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SNAKE COUNTRY: Plants and animals adapt all the time. We should, too

Getting to know the neighbours: Working toward a stress-free co-existence with snakes

Pat McKrill shows off a Natal black snake he relocated recently.

By Pat McKrill

Here we go again, another day in what might be called a covidian limbo. The life we were comfortable with is still on hold, no matter what we like to think.

What’s stopping us becoming more attuned to the ways of the natural world outside of this man-made monstrosity that’s been thrust upon us and learning to adapt?

I’m not saying that we’re living in oblivion, but I believe that we take too much for granted.

Surely it’s time we opened up our minds and accepted the need to adapt to change, particularly when adversity strikes. Plants and animals do it all the time. It would be like fixing a malfunctioning computer; shut it down, reset and start again. We’re surely at the point where we need to do that, as t’s unlikely our lives will ever be the same.

Speaking of carrying on regardless, August is almost done and, like well-drilled soldiers, the yellow-billed kites have returned – no worldwide shutdown for them. Thank you boys and girls, welcome back.

A black-headed centipede eater.

Never fear, there are those of you who are already adapting, as you do annually to the other, not-so-traumatic seasonal changes in the real world. The gardeners.

This is the time of the year when you get working on whatever it is that your gardens need for the coming of spring; the digging, cutting, composting etc, as if in sync with the pre-season activity of the flora and fauna in the nearby surrounds. They’re preparing for the “off” just around the corner.

In addition to the natural changes, this hectic ground-surface disturbance might also be a wake-up call for some of the fossorial (underground) dwellers.

Last week, I had a report from Kloof of a black-headed centipede eater (Aparallactus capensis) being found eating a centipede it had caught in a rockery which was undergoing a facelift. I also went to relocate a beautiful Natal black snake (Macrelaps microlepidotus) that had been giving a plumber a few unexpected lessons in bowel control while he was renewing underground piping.

Guttural toads are on the move again.

Both of these early-season snakes are venomous and though not rare, they’re seldom seen because of their habitat choice and rate as “specials” in terms of sightings.

There are at least three fossorial black snakes that can create confusion at first sight, but the Natal black’s distinctive red tongue is diagnostic.

Thanks to the gardening crews for not killing these important members of our fragile environment.

As the temperatures change, upwards I hope, we can expect frog activity. I’ve already heard the call of a guttural toad (Amietophrynus gutturalis) emanating from its hiding place nearby and the (my?) red toad (Schismaderma carens) I met in late February, before it headed off for its winter wind-down, has re-emerged from hiding, looking as good as new.

The emergence of frogs is an early signal (warning) that heralds the imminent arrival of frog-eaters: cobras, rinkhals, heralds and night adders. Take care and keep adapting.

Contact Pat at or 083 303 6958.


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