Durban snake rescuer Nick Evans removed an adult stiletto snake from a pool in Cowies Hill on Monday evening.
Evans said that the warm evenings, especially after rains, have made for perfect conditions for this fossorial (burrowing) species.
“They’re specialised diggers, not climbers, so it wasn’t getting out of this pool,” Evans said.
Evans said the stiletto snake was a species he was not called out to remove frequently.
He said that often someone has already picked it up, got bitten, and then requested an ID. Or, it is assumed to be harmless, and left to slither off into the garden, and he gets sent a photo afterwards (which is fine, as the snake is almost never seen again).
“Once we had it out, I put it on the bricks to take some photos,” Evans said. “It immediately started arching its neck, head against the ground, and flicking its head from side to side. This defensive display is one feature to look out for when trying to ID stilettos, as well as their twitchy movements when threatened.”
Evans thanked the residents for calling him to rescue the creature.
“The stiletto snake is the species that bites the most people in Durban because people frequently pick them up, either because they confuse them for a non-venomous species, or they think it's so small (adults are usually 30-40cm) it cannot possibly cause any harm,” Evans explained.
“The venom of this snake is not known to be lethal, but the cytotoxins cause swelling, a lot of pain, and often, necrosis (tissue damage).”
Evans advised people not to pick up snakes.
He said that for more information, check out the ID card from the free African Snakebite Institute app (a very useful resource one should download).
“I am trying to keep records of how many snakebites occur in Durban and throughout KZN in general. It's quite informal for now, but the data collected helps us understand human/snake conflict,” Evans said.
“I am recording bites on dogs, in the greater Durban area, as well.”
Evans asked residents to record the date, area, how the bite happened (with humans), outcome, and useful details.
“You’re welcome to email or WhatsApp me. Any info is appreciated,” Evans said.
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