Today we will continue our series of posts on animals found in urban areas by looking at snakes.
There are a number of websites created by snake lovers with ample information on which snakes may or not be dangerous as well as what to do if you do come across a snake.
For example to quote www.forgoodnesssnakes.co.za
Do snakes chase people?
No. There is no snake in the world that will chase and attack a human being. Snakes are shy animals that perceive humans as predators and will try their utmost to avoid a confrontation. When a predator is sensed most snakes first response is to flee but if cornered or harassed most species will defend themselves using various methods.
It is very important that we promote their conservation as they play an important role in our ecological system, by helping to control the population of mice, rats, frogs and geckos. Snakes also serve as a food source to a variety of other animals as well.
So what should you do if you encounter a snake?
Firstly, stay calm. Do not approach or attempt to move the snake yourself.
Observe your surroundings. Can you slowly walk backwards and out of the snakes way? Does the snake have an open escape route? Remember that the snake is looking to get away from you!
Try to stay within sight of the snake, especially if the snake is in an enclosed area such as a house or behind furniture outdoors. Should the snake disappear into the garden, it is unlikely you will see it again.
Should the snake not move off, then rather call a snake catcher (our guests are encouraged to first call Hadley or Richard to arrange this). The snake will then be safely removed to a more suitable area of open ground elsewhere.
Exceptional specimens sometimes end up spending time at the local snake sanctuary, Lawnwood Snake Sanctuary near Plettenberg Bay for educational purposes. Their tours are very informative, you may see snakes differently afterwards.
Why would snakes come onto a verandah or into a house?
In search of food or perhaps a warm place to sleep off the coolest weather. Lush gardens often mean rodents and lots of birds. Many snakes, such as the Tree Snake, love baby bird snacks. Birds such as the Cape Wagtail often have nesting sight on or near buildings.
I recently had a Tree Snake eating Cape Wagtail chicks in our outside shed. You should be able to make out the lump in the snakes belly.
Are snakes more active at any time?
Snakes like all reptiles rely partly on external heat sources. During Spring and Summer the increased daytime temperatures and increased food sources mean that snake sighting are more likely. As our winters stay rather mild, especially in the Western Cape, there is always a small chance that you will encounter a snake during Winter.
For a better idea of just how many exceptional reptiles we have in South Africa, take a look a the Southern African Herpetology website.
(Our post cover image of the Dispholidus typus typus [Tree Snake] is from their observer museum and was taken by J.C Els – the original entry can be found here)
I hope that you will take the time to educate yourself further and that you will help conserve these scary but wonderful creatures.
Next time we will look at bees and other insects.