Snake sea­son alert

Zululand Observer - Monday - - FRONT PAGE - Lau­rie Smith

A HUGE 2.5 me­tre black mamba caught at an Em­pan­geni home on Fri­day has led to warn­ings that the sum­mer snake sea­son is here with a vengeance. The deadly poi­sonous rep­tile had been seen a num­ber of times in the Milky Way road front yard and the fam­ily, in­clud­ing a young child, feared for their safety. Lo­cal snake ex­pert Fred Lubbe caught and re­lo­cated the in­truder, which showed signs of hav­ing pre­vi­ously been in­jured - prob­a­bly in an at­tempt to kill it. ‘The black mamba is widely con­sid­ered the world’s dead­li­est snake and of­ten reaches close to five me­tres in length,’ said Lubbe. ‘With­out an­tivenom, the fa­tal­ity rate from a black mamba bite is 100%, with death oc­cur­ring as lit­tle as 20 min­utes af­ter the strike.’ Lubbe said res­i­dents should be ur­gently re­minded that all snakes should be treated as ven­omous on sight, and that even new­born snakes can kill an adult as their venom is deadly from birth. This means that peo­ple may in­no­cently at­tempt to han­dle a ‘small, brown’ snake with­out know­ing that it is an im­ma­ture ven­omous one. ‘It is vi­tally im­por­tant that peo­ple call a snake han­dler, who will safely re­move the an­i­mal and re­lo­cate it to a place of safety with­out killing it. ‘Snakes, though they have a ter­ri­ble rep­u­ta­tion, are crit­i­cal to our eco­log­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment and play an im­por­tant part in ro­dent erad­i­ca­tion. ‘They need to be pro­fes­sion­ally han­dled by ex­pe­ri­enced catch­ers, and no­body should ap­proach any snake with a gung-ho at­ti­tude,’ he warned.

Snake sea­son ad­vice

• Stay well away from a snake upon sight­ing it - at least three me­tres - and call a han­dler. Try to keep it within sight un­til they ar­rive. If it is in a room, block all win­dows and ex­its and put a towel un­der the door. It is amaz­ing how small a hole they can creep through.

• If it is safe to do so, and un­avoid­able, throw a towel or blan­ket over the crea­ture. They will re­main un­der it as they have an ‘if I can’t see you, you can’t see me’ men­tal­ity.

• If it’s in the open - leave it alone. ‘Snakes will never at­tack you as they are afraid of things big­ger than them­selves and will al­ways try to flee,’ said Lubbe.

• Don’t try to be a hero or show off in front of oth­ers, it could very well be a deadly mis­take. Even if not fa­tal, it can be a very costly er­ror.

• Don’t try to kill it: many peo­ple have been bit­ten at­tempt­ing to do that.

• Con­sider giv­ing the per­son re­mov­ing it a do­na­tion, as they are nor­mally not mak­ing a liv­ing out of it and may not sell the snakes; it costs him petrol and his time and if he slips up it can also lead to hos­pi­tal ex­penses.

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