Early breeding season has snake handlers busy

2014-11-21 00:00

SNAKE handlers across Durban have had their hands full snaring dangerous serpents as the city heads into the heat of summer.

With the recent rains compounding the warmer weather, sightings of venomous snakes have spiked dramatically.

Bluff snake catcher Shaun Venter said ­breeding season had started early, and that ­residents across the city should take care.

“We are getting a lot of Night Adders and Burrowing Adders and we think that is because of the fact that prey items are everywhere. With the rains, frogs have been breeding and now the snakes have an ample food source and there has been a lot of activity,” he said.

“One of my friends mistook a Burrowing ­Adder for a harmless house snake and he tried to catch it and got bitten. He spent the weekend in hospital and he was discharged yesterday. He was incredibly lucky that he didn’t get a large amount of venom. If he had, they are very ­dangerous and their bites are usually characterised by a large amount of necrosis,” Venter said.

He said the Burrowing Adder, also known as the Stiletto snake, is incredibly tricky to catch.

“The Stiletto snake is a very weird animal because it doesn’t have fixed fangs; they can actually pivot in the jaw. When people try and grab them behind the head they just pivot the fangs and pull backwards, we see a lot of bites like that.”

He said that a network of snake catchers worked together in the city, and were in the midst of preparing for their busiest time.

“It becomes challenging because trying to catch a mamba can take hours and this is a snake that is potentially fatal, it is not something you want to rush. Black mambas are particularly prominent in Queensburgh and Chatsworth along with areas in north Durban.”

Venter said that this year, their early season rush had started sooner than expected.

EMRS spokesperson Robert McKenzie listed the following tips if anyone is bitten by a snake.

“Although it sounds strange, stay calm. Any activity, including panicking, will increase the victim’s heart rate which will circulate the ­venom in the body faster. After moving away from the danger area, any form of activity, be it ­running, walking, pacing up and down, needs to be limited, as combined with the stress of ­already having been bitten by a snake this will ­definitely increase the victim’s heart rate. Lastly, call for help immediately,” he said.

• jeff.wicks@witness.co.za

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