The aim of this pamphlet is to create a general awareness about the protection of our snakes in the Garden Route and the country as a whole. It will also provide you with suggestions on protecting you and your family from Snakes and Snake bites.
Snakes are a key component in the balance and harmony of Nature. Small snakes feed on many harmful bugs and insects. Larger ones eat mice, rats, and other small mammals that can destroy crops or damage personal property. Without snakes, we would be completely overrun by these nuisance rodents. Also, snakes serve as a food source for larger predators such as hawks, owls, herons, and carnivorous mammals.
Learning and teaching snake awareness is an important part of protecting people as well as snakes. The awareness of snakes and snake bites has a three pronged approach:
- Be aware of the dangers posed by snakes and take steps to avoid them.
- If you come across a snake, leave it alone and back away slowly
- Do not tamper with seemingly dead snakes. Rinkals are experts at feigning death. They may even twist themselves upside down and lie with their mouth open and the tongue lolling out. Adders may remain quite immobile despite provocation and then strike very rapidly.
- As far as you are able, ‘proof’ your home and garden against snakes. If your home borders on natural veld, do not leave piles of rubbish lying about. Rubble such as corrugated iron, asbestos sheeting, piping and crates provide excellent cover for snakes and their prey. Keeping your property tidy will make snakes easier to see and discourage those traversing your grounds from staying either to seek shelter or prey.
- Know the symptoms of a snake bite and the appropriate initial treatment until the patient is taken up in hospital.
A few points to remember:
- Humans kill many more snakes than snakes kill humans.
- Most snakes are extremely timid creatures and what you might perceive as aggression, is simply a form of defense.
- You are statistically more likely to be struck by lightning or kicked to death by a donkey than to die of snakebite.
- There are 42 recorded Western Cape snake species. Of these 42 species:
- 18 are non-venomous
- 14 are mildly venomous
- 4 are considered dangerous and posses venom which has the potential to be life threatening
- 6 are considered deadly or very poisonous – these are: Cape Cobra, Puff Adder, Rinkhals, Boomslang, Vine Snake and Yellow Bellied Sea Snake
Snake Removal service in the Great Brak River area
If you encounter a snake on your property or any where else where there is a danger to people or the snake, remember these important points:
- Before phoning the snake removal service, make sure that someone knows where the snake is at all times and is watching it from a safe distance of at least 5 meters
- Keep pets and people away from the area (preferably indoors)
- NEVER attempt to kill a snake or allow anyone else to do so. Many (up to 95%) bite cases result from a person interfering in some way with the snake
- If the snake is indoors close any windows and doors leading from the room and place a towel along the base of the door to prevent the snake escaping
Once the area is sealed off and/or the snake is being carefully observed, call the following number:
- Mossel Bay Municipality Fire Services: 044. 606 5000
It’s a free service depending on the availability of the snake handlers.
Different Snake Venoms
Neurotoxic venom - Cobras and Mambas - attacks the central nervous system, and starts to affect movement, breathing, swallowing, speech and sight.
Haematoxic venom – Boomslang and Vine Snake - affects the blood by using up the clotting factors so it no longer coagulates leading to extensive blood loss into the tissues.
Cytotoxic venom - Puff Adders - attacks the body cells or tissues, this bite is extremely painful, with much swelling and marked symptoms of shock.
SNAKEBITE FIRST AID
When speaking to the Doctor, it could be of great use is the following knowledge can be communicated:
- Try to describe the snake by comparing it to everyday objects; E.G.: the snake is as long as a rake and as thick as a wrist or about a ruler length and as thick as a little finger.
- Coloration and patterning may also assist in its identification beforehand. Note overall coloration and distinctive markings such as chevrons or banding if possible.
- Another good indicator is the snakes defensive behaviour; does it spread a hood, spit venom or retract into an S-shape and hiss loudly?
IN CASE OF A SNAKE BITE INCIDENT:
- Do keep the victim calm and still; movement will increase blood flow and transport the venom to the heart much faster.
- Do try to identify the snake; colour, size, shape of head, attacking method are useful. The required treatment for snake bites varies from species to species and being able to identify the species of snake that has bitten someone is an important part of the procedure.
- Do loosen the Victim’s clothing and, if necessary, move them in to the shade.
- Do immobilize the limb but do NOT restrict blood flow unless you are certain the bite was from a snake that delivers neurotoxic venom.
- Clean and dress the wound being careful not to apply pressure and cause bruising.
- Be prepared to administer CPR if necessary.
- Get the victim to a hospital as soon as possible.
- Most importantly, don’t panic!
- DO NOT INJECT ANTIVENOM. Anti-venom is best left to the professionals in a proper facility where life-support systems are available. It should normally be unnecessary for the layperson to use anti-venom anywhere within the Garden Route.
- Do Not Cut the bite or attempt to suck the venom out.
- Do Not Give the pasient anything to eat or drink especially alcohol.
- Do Not Use soapy water or potassium permanganate crystals or any other solutions on the bite wound.
- Do Not Leave pressure bandages on too long.
- Do Not Leave the pasient alone.
- Do Not Apply heat or ice to the wound.
- Do Not apply electrical shock or a shun gun to the patient