The reptiles and amphibians found in the Upper Highway area, which include many species of snake, lizard and frog, are all highly vulnerable to environmental changes; for example housing and industrial developments, pollution, poaching, degradation and other threats mainly caused by development. These creatures are being selfishly deprived of food, water and shelter and are seeking alternatives by relocating and entering inhabited areas to be able to survive. They have very limited defensive or protective mechanisms and rely almost entirely on camouflage and their characteristic reclusive behaviour in this regard. Many (e.g. house geckos and toads) thrive and cope amazingly well and their population is growing despite these adversities. They are a source of food and this often attracts incursions by other species which are a perceived threat to humans, particularly children and all domestic pets.
SNAKES are frequent and usually unwelcome visitors to houses, garages, outbuildings and gardens. They are an integral part of the eco-system we live in and if they are killed the chain is broken and the entire eco-system will become unbalanced. Humans then become at risk from problems including diseases from rats. Snakes are apex and important predators and their prey consists of rodents, including mice, shrews and rats, birds, frogs, lizards, skinks and geckos, dassies and other snakes. They are in turn eaten by birds, mongoose, genets, domestic/feral cats and snakes. They are usually seen during the warmer months from September through to April and are less active in winter (May to August). They are particularly vulnerable to vehicles and corpses can often be seen on our roads.
An obvious but challenging alternative is to rather regard it a privilege to have them visiting. Dependent on their size and how dangerous they may be, consider allowing them to remain or at least be rescued and relocated. They are unlikely to become permanent residents as they perceive humans as a threat and will soon move on to a safer location.
Of the 31 species of snake that have been identified in Upper Highway:
Only 6 (19%) are considered extremely dangerous as their defensive bites can be fatal particularly if not treated immediately;
Another 7 (23%) are dangerous but not fatal;
Another 2 (6%) are practically harmless;
And the majority 16 (52%) are completely harmless.
There are three specific venom categories which depend largely on the types of prey:
Neurotoxic – attacks the central nervous system, causing respiratory failure;
Cytotoxic – attacks tissue and blood cells, causing swelling;
Haemotoxic - attacks the vascular system, causing bleeding and haemorrhaging.
The venom of certain species is a cocktail of the above.
Several of the non-venomous species are constrictors and kill their prey by strangulation.
There are 20 different species of snake that you are most likely to see in the summer months, and the easiest way to identify them is by colour. There are some that are regularly seen in the Upper Highway area including Spotted Bush Sakes, Brown House Snakes, Herald Snakes and Night Adders.
Wolf Snake - harmless
OTHER REPTILES - LIZARDS
IMPORTANT ADVICE & FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Remember that it’s a privilege to have snakes visiting your garden!
Do not attempt to approach, handle or threaten a snake!
Contact the Kloof & Highway SPCA 24/7 to safely identify, rescue and relocate any snakes!
OFFICE HOURS: 031 764 1212 EMERGENCY AFTER HOURS: 073 335 9322
Q1. How can a snake bite be treated?
A1. It depends on the species and its venom. Try and identify the snake and seek urgent medical attention at a hospital. Stay calm and do not eat or drink. Remove any constricting clothing or jewellery. Try and take a photograph.
Q2. How can I identify a snake?
A2. By colour (black/grey/brown/green)
Size (length & thickness)
Location (on the ground/in a tree)
Movement (slow, quick)
Try and take a photograph.
Q3. How can I discourage snakes?
A3. Remove all refuse, rubble, bricks, tiles, branches, leaves and grass cuttings from gardens, ponds, garages and outbuildings and clear all overgrown areas. There is no evidence of an effective snake repellent.
Q4. What can I do when a snake is seen?
A4. Do not approach, handle, disturb, provoke or threaten a snake as its only defence is to bite (or spit). It will at all times retreat unless it is prevented or restricted from doing so. Observe it from a safe distance to assist the SPCA Inspector in locating and rescuing it.
Q5. What happens to the snakes that are rescued?
A5. They are all immediately released nearby their location in a suitable and safe habitat; the Kloof & Highway SPCA is opposed to keeping wildlife captive under any circumstances.
Q5. Is there a fee or charge for rescuing a snake?
A5. There is no charge for a call out; however donations can be made to the Kloof & Highway SPCA in appreciation of the service provided.
The striking photographs used in this guide were provided by Nick Evans from KZN Amphibian & Reptile Conservation and the Kloof & Highway SPCA appreciates his gesture in allowing us the free use thereof.