A snake in your garden? Here’s what to do
Finding a snake in your garden shouldn’t necessarily result in a state of fear.
In fact, given that we live in a biosphere, there’s a good chance that you could meet some of our cold-blooded brethren from time to time.
While there are of course some venomous snake species in the Kogelberg Biosphere, many species are not only not venomous, but they also play a vital role in our natural systems.
Either way, whether you find a Puff Adder or a Slugeater that you feel is a little close to home, here are tips to deal with them safely – with a good outcome for both you AND the snake.
Step 1: Know who to call
There’s anecdotal evidence that suggests that since the fire on the mountains above Kleinmond two years ago, more snakes – searching for food – are sneaking into gardens in this corner of the Kogelberg Biosphere. This is not only a problem in Kleinmond; many of our towns here come across visiting wildlife from time to time.
It’s therefore great to know that there’s help available to you. Before issuing a death warrant to your likely confused, shy and scared visitor, get in touch with one of our region’s snake catchers.
Here are your options in the Kogelberg Biosphere (please save the relevant number to your phone):
Michael Green: 082 212 5116 or 082 385 1589
Johan Cloete: 083 460 2123
Francois van Zyl: 083 271 8809
Dan: 083 463 9178
Steve Chadwick: 076 099 7458
Guy Regnard: 083 401 0012
Jonathan Powers: 082 352 6000
(Please note: These snake handlers are not affiliated to the Kogelberg Biosphere. Snake catchers do need to have valid catch and release permits from CapeNature).
There’s also great online support available. The African Snakebite Institute provides helpful advice, including the details of snake handlers in your area. Simply download their app via the Google PlayStore (search for African Snakebite Institute). You can download the app free of charge.
Step 2: Get to know your snakes
It’s helpful to know what species you’re dealing with. There are fantastic apps available to help you identify your visiting snake species. As mentioned above, the African Snakebite Institute app offers invaluable information, including a list, with pictures, of species you’ll find in our area.
Meet our harmless Kogelberg snakes:
Yellow-bellied House Snake
A small snake, around 40cm long on average. It’s secretive and is active at night. It feeds on lizards and rodents. Image by cliffdorse, iNaturalist
While this species is mildly venomous, it poses no threat to humans. This nervous snake will move out of your way quickly. Image by @docbird, iNaturalist
This snake averages around 30-60cm, and is known to get confused and head into houses. It feeds on lizards, rodents and other snakes. Image by @nicolauecology, iNaturalist
Karoo Sand Snake
This fast-moving snake is active in the day, searching for lizards and agamas. While mildly venomous, there’s no threat to humans. Image by @gigilaidler, iNaturalist
Herald Snake (or Red-lipped Snake)
This snake is easily identified by its red, orange or yellowish ‘lip’. It’s nocturnal and is often close to water (where it feeds on toads). Image by @scelotes, iNaturalist
Cross-marked Sand Snake
A pretty snake, reaching up to 50cm. Frequently found in fynbos and forests, where it feeds on lizards and frogs. Image by @jennyparsons_201pringle, iNaturalist
This snake does as its name suggests – it feeds exclusively on snails and slugs (a wonderful natural way to control snails in your garden). Image by @erikvdl, iNaturalist
Common Brown Water Snake
You could find this species close to rivers, streams and vleis. It is active at night and swims well, feeding on tadpoles and frogs. Image by @rpietersen, iNaturalist
Brown House Snake
This commonly occurring snake often moves into human dwellings, hunting rodents and lizards. However, it is harmless to humans. Image by @heather_t, iNaturalist
Aurora House Snake
This lovely snake is sometimes seen in fynbos and forests, hunting for rodents and lizards at night. It’s harmless and is unlikely to attempt to bite. Image by @daniellestassen, iNaturalist
Dangerous snakes in the Kogelberg:
Should you come across any of the following snakes, it’s handy to take extra precautions. Not all these snakes are very venomous, but they could still give you a painful bite.
Spotted Harlequin Snake
A gorgeous small snake that usually hunts small lizards and skinks. A bite is uncommon, but should be treated symptomatically. Image by @rianstander, iNaturalist
This snake is incredibly threatened, given that most of its habitat has been lost. It lives in low-lying coastal fynbos. It’s often poached for the illegal pet trade. Image by @mikefabricius, iNaturalist
While this snake is classified as dangerous, it’s not venomous. Instead its bite can leave puncture wounds that could require stitches. Not to be confused with the Cape Cobra. Image by @kurtvanwyk, iNaturalist
Coral Shield Cobra
A beautiful snake that lives in fynbos and sandy regions (including dunes). Bites should be treated symptomatically. Image by @kevinjolliffe, iNaturalist
There are only four isolated populations of the Berg Adder across southern Africa. Often found on mountains, where it hisses loudly. No fatalities have been recorded from a Berg Adder bite. Image by @carinalochner, iNaturalist
Very dangerous snakes
Most Kogelberg inhabitants are likely to know these species – simply because we are warned to take extra care around them.
This Spitting Cobra is sometimes found in our fynbos or wetlands, where it feeds on frogs. It’s very shy, and will disappear quickly where it can, but when cornered, will hood and spit. Image by @scelotes, iNaturalist
These snakes vary from yellow or even speckled to dark brown and sometimes near black. They are the most dangerous cobra in South Africa, and extreme care should be taken should you see this snake. Image by @corriedt, iNaturalist
Likely our most common snake, it is venomous and is known to be lazy and reluctant to move. It mostly feeds on toads. Bites can cause severe pain and swelling, and sometimes tissue damage. Image by @maakepp, iNaturalist
While this snake is highly venomous, it’s also very shy and is very reluctant to bite. However, if bitten, a monovalent antivenom is effective against their bites when provided timeously. Image by @koosretief, iNaturalist
For snake bites, be sure to save these emergency numbers:
African Snakebite Institute: 082 494 2039
Netcare Ambulance: 082 911
ER24 Ambulance: 084 124
Find out more on the Kogelberg Biosphere Wildlife Rescue team.
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