Snake Man Pat Mckrill June 2017
Getting to Know the Neighbours – the value of knowledge versus superstition
Having been shocked out of my reverie by the recent ‘cold snap’ – more like a ‘white out’ to me – that turned me into a human ‘smoothie’ minus the fruit chunks for three days, I guess I’ll have to adjust to the fact that winter is here.
I know I say this every year, but I have to, much like an alcoholic telling people that they’re an alcoholic, thereby helping them to overcome their problem, not that I think I’m getting cured of the fact that I cannot abide winter. Nor for that matter, can my legless mates. I would have thought that the almost endless shower of autumnal leaf litter and the ever decreasing morning temperatures would have driven them into their winter holes and hidey places, but judging by the current late-season activity, nothing doing, there’s still action aplenty.
Recently, along with some arbitrary Herald and Night adder activity in pursuit of the end of season toads, I’ve had two spitting cobras and, happily, a couple of fair-sized pythons to contend with, along with another very special snake – for me.
A Southern File Snake (Mehelya capensis). It has an extremely localized distribution – almost rarely seen nowadays – along the eastern side of the country, up into Zimbabwe and Mozambique. I remember them well from when I was growing up in Zim, and by some strange quirk of fate, they’ve taken a liking to the Cato Ridge area where I now live, particularly, around my actual farm digs.
About a year ago, we were alerted to the presence of a large 1.2m female that was inspecting the garden at twilight, by the very snake-neutral farm dogs. I picked it up, and we all had a chance to check it out before I asked my landlady if she’d mind if I borrowed it for a forthcoming talk. No problem she said, and I took it for a very pleasant and educational trip up the north coast. Upon my return, she was put back into the garden, and is now seen fairly regularly. After that first encounter, another, shorter one appeared on the scene, and to my delight, last week, across the road, a magnificent 1.4m male reared his regal head in the neighbours goose-pen, coming very close to being beheaded by the farm staff before I caught him and removed him from immediate danger.
At the time of capture, I gave a talk to the farm staff, using their snake as a demo model, and some actually touched it and started to understand the value of knowledge versus superstition. He too, was then used in a snake talk up in the Ambers last week, and became an overnight star. He’s now back on my home farm, hopefully getting ready to rub noses with the long-standing female resident. File snakes include other snakes in their diet – unfortunately.
© pat mckrill. 2017