Getting to know the Neighbours April 2017
Working toward a stress-free co-existence with snakes
by Pat McKrill
Much needed rain has started to come – albeit in fits and starts – but thankfully it’s finally coming to the parts of the country that need it most. An encouraging report I heard recently, talks of what was once predicted to be a disastrous maize crop, now becoming one that could break long-standing yield records, and this in turn augurs well for the coming winter. We can only hope that humans will wake up to how precariously close we’ve come to being in serious trouble, and will start treating our fragile environment with the respect it demands. In my travels, I visit rural schools that have Jojo tanks (many of them donated) attached to the school buildings. There’s a disconcerting side to that however, in that a lot of them are no longer connected in any way to their water collecting rooves, rendering them superfluous! Perhaps an awareness campaign is in order, and I’d say schools are a pretty good place to start the education process.
Snakes on the other hand, don’t enjoy such luxuries, and are essentially beholden to the elements for their water supplies. But they’re built to cope with this lack of potable water on tap, and apart from not sweating – they have no sweat glands – they also lack a bladder because there’s not much waste liquid to process. They efficiently utilize whatever moisture they take in, be it a food source, dew or rain drops on leaves, or if they’re lucky, a permanent water source nearby. By conserving their liquid intake, they can go for long periods without water – camels are beginners by comparison. When I take a bunch of snakes on an educational outing (educating humans), they tend to get handled and move around a lot more, thus using more energy than they would in the wild, and upon our return from a busy day at the ‘office’, they all head for the water bowl and drink quite copiously, lips in the water and the same sort of swallowing action one would see with many animals when they drink at the waterhole.
The recent rains will have raised dam levels again, got rivers flowing once more, and started filling the vitally important wetland sponges. This new abundance of water and the positive consequences for the bushveld flora, will undoubtedly have affected faunal behaviour to a noticeable extent – I’ve seen it with the insects – probably even stimulating some late season procreation that will provide a bonus for all the predators – my friends included. Locally there’s been the sudden rash of late season calling by the Reed frogs and the explosive breeders, the Snoring puddle frogs, who only need a couple of roadside puddles to get them going, a certain bonus for some of our frog eating snakes, particularly the brown and green water snakes, the spotted bush snakes, heralds, spitters and perhaps even the odd night adder might stoop to those levels. If he’s that hungry, that is.
© pat mckrill. 2017