By Shellee Geduld

Daily Voice Reporter

There are more than 35 different snake species living in the Western Cape. And only four are considered dangerous.

Yet hundreds of these elegant creatures are killed every month by people who fear them.

Today the Daily Voice introduces you to the five snakes most commonly found in your home and garden.

Snake expert Marcel Witberg says these slithery creatures are often misunderstood and this is mainly because of the bad press they get.

His passion for the reptiles began about 20 years ago when he started collecting and breeding them while still at school.

Today he works as a conservationist and assists the Cape Nature Reserve when they receive call-outs from people who have found snakes in their homes.

Marcel feels that snakes, like any other creature, should be treated with respect and caution to avoid injury and death.

"Ninety percent of snake bites happen when people try to kill a snake that they've found in their home, garden or garage," says Marcel.

"If you are struck by a snake, any snake, leave the snake alone, take a picture of it and get yourself to the nearest hospital immediately so that they can begin treating the symptoms."

The Cape Cobra, which is indigenous to the Western Cape, has the most potent venom of all the cobras.

Its colour varies from shades of yellow, black and brown; and sometimes also looks speckled.

It is also known as the geelslang, koperkapel, bruinkapel and spikkelkapel and is most recognisable by the hood it forms when it spreads the area behind its head.

"That is a warning saying be careful and stay aware. It's his defence," says Marcel.

The cobra becomes aggressive when confronted and won't hesitate to strike. Its venom is neurotoxic and attacks the body's nervous system.

You'll feel immediate pain as your body slowly starts to shut down as the poison spreads.

These snakes can grow up to 1.6meters long and prey on rodents like rats and mice, birds, lizards, frogs and other snakes.

Marcel warns that if you come across a cobra, the best thing for you to do is freeze.

The snake will eventually move off. If you try to run or make any sudden movements, the cobra will strike and probably bite you.

Another potentially lethal snake is the boomslang. They are identifiable by their very slender body with big eyes and a stubby head and can grow up to two metres long.

Females are olive brown while males are different shades of green with black, yellow or brown; juveniles are greyish with blue speckles.

The Boomslang has haemotoxic venom and their fangs are at the back of the jaw.

If bitten, you only start to display symptoms after 48 hours, but by then it?s too late to treat.

Marcel says stories that these snakes attack people when they fall out of trees are false.

"Yes they are found in trees but you will find any type of snake in a tree," he says.

The puff adder is considered one of the most dangerous snakes in the world.

"It is an ambush hunter. It will lie under a tree for days or weeks just waiting for a rat or something to come past and then it will strike," says Marcel.

"That is why hikers mistakenly step on them while out walking."

He suggests that when hikers come across a log or rock, to rather step on it and then step down instead of stepping over it without looking to see if a puff adder is lying on the other side.

Mole snakes are often confused with cobras but are not nearly as dangerous. Their colour varies from beige and dark brown to pitch black.

These are large, thick, very strong and muscular snakes with a small head and pointed snout.

They are not venomous at all but are constrictors, meaning they squeeze their prey to death, but they are known to bite, leaving you with painful cuts.

Rinkhals are mostly found in the Somerset West, Grabouw and Pearly Beach areas.

Like the cobra, these snakes also create hoods with their head when threatened.

These spitting snakes are known to fake their death to fool enemies. Its colour varies between orange, yellow and with bands on a black or grey body. Its belly is black with distinctive white bars on its throat. - Daily Voice