The Northern Cape department of agriculture has welcomed recent rains, but cautions farmers and communities to be on high alert for increased snake activity across the province.
In a media release, agriculture MEC Mase Manopole says recent heavy rains and improved weather conditions in the province could be linked to the high prevalence of snakes. Both venomous and less harmful snakes are more plentiful due to an upsurge in prey and the flooding of their shelters.
Springtime is moulting season for various snake species, Manopole further clarified. During this time snakes could be encountered in populated areas in gardens and houses closest to open veld. This has become common occurrence in Kimberley.
Households with rubble in the yard are likely to attract snakes as the shelter attracts mice and rats, which are staples to the slithering predator.
“The increase in frogs, lizards and newborn birds after rains will result in more snake encounters since snakes in our province are mostly inactive during winter and therefore need to obtain food as it becomes warmer,” she said.
Eep! There is a snake in my house, what should I do?
In the Northern Cape, it is estimated that snakes and scorpion bites are fatal in at least five people per year.
The conflict between humans and snakes has been concerning due to the increase of the human population and the shrinking of natural habitat for the animals to survive in.
In southern Africa a total of 175 snake species exist, with 55 of these present in the Northern Cape.
Only five are considered dangerous: the Puff Adder (Bitis arietans), Cape Cobra (Naja nivea), Cape Coral Snake (Aspidelaps lubricus lubricus), Black Spitting Cobra (Naja nigricollis woodi) and Boomslang (Dispholidus typus typus).
Despite your own terror and shock in your encounter of the misunderstood visitor, Manopole warns that it is illegal to kill snakes in the province without the necessary permit to do so.
“Snakes play an important role in our ecosystems since they control animal species such as mice and rats, which can spread diseases to humans.
“If you encounter a snake in your home or garden the best thing to do is to retreat at least five paces. At this distance you cannot get bitten by a snake. Observe the snake from a safe distance while calling a snake handler,” Manopole cautioned.
She added that the province boasted several qualified and trained experts who were willing to catch and release the misplaced serpents.
“It must be noted that even if a person obtained the necessary training to be able to handle snakes, in the Northern Cape Province they are also required to have a valid permit from our department, to be able to remove snake species from areas and to translocate them to a safe place.”
Manopole added, “It is necessary for the communities to familiarise themselves with the snake species which can occur in their area and to know what to do when they encounter a snake. Educational resources are freely available from the Department offices.”