Its snake season, and at the Breede you can expect to see a number of venomous and non-venomous species. Bites are uncommon, but not unheard of, and for that reason every responsible person should have a basic understanding of which snake species occur here and what first aid to apply.
The three most common dangerous snakes are the Puff adder, Cape cobra and Boomslang. Puff adders are ambush predators which lie well camouflaged and wait for mice to pass by. They get their name from their habit of taking in lots of air when feeling threatened and exhaling it slowly to make a loud puffing noise.
The Puff adder is a slow-moving snake, but it has the fastest strike of all southern African snakes. They strike multiple times within milliseconds. Watch this incredible video which slows down a rapid strike to reveal several bite attempts. The venom of Puff adders is predominantly cytotoxic, meaning it affects local tissue and causes damage to muscle cells. The Night adder is another snake with this venom that occurs here.
Cape cobras are more mobile than puffies and actively hunt for prey. They pack a potent neurotoxic venom which affects the peripheral nervous system.
The respiratory muscles are gradually paralysed leading to respiratory failure. Cape cobras are more mobile than puffies and actively hunt for prey. They pack a potent neurotoxic venom which affects the peripheral nervous system. The respiratory muscles are gradually paralysed leading to respiratory failure. In October Gillie Gunter recorded this video of a standoff between a Cape cobra, mongoose and two crows – watch here.
The Boomslang is a shy tree snake which can sometimes be seen hunting birds and foraging their nests. They are fast snakes which have relatively short fangs situated at the back of their mouth. Nearly all snakes can open their mouths 180° when striking, so do not believe the misconception that a back-fanged snake cannot bite you. Boomslangs have haemotoxic venom. This venom affects the clotting mechanism of the blood. Here’s a video of a Boomslang getting dive-bombed by weavers as it raids their nests at Bent Head Pub – watch here.
Common non-venomous snakes include Mole snakes, Egg-eaters and Brown house snakes. Egg-eaters and Night adders look very similar, both in patterning and size, but there are some key differences to look out for so that you do not confuse the two: