I make my living removing unwanted snakes from homes in KwaZulu-Natal. I don’t remove them from the wild. I do however, remove them from people’s homes where they are not welcome! These snakes are released in safe, protected areas. This year, I’ve had some pretty hair-raising, heart pounding, adrenaline-filled experiences while catching snakes. From being stung by bees, to being shot at, and almost receiving a bite in the face from a Mamba, it’s been fun!
Here are 4 dangerous snake experiences that stick out in my mind:
1. One morning, while living and working in Hluhluwe in northern Kwa-Zulu Natal, I was called out by a nearby reserve for a cobra in a tree. The snake, a forest cobra, was living in a hollow branch overhanging a dirt road which workers walk along daily, therefore the owners wanted it removed for the staff’s safety.
When I arrived it had disappeared in the hollow branch. I climbed up the tree and tried encouraging the snake to come out. Instead a whole swarm of angry bees exploded out of a hole in the branch. After receiving a few stings and running for my life, I reconsidered my plan. I, luckily, got hold of a bee suit from the neighbour, well only the top half of one! I was barefoot with khaki shorts, as always. After a lot of work, and a few stings later, I got the forest cobra out of the tree and into a bucket for release.
2. On a hot day in March, I was called to a rural community in Inchanga, Kwa-Zulu Natal. The owner of an old, abandoned bakkie had reported seeing a snake inside it. He showed me how big he thought it was, about 60cm, with a yellow belly. I thought it was a harmless brown water snake, but I was very wrong.
After poking under the seats with my hook stick, and looking around the old bakkie, I discovered an adult black mamba inside the dashboard! I got hold of the tail on the passenger’s side, and its head was by the clutch pedal. I then discovered it had got it’s body stuck somewhere in the middle. After pushing and pulling gently for an hour, it broke free. I was sitting in the passenger seat when this happened, but jumped out very quickly. I safely secured the snake and showed the excited locals. What a great moment it was for them.
3. One day I went out to remove a green mamba that was hiding in someone’s car. I opened the bonnet, and saw the head right at the bottom. It then reversed and disappeared.
I crawled under the car, and couldn’t see anything. I then crawled further under, and slowly peered around a compartment. Then I saw a flash of dark blue fly at my face. Green mambas have a dark blue colouration inside of their mouth. I didn’t know that I could reverse on my back so quickly from underneath a car. I was a little shaken! After an hour of trying to get the snake out of hiding, I managed to get it to go towards the engine where I managed to get a safe grip on its head and remove it.
4. I received a call from a farm owner about a cobra in a tree outside his house. When I arrived, I could see a forest cobra at the top of the tree. The workers kindly got a long ladder for me, and held it while I climbed up. When I got to the top and tried reaching for the snake, it moved downwards. The workers panicked, and left the ladder, allowing me to go crashing into the tree with the cobra! Luckily, the snake and I were unharmed, and I managed to catch him without further problems!