Durban - A Durban policeman is recovering in an intensive care unit after being bitten on his finger by a 30cm stiletto snake.
Warrant Officer Anton Laas, based at Malvern police station, fears he might lose the finger, saying the pain was unbearable.
On Tuesday, Northdene couple
Tanya Odendaal and her husband, Samuel, called the police after she almost stepped on the snake when going to close the garage door. It was brown, matching the paving.
“I have a phobia of snakes and began panicking.
“My husband and I have no knowledge on snakes so we phoned the police station for help,” she said.
“We kept an eye on the snake to help the police. We also kept the landlord’s dogs away from it.”
After getting the call, Laas said he told the Odendaals not to let the snake out of their sight and that he was on his way.
Laas and his partner, Constable Marvin Munsami, arrived and found the couple in a state of fright.
He grabbed the snake, which was coiled up outside the garage door, by the back of its head and had it under control. But when he placed it into a plastic container it bit him on the tip of his middle finger on the right hand.
“The head just snapped back and the fangs came out,” he said. Laas did not take the bite seriously at first.
He squeezed his finger and then bandaged it. He then drove back to the police station with the snake in the container.
Laas used the first aid kit at the station to clean the wound and then wrote out an incident report.
When his colleagues noticed the excessive swelling, they took him to hospital, stopping on the way to release the snake into a nearby reserve.
Speaking on Wednesday from his ICU bed at St Augustine’s Hospital, Laas said antibiotics and painkillers were helping to alleviate the pain.
He described the snakebite as feeling like a needle prick, but the burning sensation thereafter as the worst experience in his life.
“It was like picking up hot coal. The burning sensation is unbearable,” he said.
“I am waiting for the medication to take its course.
“The glands under my arm have become swollen. My elbow joint and the muscle on my left hand are sore. I have never experienced something like this in my 22 years as a policeman… I fear they may amputate my finger.”
Ndlondlo Reptile Park snake expert, Neville Wolmarans, confirmed that a stiletto snake had bitten Laas.
Its venom was a potent cytotoxin that attacked tissue but was not considered life threatening, he said.
Wolmarans said the snake had acted in self-defence, a normal reaction when touched.
Laas said he had caught a 2m black mamba in the same area two months ago.
Meanwhile, the Odendaals’ landlord, who did not want to be named, said he found a harmless Red-lipped (or Herald) snake under the pool pump after Tuesday night’s drama.
He killed it with a stick.
* Stiletto snakes are small, glossy, dark brown to black snakes with small heads that are not clearly defined, as they are burrowing snakes. Fortunately, being small snakes, the venom yields are small.
Heavy rain sometimes forces them to the surface, which was probably the case with the Odendaals.
* Precautions: Do not fiddle with snakes. Leave catching them to the professionals. Call a snake handler. – Source: Neville Wolmarans, Ndlondlo Reptile Park