Tis the season to be rational…

Snake Country by Pat McKrill

About this time of the year I get plenty of fascinating and interesting phone calls and pictures – no, not the Gigaba type – telling me of the sender’s latest or “as-we-speak” encounter with one of our much-maligned friends.

My mind is immediately put to rest by the caller, who usually tells me that although there’s a snake in the vicinity, they have no problem with snakes: “We’ve grown up with snakes, our son had a corn snake which escaped,” but quickly adding that they’re a tad worried that other people, pets or something else important could get bitten.

Would I like to come out and collect the snake. Alternatively, what would I advise them to do?

It’s good to get a fix on what it might be that’s causing the consternation, so I ask the usual questions. How long is it, what colour, what’s it doing etc, and we take it from there.

In most cases, the snake is usually more than a metre long, dark in colour and quite thick. So, in a nutshell, it could be anything.

If there’s any doubt in my mind as to what it could be, and as I don’t get free petrol, I try to refer them to a trustworthy snake remover in their area.

Fish on the line and a mamba in the mind

It’s a lot easier now that people can send a picture of the snake, allowing us to solve their “problem” quite quickly, and based on the reduction in the number of dead-snake pictures I receive, it’s great to know that people are starting to understand their role in our environment and are becoming less inclined to kill them. Well done, folks!

Having said that, there’s nothing like fear to scramble the mind.

Ambush

What goes through our minds when we see a snake in the wild, home or garden? Why is it here? Will it run across the patio and bite me? Are puff adders spring-loaded, enabling them to leap at me from wherever they are, to stab me in the throat? Do snakes really ambush gardeners or people sitting on the toilet? Rhetorical questions, I know, but eish, are we serious?

Here’s a reasoned guess at what’s most likely to happen the next time you come across a snake.

Snake expert Pat McKrill gives some advice during one of the talks he gives on what to do when one comes across a snake.

By the law of averages, you’ll momentarily lose all sense of rationality, start to hyperventilate, sweat profusely and scramble for your cellphone. Who are you going to phone?

Snakes, on the other hand, will probably feel the same as you (but without the phone), frightened out of their wits, and will most likely move away and look for a hiding place. They might even give you the benefit of a friendly warning before doing so. Many will just freeze, hoping you won’t see them.

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So here’s what you do… Firstly, give it some respect. Leave it alone and let it go and hide. It will not wait to ambush you or kill the kids. Secondly, start to think rationally.

Contact Pat McKrill: 083 303 6958; herpet@eastcoast.co.za

Main picture by David Clode/Unsplash