Snake Country – Pat McKrill
Getting to know the neighbours
Working toward a stress-free co-existence with snakes.
Whilst I’ve got your attention, I’d like to mention something that to me, is perhaps the most unfriendly, unhelpful, and annoying thing I’ve ever had to contend with. Factor in dictatorial, self-indulgent, inflexible and confusing, and in my opinion there can’t be too many other things that come within light years of Bill Gates’s monster – Windows 8.1.
If Mother Nature followed the same twisted logic and re-engineered everything to suit herself every few years, we’d be living in a desert. Nothing would work properly; birds would be crashing out of the skies, fish would drown and snakes wouldn’t need to hunt any more, they’d just eat themselves. Just thought I’d tell you what I think of my new computer software.
Yesterday, in the wake of the recent accidental and inexcusable death of a Government minister and his bodyguards, I again heard a statistic that gets bandied about regularly, one that puts the whole business of what’s important and what’s not into perspective: in South Africa, on average, 54 people die on our roads – in one day! That’s probably more than would die in one day in a country that’s at war, and how about this – it’s nearly 6 times the number of people who could die from snake bite in this country in 365 days!
Yet despite the huge disparity in these statistics, we continue – out of misguided fear and superstition – to kill just about every snake we see. Inexplicably, we have no problem in daily getting behind the wheel of our trusty metal steed and willingly courting death on the roads. Those deeply entrenched metaphorical Biblical or apocryphal cultural beliefs that persist as to the supposedly inevitable threat to life that snakes pose need to be addressed, and there is no justification for this wanton killing.
In the last 10 days, I’ve been privileged (I’m serious) to be asked by local residents, to remove 4 different black mambas from their various hiding places; garage, garden, ironing room and pool filter house. Apart from exhibiting the typical warning signs of a raised head, low hiss and open-mouthed stare when I got too close, at no stage was I threatened by any of those snakes, and none made any attempt to strike out at me. In every case, when I backed off – to get into a better position or to tell the owner’s Jack Russell to go and play in the traffic – the snake stopped issuing the warning signs, and attempted to unobtrusively move away.
This was not unusual behavior for a mamba; it was typical of the snake. I’m not suggesting that we treat a meeting with a wild snake as an inconsequential encounter – it’s actually a privilege – but I’m hoping that before reaching for the shovel, we’ll make a more reasoned assessment of the situation.
© pat mckrill. 2015