Rains give rise to snake activity

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The recent persistent rainfall in Durban that has saturated the ground, with some flooding, is a likely cause that ground-dwelling snakes will emerge looking for places of safety, resulting in increased activity of some species.

James Wittstock, reptile curator for Crocworld Conservation Centre, said that there are several snake species that live just below the ground, which are known to emerge after heavy rains. “With the rain comes the smaller fossorial species which are snakes that spend most of their time beneath the surface of the ground.

“As the water levels rise, the oxygen levels diminish and these snakes are forced to leave their subterranean homes. While most of these are harmless to humans, there are certain species that could be potentially dangerous.”

Wittstock said that the most commonly found fossorial snakes in this area include the Bibrons blind snake, which is harmless, and the Southern Stiletto snake (also known as the Bibrons Burrowing Asp or Side Stabbing Adder) which has a potent cytotoxic venom. “A bite from a Southern Stiletto snake is very painful and causes moderate-to severe swelling in most cases.

“If left untreated, it could lead to the loss of a limb or digit as the venom breaks down the tissue cells surrounding the bite,” he said. The Stilleto snake is a small species of snake reaching lengths of about 40 to 50cm with a small, flat head.

To the untrained eye, they may appear to look harmless. They are dark in colour, usually black, and the underbelly is often cream in colour, sometimes extending up the sides of the snake.  When threatened, they arch their neck with their head facing the ground and they will readily bite if they feel threatened.
 
“The heavy rains will also cause the more commonly seen terrestrial species to seek refuge – often in and around homes. This is generally because they are seeking warmth and food. It is not uncommon for snakes to be found in the roofs of houses, where it is dry and they can hunt rats and geckos,” said Wittstock. He warned that if a snake is encountered, the best thing to do is keep an eye on the reptile from a safe distance, while calling a professional to come and retrieve the snake.

Attempting to capture or kill the snake is both unnecessary and incredibly dangerous as this is when most bites occur. Crocworld Conservation Centre offers a free service of identifying and removing snakes for the communities of Scottburgh, Umkomaas, Pennington and Park Rynie.
For more info or assistance, contact 039-976-1103 or James Wittstock on 066-292-0880.

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