Getting to know the neighbours
Working toward a stress-free co-existence with snakes
About a week back, I got a call from a couple living on a smallholding not far from here. They asked if I would come out and catch a big snake which had taken up residence nearby. They’d seen it previously and although understanding the value of snakes in the environment, they were concerned about their dogs, and wanted it removed.
Snake bag and grab sticks loaded, off we went for another day in paradise.
With any callout for a snake, there will always be things that need to be considered. What could it be? How big is it? How much digging, climbing and crawling around in pitch-darkness would I have to do before locating it? Will it be wary, perhaps having been injured in a prior botched capture attempt? Then we must factor in the ‘snake hostages’, notorious for describing the snake they’ve seen as being considerably bigger than it actually was, not forgetting the almost South African given, that it was definitely a Mamba – “maybe a bit shorter and not so black”. Adding to the drama, the caller might tell you that they were “attacked” – possible but highly unlikely – yet to the uninitiated, that’s a logical conclusion if a snake’s hissed, struck out, or spat at you, even though these are typical warning behaviours that would pre-empt any actual attempt to attack.
Along with cultivating the ability to show empathy with the semi-hysterical victim of the encounter, snake catchers will also need to deal with the strange phenomenon that seems to preclude the victim from being able to pinpoint the last known location of the snake. All snake catchers have met the guy who says “it’s in the garage”. The garage is usually a clapped-out shed that’s filled with all manner of detritus; an oil stained floor piled high with broken and bulging boxes dripping yellowed rat-eaten documents, a rusted bakkie, broken refrigerators, washing machines, printers and enough garden tools to start a local garden service. Snake heaven. In the event of a failure to locate the snake after an hour of fruitless groveling and cursing, to assuage the inevitable disappointment of the victim – never mind his/her chagrin at having to part with my callout fee – I might need to resort to the trusty old ‘rubber snake ploy’. I withdraw a previously secreted, realistic looking snake, grab it by the throat and run backwards out the shed, simultaneously stuffing it into the capture bag and yelling loudly “got it!! got it!!” The bag is then thrown into the car boot and the lid slammed in an absolutely final gesture of closure. Honour is seen to have been done, and if they ever see it again, the catcher can always say, “Gee whiz, another one! You must be surrounded by snakes!”
Sorry, I nearly forgot. We caught and relocated a lovely python from the smallholding.
© pat mckrill. 2015