Getting to know the neighbours

Like a sounder of salivating politicians sniffing out the food and giveaways at a function, the limbless fraternity similarly appears to have woken up to the fact that the restaurant is now officially open! O.K. so that’s a rather poor analogy, but I wanted to illustrate how a simple ‘trigger’ can galvanise living organisms into action, jolting them out of their state of torpor. As far as the snakes are concerned, the trigger would have been the arrival of spring which followed a fairly drawn out cold season. Hopefully winter has taken its final bow – no more encores pleeeeease! As frustrating as it may be for some of us, Mother Nature has her own timetable and despite much interference from man, she will start the show when she’s ready and if the hectic action over the past week or so has been anything to go by, I’d say she’s more than ready. Snake catchers are in for a bumper season.

Predictably, the early starters have been the frog eaters; the heralds, night adders, rinkhals and Mozambique spitters, but now that the birds have begun to choose partners and hit the dance floor, the nest robbers are starting to emerge, with much activity coming from both boomslang and egg eaters. Judging by the number of boomslang calls I’ve had recently, it seems that there’s a male (all green) boomslang convention going on in Cato Ridge – I guess the girls are still in the bathroom adding the final touches. Soon however, we can expect heightened activity – from all species – because after all, besides craving a hearty meal to put back the ounces lost over the winter layoff, there’s the little matter of bringing some new kids into the mix.

Arboreal snakes are more territorial than most snakes so if you spot one in your favourite tree, you could well be meeting up with the same dude you saw last year – why abandon the hotel when the food and accommodation is so good? Unless severely provoked, snakes won’t go out of their way to attack anything, and it’s best to leave them alone, to go about the business they were employed to do, that of maintaining the natural balance. If you’re seriously concerned, call a catcher, and don’t try to handle it yourself. It would be worth reminding you that the larger tree snakes (mambas, vine snakes and boomslang) are primarily in the business of robbing nests, so listen out for the birds, who will always kick up a hell of a fuss when they notice that someone’s after the kids. The smaller Natal greens and spotted bush snakes, although partly arboreal, are not known nest robbers and don’t attract the same attention, in fact they’re often ignored by the birds or treated as some sort of minor irritation. Oh, sorry, nearly forgot. The trigger for politicians? The word “free”.

© pat mckrill. 2013
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Snake man cato ridge boomslang

An attendee at the Boomslang convention.