Getting to know the Neighbours
The hissing you heard was probably not some tetchy night adder abusing you as you walked past its safe haven under the dog’s kennel; it was more than likely the sound of 2014 leaving the stage in a hurry – good riddance I have to say!
To wipe the slate clean and in a sort of dramatic stage entry, 2015 started off with a bang – not the cheap firework variety – but an amazing explosion of snake activity over the festive season as the temperatures rocketed and the food basket, filled with delectable new offerings, burst open to the delight of every predator in sight. It’s early in the year and I don’t know too much about what was happening up there in the hills, but down here in Camperdown, we seem to be on the Chinese calendar, and this is the year of the Mozambique spitting Cobra. We’re not talking little guys here; we’re talking top of the range, Guinness Book of Records stuff, 1.3 – 1.5 metres, fat and feisty, but I can’t explain why there’s been this upsurge in activity, particularly from that one species – unless of course, there are more frogs about.
This upsurge in spitter activity has helped me considerably to gain a better understanding of their behaviour patterns. They’re very shy, and like many other species they’ll take every opportunity to hide rather than depart the scene in a hurry. This, in effect, means that they’ll often remain closer to you than you thought after being disturbed, preferring to rely upon a combination of their lack of movement as the primary form of camouflage, and the fact that they can’t see you.
I mentioned in an article back in 2010, that in order to prevent being spat at, one could provide a ‘decoy’ for them to spit at whilst trying to remove or distract them. Spitters – and this includes the Rinkhals, don’t necessarily aim at the eyes, but rather at the highest point of the moving object confronting them, so a cloth or bag suspended from a stick, gently waved at them will readily gain their attention. This has led to another revelation, especially with the bigger specimens, in that they’ll try to climb into or under the decoy cloth that’s being waved at them, so for future reference, bear in mind that if they can find something to hide in or under, they will.
When coming across a snake in a confined area – courtyard, bedroom etc. – a cloth or a box full of straw can be used as a delaying tactic to give yourself time to decide on your next move! Whilst on cautionary warnings, over the next few years, hopefully it’s only a few, we’re told that we’ll be subjected to ongoing power outages, courtesy you-know-who, which I believe, if regularly implemented, could very likely change the dynamics of predator movement at night. Scary hey?
© pat mckrill. 2015