Getting to Know the Neighbours

Natal Green snakeTowards a stress free co-existence with snakes.

This month’s contribution is a mixed bag of tales from the twilight zone; a brief look at some of the snake related calls I’ve had in the past month. To protect the innocent, I’ve omitted to mention names and locations – partly out of consideration for the callers, and partly because I’ve forgotten who phoned – however, to each and every one who has called, thank you for your input, I appreciate the interest. Whatever my take on each call, I must emphasise that no matter how clever we might think we are (a.k.a. cocksure – ask any one-armed game ranger) we must always treat every situation with due care. Receiving hospital food via enema tube is not everybody’s idea of fun.
An interesting call came in from a gentleman in the Mooi River area, who expressed his concern that there was a noticeable drop in the local dassie (hyrax) population and he was worried that the numerous pythons that lived in the area would eventually run out of food. I told him not to worry because if there was a dearth of suitable food (unlikely) the snakes would move elsewhere. Although he agreed that there was alternative food in the way of monkeys and other small animals, I suggested that if he was still concerned he could check with Ezemvelo about any re-location programmes in place for excess dassies which are considered plentiful (pests?) especially in the suburban areas. My major concern for our python population is their popularity in the traditional medicine field.
A lady living near Howick was worried about the danger posed to her cats, by a spitting snake (rinkhals?) which had taken up residence in a stormwater pipe near her house. Apparently the snake was defending its honour from inside the pipe, and spitting at anyone who came near. Snakes will often use open-ended pipes and drains which are near human dwellings as a handy refuge from other predators, and frog eating snakes will go into these areas in search of prey. My advice to those of you with similar concerns, is to place a piece of plastic mesh gauze – the 4mm square mesh available from hardware shops would suffice – over the likely entrances, remembering to clean away any accumulated debris on the mesh every so often, so as to allow the free flow of stormwater. The Jeyes Fluid method so loved by many is another option – more of a placebo – as long as you don’t mind your house smelling like the men’s urinal at King’s Park.
Today I was phoned by a caller who’s recently become a landowner in the Dargle, telling me that they’ve been “plagued” by green snakes, to the extent that she is contemplating moving out! First guess is that there’s been a mating ‘party’ going on and I said I’d try and check it out. I’ll keep you posted.

© pat mckrill. 2013
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