SHAKATI BUSH FACTS #3 – SNAKES OF SHAKATI

Overview

Welcome to the third edition of Shakati Bush Facts. In the article we will be focusing on some of the snakes found on Shakati Private Game Reserve, How do you prevent from being bitten, and what you should do in case of snakebite? The purpose of this article is not to scare you, but rather to teach the reader what to look out for. Snakes are a common occurrence across the world, and if you handle the snakes with respect then you will be fine.

Types of snakes found at Shakati

There are several snaked identified on Shakati Private Game Reserve, these includes Black Mamba, Boomslang, Vine Snake (Voelslang), Puff Adder, African rock python (Luislang), Snouted Night Adder,  Snouted Cobra, Mozambique Spitting Cobra and  Spotted bush snake (Gespikkelde bosslang)

Note: If you see another type of snake then please send us an email and a photo and we will definitely add it to this list.

The following table gives an indication of what these snakes looks like:

Shakati Snakes

Black Mamba – VENOMOUS

Black Mamba

Image Credit: Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_mamba

The Black Mamba is a venomous snake. The Black Mamba prefers sailing on ground and is not a tree dweller as the other mamba family members. They prefer savannah, woodlands and rocky slopes. When the Black Mamba is threatened or attacking it will open its inky black mouth, spreads its narrow neck-flap and sometimes hisses. It is capable of striking at considerable range and occasionally may deliver a series of bites in rapid succession.

Biological Name: Dendroaspis polylepis

Size: Ranging from 2-4.5 metres

Colour: Skin colour varies from grey to dark brown and it gets its name from the black insides of its mouth. Juvenile black mambas tend to be lighter in colour than adults and darken with age.

Diet: It is an ambush and a pursuit predator, which feeds on Dassies, bushbabies, small animals and birds. Interesting fact: they can reach 11 km/h over short distances when in pursuit of prey.

Threat to Humans: Very low due to: The Black Mamba attempts to flee from humans, BUT will attack when cornered, and so if you see one – STOP and wait for it to sail away. (Put some clean pants on afterwards). However, if you are bitten then see a doctor immediately.

Boomslang – VENOMOUS

Boomslang Snake

Image Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boomslang

These slender snakes usually are found in trees, schrubs, savannah, lowland forest and grassland. The Boomslang can be found on the ground when it is basking on a rock for heat. The Boomslang is easily identifiable by having large eyes, an egg shaped head.

Biological Name: Dispholidus typus

Size: 100–183 cm

Colour:  Males are light green with black or blue scale edges, but adult females may be brown. It has an egg shaped head with very large eyes.

The eyes are exceptionally large, and the head has a characteristic egg-like shape. Coloration is very variable. Males are light green with black or blue scale edges, but adult females may be brown

Diet: The Boomslang hunts by moving their heads from side to side to get a better view in front of them. It primarily feeds on birds, nestlings, frogs, lizards and occasionally on small mammals. The snake is a biological controller. It controls the population of birds, frogs, lizards and small mammals

Threat to Humans:  Very low due to the Boomslang attempts to flee from humans, BUT will attack when cornered. Their venom is largely harmfull to humans and have a potent venom, When bitten the patient will not show symptoms early, but only later on. You must go to a Doctor immediately when bitten.

Twig Snake – BE CAREFULL

Twig Snake

Image Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twig_snake

Twig snakes are also commonly known as bird snakes or vine snakes. They are very thin snakes, which looks like twigs or vines. The other common name is bird snake due to it feeding habit of preying on birds.

Biological Name: Thelotornis capensis capensis

Size: 95-110cm

Colour: Body is twig coloured hence the names of vine or twig snakes. The body is greyish-brown with faint light and dark markings. When threatened, they inflate their throats to display bold black markings between the scales. Have long tails, narrow heads, and pointed snouts and its fangs are black

Diet: lizards, frogs, small birds and even other snakes

Threat to Humans: Very low due to its venom not being deadly to humans. However, go to a doctor immediately when bitten

Puff Adder – VENOMOUS

Puff Adder

Image Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bitis_arietans

The Puff Adder relies on camouflage for protection and is an effective ambush predator. Puff Adders are extremely dangerous when you walk in the Bushveld, as it lays still in the face of danger and doesn’t sail away as other snakes does. Thus your chances of stepping on one is very high. Puff Adders usually occur in rocky grasslands, but they can climb trees with ease.  They can strike to a distance of about one third of their body length

Biological Name: Bitis arietans

Size: 1m-1.9m, with a girth up to 40cm

Colour:  The head has two well-marked dark bands: one on the crown and the other between the eyes. On the sides of the head, two oblique dark bands or bars run from the eye to the upper lip. Below, the head is yellowish white with scattered dark blotches. Iris colour ranges from gold to silver-grey. Dorsally, the ground-colour varies from straw yellow, to light brown, to orange or reddish brown. The belly is yellow or white, with a few scattered dark spots.

Diet: Ambush predator and feeds on mammals, birds, amphibians, and lizards

Threat to Humans:  Extremely venomous, and extremely deadly. Thus, look where you step because they will lay still and wait for the danger to pass, and you are most likely to step on it. When you step on it then it will bite you. See a Doctor extremely fast

African Rock Python (Luislang) – NON VENEMOUS

African Rock Python

Image Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_rock_python

Image Credit: Photographs by Jane and Steen Damgaard

The African Rock Python is the largest snake in Southern Africa. It occurs in a variety of habitats, from forests to near deserts, although usually near sources of water.

Biological Name: Python sebae

Size: 3metres to greater than 6metres

Colour: Body is thick and covered with colored blotches, often joining up in a broad, irregular stripe. Body markings vary between brown, olive, chestnut, and yellow, but fade to white on the underside

Diet: The African rock python kills its prey by constriction and often eats animals up to the size of antelope, occasionally even crocodiles

Threat to Humans: None – BUT do NOT get close

Snouted Night Adder – VENOMOUS

Snouted Night Adder

Image Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causus_defilippii

The Snouted Night Adder occurs mostly at moist and dry savanna, coastal thickets and forests from sea level to around 1,800 m/ They are nocturnal snakes, which are primarily found on the ground, but they have the ability to climb trees.

Biological Name: Causus defilippii

Size: 20–35 cm

Colour: The colour pattern consists of a light brown, pinkish brown to grey or greyish green ground colour, overlaid with a series of 20–30 crescent-shaped dark markings that run down the back. However, these marking may be indistinct. The head has a characteristic V-shaped marking with the apex on the frontal plate. There is also an oblique dark streak present behind the eye. The belly is yellowish while, uniformly coloured or with scattered small greyish brown spots

Diet: lizards, frogs, small birds and even other snakes

Threat to Humans: Very little, as the snake tries to hide, but will attack when cornered.

Snouted Cobra – VENOMOUS

Snouted Cobra

Image Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snouted_cobra

The Snouted Cobra is as well commonly known as the banded Egyptian Cobra. The Snouted Cobra prefers moist savanna, particularly in bushveld and Lowveld areas in South Africa. It usually nests in abandoned termite nests, thus be careful around any old nests. When disturbed, it usually raises the front-third of its body when extending its hood and hissing. Very large adults are able to lift as much as 0.5 m of the body off the ground while spreading a wide, impressive hood.

Biological Name: Naja annulifera

Size:  1.2m – 2.5m

Colour: Colouration of dorsal scales may vary from yellowish to greyish-brown, dark brown or blue-black. Ventral scale colouration is yellow with darker mottles. A banded phase occurs throughout the species’ range and is blue-black with 7-11 yellow to yellow-brown cross bars, the lighter bands being half the width of the darker bands

Diet: It preys on toads, rodents, birds and their eggs, lizards and other snakes, especially puff adder

Threat to Humans: Really, hope you do not encounter one. Stand still – do not move and wait for it to lower its head. If it strikes go immediately to the doctor.

Mozambique Spitting Cobra – ONE OF THE MOST DANGEROUS SNAKES

Mozambiquan spitting Cobra

Image Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mozambique_spitting_cobra

The Mozambique Spitting Cobra is one of the most common Cobras of the savanna regions, and they are mostly encountered in daytime in the open. It usually stay close to the water, thus be careful when you walk next to the river. When confronted at close quarters this snake can rear up to as much as two-thirds of its length, spread its long narrow hood and will readily “spit” in defence, usually from a reared-up position. By doing this the venom can be ejected at a distance of 2–3 metres.

Biological Name: Naja mossambica

Size: 90cm-154cm

Colour: Slate to blue, olive or tawny black above, with some or all scales black-edging. Below, salmon pink to purple yellowish, with black bars across the neck and ventrals speckled or edged with brown or black

Diet: Amphibians, other snakes, birds, eggs, small mammals, and even insects

Threat to Humans: Extremely Dangerous. Really, hope you do not encounter one. Stand still close your eyes (it really spits venom into your eyes)  – do not move and wait for it to lower its head. If it strikes go immediately to the doctor.

Spotted Bush Snake – NON VENOMOUS

 Spotted Bush Snake

Image Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philothamnus_semivariegatus

Spotted Bush Snakes are primarily found in the bush and trees. These are very common snakes and harmless. They are as well extremely difficult to spot as it is very well camouflaged, and will try to escape very quickly when threatened.

Biological Name: Philothamnus semivariegatus

Size: 60cm-90cm

Colour: bright green with black speckles

Diet: Lizards and Tree Frogs

Threat to Humans: None – BUT if you are by any chance bitten then go see a doctor.

How do you prevent being bitten?

During the summer months, we have like all other places in South Africa snakes. Here are some precautions to avoid being bitten and how to react in case you are bitten:

Camp: Firstly, read the instruction in the chalets on the veranda-doors. Close all doors at all times (chalets, lounge, large kitchen); Watch where you put your feet (grass and elsewhere); be cautious when you collect bags of firewood (snakes can hide inside and behind the bags);

Chalet: Wear a sturdy pair of shoes and take a flashlight. Inside your unit, keep your open luggage and shoes off the floor and check them (carefully) before use. Orientate yourself in closed rooms such as the outdoor shower before entering.

Veld: Watch your steps; stay on the roads and animal tracks; carry a walking stick; step onto logs not over them (snakes can bask behind the log); do not put your hand into holes or crevices; boots and long trousers in the bush or veld

Do not touch: Do not touch any snake – even if you think it is dead. It may be play-acting, or ambushing prey.

Cell phone: Keep your cell phone always with you – phone the farm manager immediately in case of emergency

What do you do in the case of snakebite?

Contact the farm manager immediately. See a Doctor immediately. It is not negotiable

Thus, seek medical attention immediately, and have the ability to identify the snake species

If a snake bites someone, just remember two things: do not panic; go to a hospital and get anti-venom serum immediately

Go to http://snakebiteassist.co.za/ and find more information around snakes and treatment of snakebites.

Conclusion

Snakes are fascinating creatures, but extremely harmfull. They are an important part of a healthy ecology, and play an important part in the ecosystem. Snakes should not always be feared, but be always careful around snakes, and avoid them as they avoid you. Please do not try to touch them (they can play/act dead)

Final word of advice: Look where you walk, beware of your environment. When you see a snake: Stay away from the sharp end!

See you next time

References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_mamba

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boomslang

https://www.sanbi.org/creature/boomslang

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twig_snake

http://www.krugerpark.co.za/africa_twig_or_vine_snake.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_rock_python

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causus_defilippii

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snouted_cobra

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mozambique_spitting_cobra

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philothamnus_semivariegatus

http://www.auroville.org/contents/1675

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