usually predictable “snake season” shutdown seems to have been ignored by the snakes, not only here in Cato Fridge, but generally in KZN.

In the past month I’ve received streams of pictures of snakes that have been spotted, some unfortunately spotted and killed, way out of their comfort zones in terms of traditional seasonal timing.
I know I sometimes ask for feedback on reader’s observations, often to no avail, but it would be very interesting to hear how you’ve seen things.

By the same author: A whole bunch of s-s-s-s-lithery visitors

Am I going overboard with my observations or not? Either way, I think it could make for an interesting column.

A recent email from a friend down on the South Coast raised a fairly common question on snake adaptation to their ever-changing environment. Although I’ve spoken about this before, it’s another one of those things that’s becoming more noticeable.

He sent me a couple of pictures of green snakes, which had been seen on a growing residential estate which was once a cane field. One of the snakes, almost certainly a green mamba, was spotted sleeping off a long day at the office, coiled up under the seat of a golf cart, which is in daily use by the resident contractors.

Now read: Social media and the steady stream of snakes

A short-snouted sand snake is a common hitchhiker.

My friend, quite understandably, assumed these snakes, being arboreal (tree-living) would only be encountered in well-wooded areas. At this stage, although there are no trees in the area, there is a large, river-bordered indigenous forest nearby (as yet untouched by human hands), which I’ve known from past experience to be a magnet for green mambas.

Based on the limited possibility of a suitable food preference on the building site, I‘d guess that the snake had been accidentally imported by a site visitor, a common phenomenon. Although not yet likely permanent residents, in 15 or so years’ time, with a new man-made forest to attract the necessary food base, they could become so.

Those who venture further out of town than the local supermarket might have noticed of late the publicity surrounding the “surge of activity” among the black mamba fraternity, particularly in the Durban area.

Filter out the detritus before swallowing the whole story

Any snake on the loose in suburbia is a newsman’s grist, so at the moment they’re milking it. We need to bear in mind certain conditions prevailing at the time that might serve to justify the newsworthiness.

Firstly, it’s a refreshing change from our daily diet of murder and corruption. Secondly, the mushrooming informal populations in urban areas attract rodents and birds, which are high up in many a snake’s diet. Thirdly, it’s breeding time. Lastly, social media can turn a dose of flatulence into a potential threat to world peace.

Contact Pat: Cell 083 303 6958; email: herpet@eastcoast.co.za