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A clear chain connecting all this Spring activity

Working toward a stress-free co-existence with snakes

A red-lipped herald.

By Pat McKrill

Spring is allegedly here, and despite a seeming lack of direction temperature-wise, hopefully Mother Nature will start putting our body clocks back into their comfort zones.

In keeping with the uncertainty thus far, as I was writing this, the temperatures headed south into the low teens, down from the balmy 30 degrees the day before, heralding another jacket and jersey day! There was good news though, as high up in Monteseel, above the Comrades Marathon mid-point, we were able to celebrate some much-needed rain throughout the night, punctuated with the unmistakable early season calling of the secretive Plaintive rain frogs, Breviceps verrucosus.

A tiny example of a Guttural toad. Picture: Midlands Conservancies Forum blog

Now that we’re into the period of seasonal change, as repetitive as it might be, it will do no harm to remind all that lifestyle changes among the legless fraternity will start becoming apparent, and we will need to adapt accordingly.

Puffies up and running

The Puff adders are up and running (sunning) and sightings are being reported daily. Night adder activity is as it should be this time of the year, in synch with the calling of the Guttural toads, who become more guttural as the temperatures rise. This frog “magnet” has had a similar drawing power for other species, the Mozambique cobras, the Heralds (any colour lip) and further up the road, the Rinkhals.

Plants and animals adapt all the time – we should too

There’s an unfortunate spinoff, in that I’ve had quite a few photos of roadkills, including those snakes that often bask on the warmer roads at night – House snakes particularly – so please drive with that in mind, particularly after dark.

The Boomslang, a prominent egg and bird eater. Picture: Wikipedia

In the trees and hedgerows, the birds are beginning to set up nests and do the family stuff, an unambiguous call to action for the egg and bird eaters, mainly the Boomslang and the Vine snakes. In the veld and garden surrounds, the action among the lizard and skink eaters will be as fervent, but less obvious, and the ubiquitous greens, the Spotted bush snakes, and the Natal greens, who have become totally habituated to the accommodation we provide, will begin to stir.

With rats on the menu, felines and snake living in perfect harmony

Provided we’ve remained reasonably attuned to what’s been going on, we’ll have realised that there’s a clear chain connecting all of this activity, and although comfortable accommodation is a factor, the two main links are temperature and food.

Extremely shy

I don’t want to belabour the point that we must treat all snakes with respect and avoid picking them up, but just remember, we also don’t need to live in abject fear of them. Even the seriously venomous species are extremely shy and will avoid us at all costs unless threatened or harmed.

From birth, most species will check out their surroundings, looking for the various positives in their terms, and if they find what they’re looking for, they’ll quite possibly become resident.

We can all learn a lot from watching nature, and not only the snakes. Picture: Kayla Farmer on Unsplash

I’ve said it before, we can all learn a lot from watching nature, not only the snakes, but in order to do so, we’ll need to get closer – mentally and physically. Binoculars, cameras, open minds.

How’s that for a thought to make your day?

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

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