Getting to know the neighbours
Working toward a stress-free co-existence with snakes
Spring is about to spring, yes please! I know I say it every year, but the river lines are greening, the YBK’s are here, the guttural toads are gutturalling and the weavers are weaving. What further confirmation do we need that there’s a turn ahead? Perhaps a slight increase in temperature might be a tad more encouraging, but I’m sure that’s just around the corner. This seasonal changeover might come as an irritation to some, or a welcome sign to others; put away the jersey and bin the beanie, break out the garden furniture and sunscreen – whatever, but for the flora and fauna, it’s a whole new ballgame to which they’re accustomed. I‘ve begun noticing things that I’ve probably taken for granted over time.
The weather changes turn up the heat on the survival strategies employed by the membership of the f & f club (no, not Julius’s crowd) and I’ve been reading a fascinating book ‘Cheats and Deceits’ by Martin Stevens that puts into perspective, the deception and cheating that has always been so necessary as a tool for survival amongst the membership – where the mere act of staying alive and getting the occasional meal, has become an art. Eat, or get eaten. Plants tempting insects to partake of their fruits – and then eating them when they arrive, spiders mimicking ants in order to operate below the radar so to speak, whilst at the same time, eating their hosts, and the adoption of what is termed ‘Batesian Mimicry’ by vertebrates and invertebrates, fooling others into thinking that they’re dangerous or distasteful, thereby rendering them almost bullet proof. How about the sounds made by moths, fooling bats into thinking they’re another bat, thereby staying alive!
Apart from some species having adopted Batesian remedies, our limbless friends have also honed their hibernation/long-sleep tactics to run smoothly in sync with the availability of their food sources which similarly take a holiday in the colder months, yet they constantly remain aware of the permanent threat to their existence, from just about every other creature on earth. Their primary means of deception would come in the form of clever camouflage – military camouflage is based on natures deception colouration – rendering them almost invisible to both prey and predator – our vine snake is painted to look like a vine, so cleverly that even birds have been seen landing on them in the mistaken impression that they’re twigs. Other snakes, our Peringuey’s adder for example, are not only camouflaged for their habitat – the desert sand – but they also use the tip of their tail to deceive inquisitive desert lizards – their favourite snack, even the common slug eater is camouflaged to blend in with the soil atop which it hunts, but if harmed by a predator, will exude the most offensive smelling oil-based perfume that is also extremely hard to get rid of.
Cameras, torches, action! Let the games begin!
© pat mckrill. 2016