Bites and stings – When to panic about snakes
How do you distinguish a poisonous snake, scorpion or spider from one that is harmless? Below is a quick guide to the good, the bad and the ugly.
Out in the wilds, there is always the possibility of being bitten, stung or given a tremendous fright by a creepy crawly. The really good news is that most creepies are completely harmless, and the really dangerous ones tend to keep their distance. It's still good to know who's who in the zoo, however, just to be safe.
The number one thing to remember is to never kill anything. Ever. Secondly, never try to move a potentially dangerous animal on your own.
There will always be game wardens on hand who will safely remove a snake, scorpion or spider if it is posing a real threat.
Here’s how to tell them apart:
Good - Slug Eater
Yes, this snake does eat slugs and snails. It is completely harmless and is actually a popular pet in South Africa.
When they are alarmed they secrete a smelly substance from glands near their tail and roll into a spiral with their head in the middle. Due to this behaviour they have been called "tabakrolletjies."
They range in colour from olive green to brown and black and have a vertical stripe running down their backs.
Bad - Cobra
There are different species of cobra in South Africa, all of which are extremely dangerous. They are easily identified when they "hood", but are often mistaken for other harmless snakes when they are simply basking in the sun.
The Cape Cobra is the most potent in our country and once bitten, you need treatment immediately. The neurotoxic venom can lead to respiratory and heart failure in under an hour, often resulting in death.
Ugly – Many-horned adder
These small snakes, found along the West Coast, have little tufts of horns above each eye. They are very nervous snakes and quick strikers. It will usually warn with a very loud hiss, but when it does bite it can lift most of its body off the ground and lunge straight for you. So don't get too close.
They don't inject a lot of venom so the bite isn't fatal or too dangerous. It will hurt a lot and there is usually necrosis around the area.
Another adder you will want to avoid is the puff adder. Much larger in size with a much more potent bite, this one can be fatal. Even if you do get anti-venom, the tissue damage from a puffy bite is usually tremendous.
Click here to find out which scorpions are good, bad and ugly...
Click here to find out which spiders are good, bad and ugly...