Be snake smart this summer

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Every spring gives rise to reptiles coming out of their winter slumber to hunt for a much-needed spring meal. With snakes, hunting of prey is done by sight and sometimes scent, depending on the species. A snake’s sense of smell is extraordinary. This is thanks to a harmless, constantly flicking forked tongue that carries scent particles to a specialised sensory organ on the roof of the snake’s mouth. Most species of snake have excellent short-range vision and can spot movement easily.

In contrast to their exceptional sight and smell, snakes are deaf to airborne sounds but are sensitive to vibrations through the ground or objects on which they may be resting. Snakes will quickly retreat from any potential threat, especially from human interaction.

It is important to realise that snakes do not want to bite humans. They prefer to be left alone. People also need to know that it is not their duty or right to kill snakes. Being a snake is not a crime, and even venomous snakes serve a valuable purpose by acting as a natural control of disease-carrying, food-stealing rodents. We need to understand snakes, and the ability to live alongside them is an important factor for anyone living in snake country. The most common cause of snake bites (80%) is when people attempt to kill or inappropriately handle a snake. Snakes will only defend themselves if threatened and will not attack anyone who leaves them alone.

If a snake is encountered, please phone Shaun MacLeod on 082 532 5033 as he co-ordinates the Snake Rescue Volunteer Team on the Cape Peninsula. Shaun will be able to assist you no matter where you are in the country. Please keep an eye on the animal from a safe distance of about 5m, as he could disappear, making him almost impossible to find later. If the animal is in the open, throw a blanket or sheet over him to give him something to hide under until he can be safely removed. Shaun is available 24/7 for advice or for emergencies pertaining to snake encounters.

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