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

Eishhh – what a month! Either we’re all becoming more snake savvy, or the snakes are just getting used to us. I’ve had so many calls and personal sightings these last few weeks that I’m beginning to wonder if we’ve been ‘Gupta’d’ by the limbless ones. For the uninitiated, to ‘Gupta’ something is to take it over as if it was your own – parasites behave in much the same manner. They essentially take over – go where they like, do what they like, when they like, confident in their own minds that they’re the key to the survival of the species.

Because they seem to have featured in most of the recent calls and sightings I’ve had, I think that the non-venomous Natal green snakes (Philothamnus natalensis) have mastered this technique! An interesting feature of the increase in sightings of these snakes is that they seem more brazen than previously reported, and there is often more than one patrolling the same relatively small piece of real estate and not necessarily only in the breeding season. Hiding places abound in the human inhabited areas and their dietary preferences of tree frogs, geckoes and lizards are well catered for. Although they’re reputed to take birds – probably nestlings – I’ve never witnessed this happening, so please have your camera ready for such an eventuality. Typically, when the habitual nest-robbers like the boomslang or the vine snake are on the move, their feathered cousins kick up a hell of a stink, but the Natal green doesn’t seem to attract such raucous attention, making me think that birds are well down on their ‘must eat’ list.

Since my last missive, I’ve had a very pleasant two-day jaunt in the Karkloof Conservancy area, and I must sincerely thank my generous hosts and the locals, for their warm hospitality. I commend all concerned for their well managed conservation initiative which to my mind seems to be a very well kept secret outside of its home range. I shall be spreading the word. Whilst we were coordinating our daily routines at the Conservancy resource centre, I was introduced, on both days, to some resident spotted bush snakes (Philothamnus semivariegatus) who also seemed to have adopted the ‘Gupta’ technique, and who treated us with absolute disdain. The centre also has a resident Natal green that fancies the accommodation on offer adjacent to the ‘honesty box’ – I kid you not.

On my way home, I responded to a “puff adder” call, but the puffie had mysteriously morphed into a night adder by the time I got there and to put the icing on my snake cake, upon my eventual arrival back home, the neighbours asked me to pop over and remove a Mozambique spitting cobra which had taken up residence under their porch steps and was now spitting at all and sundry. Take care folks, there’s still a fair amount of activity, so wear closed shoes, carry a torch and don’t get too cocky with the braai tongs!

© pat mckrill. 2013; herpet@eastcoast.co.za; Cell: 0833036958; Home: 031-7851410

Snake pic 1 Natal green ed128 may

The Natal Green Snake. Pic: Supplied

Snake pic 2 web may

Spotted Bush Snake. Pic: Supplied