Snakes aren’t stupid and adapt to their environment

Working towards a peaceful co-existence with snakes

By Pat McKrill

I thank those who responded to my ponderings on climate change. You’ve confirmed that I’m not alone in my thinking. Something’s happening and it’s worth more than a passing interest.

Stay focused.

One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the metronomic cycle of our months. Here I am again, packing up my kit in preparation for an eight-hour trip up to the Crocodile River for a few days of game-ranger training.

Previous trips to the Kruger have been disappointing for me in terms of snake sightings, despite the number of movie clips I’ve received from there showing snakes crossing roads, being eaten by raptors or swallowing each other. I’m now pretty convinced that my timing has been wrong.

Snake Country: Could the times be a-changing?

Snakes aren’t stupid. They’re very susceptible to extreme heat, so when the ambient temperatures rise into the 40s, they’ll head for cooler climes, underground or in a hollow tree or rock crevice, only moving about in the evenings when it’s not so hot.

I’ve always gone up in the later months, December to February, which have been uncomfortably hot, and I’m hoping that on this trip, coinciding with the arrival here of the yellowbilled kites from the north (see picture, top), I’ll have got my timing right. With lower pre-spring temperatures, the chances of more casual encounters should be greater.

I’m always on the look-out for new snakes for my training. I catch, use and release them back where they came from when I’m done, so the arrival of a spotted bush snake this weekend was undoubtedly fortuitous.

A spotted bush snake susses out a Cape sparrow in the roof trusses of Pat McKrill’s verandah.

I heard a rumpus coming from the Cape sparrows, which nest on the verandah roof trusses, and on looking up, spotted the snake sussing out their nest, from a safe distance.

No other birds joined in the indignant chorus, confirming for me that birds generally do not mob non-bird predators such as our visitor. Had it been a boomslang or a vine snake, there would have been pandemonium, as every bird in the neighbourhood joined in to hurl abuse at the intruder.

After the snake had satisfied its curiosity, it turned and moved on, in my direction. Welcome to the family, dude, and thank you for pitching up to help me out.

*Contact Pat McKrill on 083 303 6958; email herpet@eastcoast.co.za

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