Getting to know the neighbours – Working toward a stress-free co-existence with snakes

SnakeCountryPicOk, so last month’s froggy curve ball wasn’t what you were expecting – apologies for that – let’s just call it a tester to see if anybody was concentrating. I won’t pull the Mugabe trick, telling you that millions of people loved the article; I’ll be honest – as they say in Parliament – and tell you that I’ve had two responses – thank you sports fans. I concede that choosing to write the article at the height of the alleged off-season for frogs and snakes was anything but a well thought out decision, so maybe we’ll try again later in the season when they’re bellowing their lungs out and you’re going through the cupboards looking for a tennis racket. Groveling apology aside, has anybody else noticed that the frogs and snakes are still pretty active despite it being winter? The odd cold snap has seemingly not deterred too many of the traditional hibernators, many of whom are still out and about – I recently attended a conference near Hluhluwe and whilst wandering around the rustic conference facility during a break I noticed that just about every exterior lamp had its own southern foam nest frog (boomslang bait) in attendance, waiting for incoming insects.

Regular readers might recall mention of the Karkloof Conservancy ‘Gupta gang’ of spotted bush snakes and Natal green snakes, who seem to have adopted the conservancy offices as their operational base and Twané Clarke, the very capable and bubbly curator at the conservancy, having previously introduced me to some of the gang, tells me that they’re still active and she’s sent me some photos of past encounters. I’ve attached a couple of these to the article. The message that is being sent here is that provided we accept these creatures as part of the local scene, they too will start to become used to our presence and accept us, leaving the status-quo in balance.

I must qualify this statement in case people think that I’m advocating the live-and-let-live scenario which raises its ugly head every time a troop of vervet monkeys hits the fruit bowl – anything but. Snakes self-regulate and it’s highly unlikely that they will overpopulate an area to the extent that they become a nuisance or food becomes scarce – in fact, if there’s a chance that food availability will be a problem, they are capable of holding back on the reproductive cycle – a message here for mankind? Those of you who are gardeners will, probably unknowingly, be cultivating some kind of food magnet for the resident predators (birds, frogs, snakes etc.) and I get a growing number of e.mails and calls from people telling me of more frequent sightings of snakes in the garden. There could be three main reasons for this: the garden has become more indigenous in makeup; the garden owner has become more aware of snakes and/or the garden fella has lost his spade.

© pat mckrill. 2013
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