Durban – People often ask renowned Durban snake catcher Nick Evans how they can protect their homes from snakes, but the truth is that there is nothing you can really do to prevent them coming onto your property or into your home.
South Africa’s climate and natural environment means snakes will always be around – even if you do not see them, and apart from trying to keep your property neat and tidy, there is no way to really stop them from sharing your residence.
This is not bad news, however, as snakes do not enter a property looking to attack people or pets; they are just carrying out their roles in the ecosystem, which includes keeping rats and frogs at bay.
In KwaZulu-Natal, Evans says, many of the snake species are harmless. Even if they are venomous this does not make them deadly. Common snakes found in this province, particularly in coastal areas include Spotted Bush Snakes, Black Mambas, Night Adders, and Spitting Cobras.
In the Cape, you are more likely to come across Cape Cobras, Puff Adders, and Boomslang.
“In other parts of the country, some common snakes include Puff Adders and Snouted Cobras.”
Where do they hide on properties?
During his residential property call-outs, Evans says snakes are found in messy store rooms or in piles of bricks, wood, or rubbish. But this does not mean that your neat and tidy property will be snake-free.
“Sometimes we catch snakes on properties that are fully concrete. The whole garden is paved and there is nothing left [in terms of grass, trees, or bush], but we still find snakes. People say they are only found in overgrown areas, but this is not always the case.”
Obviously, if you do live on the edge of a bushy area or nature reserve, you are more likely to encounter a snake, but even if you do not, there is nothing you can actually do to snake-proof your property.
“A lot of people try repellents like Jeyes Fluid or commercial repellents, but they do not work. Some people plant special plants to repel snakes, but these do not work either.”
Although keeping your garden neat and tidy could help, this does not mean cutting down trees. Not only does Evans not believe in getting rid of trees but he says it does not prevent snakes either. Ensuring that there are no piles of rubbish, wood, or bricks around though could lessen your risk of encountering them.
“These piles not only give snakes shelter, but also provide a food source as they can be home to rats.”
He says some people put mesh on their windows which is a “pretty good idea that could work” as it can help prevent snakes entering the home through the windows. Some people also put shade cloth up around their fences as a barrier, but this would need to be at least one metre high and dug into the ground. None of these are completely fool-proof though.
Keeping pets safe
While cats can kill non-venomous snakes, Evans says dogs will “go for any snake”, even if it is poisonous. It is their instinct to protect their turf and, unfortunately, as they often find snakes before people do, they get hurt.
“If you find a snake in your garden before your dogs, please keep them away from the snake for their own safety.
“Some people see their dogs attacking snakes and just leave them. You need to do everything you can to protect both your pet and the snake. Just don’t get between them though as you could end up being bitten.”
Signs your property is home to snakes
Sometimes people find snake skin in their gardens but this does not mean that the snake is still there. It could have been passing through looking for food when it shed, so by the time you see the skin the snake could be long gone.
“Snakes are very elusive. People worry about snake families and nests but the Mamba snake will lay her eggs and then leave; she offers no protection. A Python will, however, stay to protect her eggs. She is a good mother.”
Snakes coming into the home
It is rare that a snake will move into a home, and they are generally found inside when they have come in looking for food or shelter.
“There is the odd occasion that a snake has been living inside, but most of the time they have just come in and people have bumped into them. If it is scorching hot or freezing cold then they will come in to find cool or warmth, but some people have rats in their kitchens and that brings snakes inside.”
In a very recent case, Evans says a homeowner reported hearing movement in the roof and it turned out it was a pair of Black Mambas. He managed to catch the one at the time but is returning today to try to capture the other.
What to do when you encounter a snake
“My main advice to people is to not live in fear of snakes. Some people will not even let their kids play in the garden because they are scared, but I have actually had so many Mamba cases where they could have easily bitten the whole family but did not. So that tells you something.”
Evans generally tries to encourage people who come across non-venomous snakes to just leave them be. However, if you find venomous snakes you should get hold of a snake catcher to remove them.
It is when people try to capture or kill a snake that bites are reported, he says, adding, however, that snake bites are rarely recorded.
“I think I may record three bites a year, but nine out of every ten cases of bites is when people were trying to kill or catch the snake.”
While snakes are found all-year-round in South Africa there are times when there is increased activity. Currently, it is Mamba mating season – which starts about mid-May and lasts until the end of August, so Evans has been particularly busy with call-outs. It is also currently mating season for Pythons.
*Video credit: Nick Evans – Snake Rescuer/YouTube