Help! There's a snake in our bedroom - Bulawayo family

2015-05-21 17:26
(File: Netcare 911)

(File: Netcare 911)

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Harare - A family in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, are sleeping in their kitchen after a snake took up residence in their bedroom, a local newspaper reported.

They have tried burning tyres and summoned rangers from the state Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, who couldn't find it, according to the tabloid B-Metro.

They have deserted their bedroom and are sleeping in the kitchen, B-Metro says.

So what can you do if you think there's a snake in your house, or worse still, in your bed?

News24 asked Zimbabwean Mike Hitschmann, who has experience in problem animal control and has removed hundreds of snakes from homes, buildings and offices in eastern Manicaland province. 

First, Hitschmann says, find out if it really is a snake you're dealing with. 

He was called into an abandoned business premises near Zimbabwe's mountainous Vumba district last week after an eyewitness claimed to have seen a snake through a hole in the ceiling.

'You have to think like a snake to find it'

Hitschmann says mambas are typical of the kind of snake one might find in parts of southern Africa in places like a disused barn.

Hitschmann, who survived an Egyptian cobra bite without anti-venom last year, climbed into the roof but found no snake.

"What I did find was bat droppings," he said. 

If you're certain that there's a snake, then you have to think like a snake to find it.

"Look for access points," he says. "If there's a tree with branches overhanging the roof, trim the branches back."

If you suspect that snakes are climbing up your pipes, Hitschmann advises sprinkling a fine powder, like mealie-meal or sand, around them. If the snake is going where you think it's going, it'll leave tracks.

Snakes are looking for two things in a building: food and warmth. If you're keeping livestock in or near your house, you may need to change your household management.

Chickens, says Hitschmann, "are very wasteful feeders". The waste attracts mice and rats, which attract more dangerous snakes.

"House snakes [which harmless to humans] can't cope with large rats. Rats with young will attack and even kill house snakes." 

When the big snakes move in, that's when it's time to call someone with experience. Burning tyres or carbur [both popular snake repellent measures in Zimbabwe] doesn't work, Hitschmann says.

There is no proven chemical remedy to deal with snakes, short of poison, which isn't a good idea.

'Garlic only good for repelling vampires'

Growing garlic, popularly rumoured to keep snakes away from the garden, is only good for repelling vampires, Hitschmann says. 

When Hitschmann is called into a room to trap a snake, he works methodically, starts in one corner, removes all objects, pulls out furniture, and works his way slowly around the room.

He wears goggles until he knows for sure that he's not dealing with one of the two spitting cobras common in Manicaland: The Mozambique spitting cobra and the Rinkhals.

The Egyptian cobra, he says, will make a sound like a deep hiss when approached. Puffadders also make a sound, but it's very unusual to find them indoors.

What if the snake has somehow got into your bed?

"You have to stay very, very still. But try telling that to people who are terrified, as we all would be."

If you move, you could get bitten.

"The reality is that if you've got the guts to stay still, you'll be fine."

Read more on:    zimbabwe  |  southern africa  |  animals

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