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Relocation? Our slithery friends are not renowned long-distance travellers

Working toward a stress-free co-existence with snakes

Loteni Rinkhals before release.

By Pat McKrill

Despite the increase in snake activity I mentioned last month, this still doesn’t feel like the start to spring, the one to which I’ve become accustomed. I’ve seen much less in the way of spring rains, and thus far, there’s been a bit of a delay in the change of colour in the surrounds, something I always look forward to.

Apart from the mozzies which always seem to find some water to breed in, even the anticipated increase in insect activity has been below par. C’mon spring!

This year’s Spring has been a bit of a stop-start affair. Picture: Uwe Conrad on Unsplash

This week I had an e-mail from a gentleman up in the Midlands, asking if I would be able to help him obtain any Slug eaters (Duberria lutrix), a change from the more common requests I get for Mole snakes (Pseudaspis cana) or Brown house snakes (Lamprophis capensis) for rodent control.

Habituate

Much as I’d love to help the frustrated veggie gardener in his quest to control his leaf-eating garden pests, I had to tell him what I tell the others, that it wasn’t that simple. Getting the required species might not be the problem; getting it to habituate after being relocated would be.

A happy Chameleon, comfortable in his ‘home base’.

Any readers who’ve joined me on my meandering Getting to Know the Neighbours path over the years, will have gathered that generally speaking, snakes don’t do “relocation” happily, unless it’s in an area familiar to them. Think of it this way; as with most non-human animals, they’re born in their parents’ area of choice – the place where their folks met up and decided to introduce them to the world. They were there, undoubtedly for a good reason, and factors such as environment, specific food availability etc must have played a part in the choice of their forebears.

By Pat McKrill: When ‘everything changes’, some things stay the same

This “home base” determination is evident among many of our reptiles who are not renowned migrators or long-distance travellers – invariably chameleons, snakes and tortoises. So please remember, if you see it crossing the road in front of you while you’re heading home from your holiday, let it do so. Don’t “rescue” it and bring it home to “save” it – you are more than likely condemning it to a life of misery, or even premature death.

Some might be able to adapt to their new environment, most won’t.

It’s not uncommon to hear of snakes being transported long distances in trucks. Picture: Ernesto Leon on Unsplash

Long distance haulage

With these rescue efforts, the choice is yours, critically, not theirs. Another commonly disruptive element playing an unthinking part in the relocation of flora and fauna is – you guessed it; mankind. With population growth and the consequential increase in wheels on the road, we unintentionally participate in this relocation of plants and animals. It’s not uncommon to hear of snakes being transported long distances in trucks and trains hauling recently harvested crops – sugar, maize, timber and so on – and I’ve had experience of being called to remove snakes from such situations.

Sometimes, the snakes removed were not known to live in the areas where they’d been located, for example, Rinkhals (Hemachatus haemachatus) in a South Coast caravan park and a Green mamba (Dendroaspis angusticeps) in a factory in Piet Retief!

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

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