WATCH: Cape Town snake catcher shares summer safety tips

By Kelly-Jane Turner Time of article published Nov 15, 2019

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With the temperatures finally starting to feel like summer in the Cape, snake catchers are receiving more and more callouts for removals. 

Justin Collocott, owner of Helderberg Snake Removal says the summer heat brings snakes out of hibernation whether in rural or urban areas. 

The most common venomous snakes in the Cape include the boomslang, puff adder and the Cape cobra. Collocott explains that it is helpful to know how to differentiate between them and how they react when confronted. 

“Whenever you encounter a snake call your local snake catcher and stay at least five meters away from it. It's better to call a snake catcher rather than trying to kill it or relocate it yourself and get bitten and end up in hospital,” he said. 

For hikers or people walking through long grass it is vital to check before taking a step and to keep your eyes on the path. In urban areas you also need to keep an eye out as snakes enjoy basking on hot pavements or roads.

If, despite all your precautions, you are bitten by a snake you can’t identify, Collocott says the best thing to do is to take a picture of the snake if possible and immediately head to your nearest hospital. 

Here are the top three venomous snakes in the Cape and how to react if you see them:

A boomslang is a slender green snake with large eyes, Collocott says “it will hardly bite but if you grab onto it and it gets irritated it will definitely bite and it has a nasty hemotoxic venom, causing severe bleeding”. 

A puff adder is known as an ambush hunter, only striking if prey crosses it or if it feels threatened. It is a heavy-bodied viper that relies on its excellent camouflage. “If you don't bother the puff adder it will not strike. The venom is cytotoxic, meaning cell destroying and flesh rotting,” said Collocott.

The Cape cobra is highly venomous and is often confused with large mole snakes. “This is a snake you do not corner. It will not go and attack you, but if you corner it, it will stand its ground and defend itself making the iconic hood. A Cape cobra has a neurotoxic bite meaning it attacks your respiratory system causing respiratory failure and you can end up with a heart attack.” 

Collocott covers the entire Helderberg area for snake callouts. From Grabouw to Stellenbosch, Paarl to Macassar. If he cannot make a callout he is backed up by his team of nine people who are qualified to remove any type of snake. 

This article is part of the Sapa+ #Inform campaign.

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