Getting to know the neighbours

It’s the 8th of May and I’m writing this with a fading purple stripe on my left thumb. In the background there’s an unending stream of verbiage coming from the steam radio; much of the excited commentary coming from potential parliamentary incumbents being interviewed seems to be tinged with a euphoria brought about no doubt by the thought that pretty soon they’ll be trawling the motor dealerships for their new 4X4. Such is the political animal, but rest assured, their voters’ interests will be paramount. Many people in this country will probably be concerned, if not fearful, of what might follow post election. Will the economy tank? How much longer before we’re lining up at the Red Cross tent for food parcels? Will I look good in a red beret? So many questions, all driven by the fear of the unknown; which brings me to my subject.

We’ve covered this before, but because of the predictable pre-winter activity and the “aaaaarghhhh SNAKE!!!”calls I’ve been getting lately, I’m going to go through it again. Fear is a powerful controlling element in our lives and we need to work on becoming a lot more rational in our thinking whenever we come across snakes. A typical scenario is where we unexpectedly encounter a snake and we’re uncertain as to what will ensue. Our thinking (?) process goes something like this; it’s going to attack me, should I run? What kind is it? What about the kids/dogs/guests? If we think carefully about the situation, we can quite easily answer our own questions. Yes, it might respond aggressively if continue to throw things at it, try to set it alight or whack it with the rake, yet if we run, we can rest assured that it’s not going to chase us all over the park in the hope of catching us – so why not stand still or walk away? As for species type, if we get bitten (often because of our own thoughtless bravado or carelessness), firstly we’re not experts, secondly, most of our snakes are harmless, and thirdly, some doctors come from other countries and know little about our snakes, yet they’ll treat us based on the symptoms that present, rather than on our hysterical description of the animal.

Whenever I conduct snake awareness training, if available, I like to introduce my students to the much maligned night adder, to illustrate how the perception more often than not belies the actuality. Although they’re venomous, like all snakes they’re shy and steer clear of confrontation, choosing to rather hide or move away than attack us. If not unduly stressed, all snakes will calm down quickly and continue doing what they were doing – a lesson we could learn to our benefit. Although the night adders in the attached photos were all wild caught, they were not aggressive. Respect our snakes, don’t fear them.

© pat mckrill. 2014
herpet@eastcoast.co.za Cell: 0833036958
Home: 031-7851410

Snake Man Mark Commins ed140 may14

Snake Man Mark Commins.

Snake Man Meeting the night adder 2006  ed140 may14

Making friends of the neighbours the Night Adders!