Like many other snake species, puff adders prefer not to be disturbed and to go about their wild business in peace and quiet. For one puff adder, a simple Kgalagadi road crossing resulted in a rather irksome experience. By Arnold Ras

Where? Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Lower Auob River Valley

In the mix? Puff adder and two South African ground squirrels

Known for their short and stocky build, puff adders are like the power men of the bush. They don’t take kindly to being harassed and will hiss and puff, drawing their head back to strike. But it seems bushy-tailed South African ground squirrels aren’t that intimidated by one of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park’s most dangerous snakes.

Whether the pictured squirrel was protecting nearby young, or trying its hand at Russian roulette, no one knows. What is evident from the picture sequence below is that this rodent’s bravado knew no bounds. Even a stark warning did not deter the squirrel from further investigation.

“We left Twee Rivieren as the gates opened at 06:00 and headed over the dunes into the Auob riverbed. After some exceptional bird sightings, we came across two busy ground squirrels. We noticed something lying in the road – it almost looked like a stick. When we got closer, we realised that the squirrels were in fact mobbing a puff adder,” says Wild Card traveller Michael Miles.

The unfolding scene…

As the puff adder slowly made its way across the sandy road, the inquisitive squirrels weren’t letting the snake go without some fooling around. Taking turns, they dashed in to bother the snake. Mike recalls: “The squirrel would casually back off out of range until the snake moved again. The mobbing would then continue.”

Kgalagadi-puff adder-squirrel-Mike Miles (15)-min

Pictures by Michael Miles.

Kgalagadi-puff adder-squirrel-Mike Miles (14)-min

Kgalagadi-puff adder-squirrel-Mike Miles (11)-min

The puff adder was having none of it and raised its head. Convinced by the snake’s be-careful-or-else posture, the squirrel hit the road. But not for long.

Kgalagadi-puff adder-squirrel-Mike Miles (3)-min

Kgalagadi-puff adder-squirrel-Mike Miles (4)-min

Kgalagadi-puff adder-squirrel-Mike Miles (6)-min
When the puff adder reached the other side of the road, it finally found peace under a bush. But it remained in a striking position in case one of the squirrels dared to return…

Kgalagadi-puff adder-squirrel-Mike Miles (10)-min

Kgalagadi-puff adder-squirrel-Mike Miles (8)-min

Kgalagadi-puff adder-squirrel-Mike Miles (9)-min

All’s well that ends well

The squirrels’ interest was short lived. “The mischievous duo wandered off rather casually while the snake continued tasting the air.”

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Additional source: Snakes & Snakebite in Southern Africa. Johan Marais. Struik Nature. 2014.