When fiction becomes ‘fact’

Working towards a peaceful co-existence with snakes

By Pat McKrill

Ten years ago, almost to the month, I wrote about the legends and beliefs that persist among not only specific cultures, but the whole spectrum of humanity when it comes to the limbless ones.

As usual, there’s been the frenzy of season-ending activity among the silent ones before winter sets in.

And I’m serious when I say this, it helps immensely to receive stories and observations from those of you out there who have the good fortune to come across a snake.

Feel free to share your experiences with me (thanks to those who already do that), I won’t mention your name or single you out in any way, so relax.

Snakes: When the weather can’t make up its mind

A great deal of what snakes do, where they live, what they eat etc, remains almost secret, and it’s left up to the real herpetologists to give us an occasional update on what they’ve discovered.

Whether we believe it or not, climate change is having a marked effect on what’s happening out there, and there is movement taking place that we’re unaware of.

With the advent of social media, we are exposed to more hearsay and supposition, which often becomes embedded as fact. These “facts” get passed on and live on. So please, let’s have some new ones.

Below is a list of some of those oddities going as “facts”:

• Snakes hypnotise their prey. This alludes to the fact that snakes can’t close their eyes, and so, when monitoring movement, they will naturally stare. By the same token, often the prey remains motionless in order to avoid detection, thus leading to the belief.

• Snakes are naturally aggressive. I recently received a clip of a guy claiming that the black mamba was the world’s most aggressive snake. He then proceeded to dance around the snake, arms and lips flapping, continually pulling it away from its course of flight with his hooked stick and generally stressing it out of its mind. It then, literally as a last resort, showed a hood and the famous open mouth. It’s us, not the snakes, who ultimately cause the “aggression”.

• Snakes can insert venom with their tails and tongue tips. Not possible.

• Animals can remain alive after being swallowed by a snake. Quite true, but only for a short period of time thereafter, provided they have not been envenomated or constricted.

• Snakes can jump up to bite their victims. Purely via momentum, some adders, while lunging at their prey when striking, might be able to move their bodies slightly forward. They cannot jump up in the true sense.

• Snakes can strike backwards. This is technically not possible – as would be the bicycle kick by a soccer player – even adders strike forward, not backwards.

• There are two-headed snakes. Yes, but as with two-headed humans, those are accidents of birth, not a particular species.

Take care, have fun.

Contact Pat: ● Cell: 083 303 6958 ● Email: herpet@eastcoast.co.za

All things s-s-s-s-lithery