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No rest for my limbless friends


By Pat McKrill

Working toward a stress-free co-existence with snakes

What can I say? Eishhhhh- it’s back again! Maybe I had more insulation when I was younger, but not anymore. Some people say that if you warm your hands that helps to warm your body. My preference is to have a warm bottom – mine – but that relief is also momentary once you leave the hearth.

All things considered, at least I still have two things in the winter that I can look forward to. I’ve another milestone on the way, so if I’m still here on the day, I can celebrate the annual bonus, and most importantly, starting the 22nd June, the days will get longer! Yessssss.

Limbless fraternity

I’m not sure if the limbless fraternity has a similar attitude toward this time of the year, in most environments they simply take long leave, certainly up in the higher altitudes where their food sources – most of which have seasonal peaks and troughs – similarly take a break and disappear from view, thereby explaining why snakes suddenly get more active in the pre-winter season weeks late May/early June.

For the work I do, I’ve always had a number snakes, some indigenous and some alien, that I can use for my teaching and training, enabling me to show people what they’re all about, what they feel like, how they operate, what they do or don’t do. I don’t use artificial heating or light, and they’re kept in close to natural conditions where they can enjoy sunlight when it’s available, feed and sleep as they would in the wild.

The snakes simply parked off

In the past, once winter set in, there were not too many calls for snake talks, so there was no need to wake anybody from a winter slumber, the snakes simply parked off and things quietened down. Well, those days are now a thing of the past, and because of the collectively beneficial upsurge in interest in snakes, many people either now understand and tolerate the presence of the occasional visitor, or have it removed by professionals, rather than killing it as in the past.

Pat McKrill celebrates new arrivals

In addition to this, it seems that just about every corporate institution with staff working outside of the office confines, needs to factor in some “working with dangerous animals” training to tick the necessary box. The dangerous animals bit includes most things in the wild that have the potential to sting, bite, injure or possibly, kill.

So although I’m not complaining – this wave of interest in things that creep and crawl is a boon for the environment – my limbless friends quite rightly, have a small problem with being hauled out of their off-season reverie every now and again, in order to enlighten people on their role in the environment.

More articles by our resident snake expert

If they could talk, I have a reasonably good idea of what they’ll be saying to me every time my hoodie-covered but happily smiling face appears – in mid-winter – as I gently lift the log under which they’re comfortably ensconced, and whisper, “So who’s coming for a talk then?”


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