I am a trained & permitted snake handler, and I use my free time to relocate wild snakes people find in their homes or businesses back to nature.

On a busy summer week (like this past one) I often get more than 15 callouts - mostly for Mole Snakes, Cape Cobras, and Boomslang.

Proof: https://www.facebook.com/1616431808658213/posts/1943804132587644/

More Proof: https://bloubergsnakerescue.co.za/interview/ask-me-anything-on-reddit-20181021/

The work I do is all about conservation, and with every callout I try to also educate the public about snakes, snakebite, and what to do if you encounter a wild snake.

Unfortunately there are a multitude of myths & misconcepts about snakes out there, so ask me anything you'd like to know about our slithery friends!

It's a hot day today so I'll likely have several callouts, but I'll respond to questions throughout the course of the day. My knowledge is focused mainly on Southern African species, but I’ll try to answer questions about exotics as well as I can.

You can see photos & videos of my relocations here:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BloubergSnakeRescue

Instagram: @snakerescue

Reddit: /r/SnakeRescue

Website: https://www.bloubergsnakerescue.co.za/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEuFutVJKqW7xj5B6pLywSN4BHsVxg76B

If you’re interested in Southern African snakes (or you live here), I also highly recommend downloading the free “ASI Snakes” app for profiles, photos, quizzes, and snake catcher contact details:

https://www.africansnakebiteinstitute.com/app/

EDIT 19:15 UTC+2: Sorry guys, I’ve just been on a couple of callouts - a Harlequin Snake and a badly injured juvenile Cape Cobra - I will continue answering questions a little later.

EDIT 21:00 UTC+2: Just got another callout, I’ll be back later to answer more questions so keep posting them!

EDIT 22:00 UTC+2: OK, I’m back and will be answering more questions for another hour or two until I go to sleep.

EDIT 23:15 UTC+2: I see there are still almost 200 questions left for me to work through, but I need to get some sleep now. Keep posting questions and I’ll continue answering them tomorrow!

EDIT 07:00 UTC+2: OK, I’ve answered some more questions and have just under 200 left to go - I’ll get to the rest of them as soon as I can, just need to get some work done first. 😉

EDIT 15:20 UTC+2: I’ve answered about 200 more questions and there’s a new 200 to go... 😂 Keep then coming, I’ll be back again later!

EDIT 21:20 UTC+2: Phew! OK I think I’ve answered about 95% of the serious questions, I’ll work through the rest over the next few days as they trickle in. Thanks so much guys, I’m glad to hear there’s so much positive interest in these misunderstood animals!

Comments: 1357 • Responses: 70  • Date: 

Tina4Tuna425 karma

Are you scared of any species in particular?

za_snake_guy661 karma

I wouldn’t say scared. I’m respectful of them, though - we have several species that are dangerously venomous in South Africa.

When dealing with any snake I always stick to my training and safety protocols, I don’t take chances, and I don’t ever do something dangerous just to get a better photo or impress the homeowners.

Luckily we have pretty good medical recourse for treating snakebite here too - only about 12 people die from snakebite per year in South Africa (the number is unfortunately a lot higher in the rest of Africa).

meowmixalots157 karma

You mentioned the number of people who die from snakebites in the rest of Africa. What snake is the most deadly there?

za_snake_guy311 karma

In Southern Africa most serious bites are by Mozambique Spitting Cobras, Puff Adders, Stiletto Snakes, and Night Adders.

Further up in Africa the Saw-Scales Vipers account for the most bites if I remember correctly.

RobotSquid_-1 karma

[deleted]

za_snake_guy16 karma

This is actually a misconception. Black Mambas are intimidating because of their size, but they’re also very skittish and don’t account for many bites.

purplehazelaw52 karma

so which species are you the most cautious with?

za_snake_guy128 karma

Boomslang, because of their speed.

meowmixalots56 karma

Never heard of "Boomslang," but that is just a badass name for a snake! Especially a dangerous one.

za_snake_guy64 karma

This is what a Boomslang (Dispholidus typus typus) looks like in the western parts of the country (on the Eastern side - Dispholidus typus viridis - they’re not as vibrantly colored):

https://i.imgur.com/bwTexEQ.jpg

resonantred3531 karma

Can you tell us more about the boomslang?

I seem to remember Boomslangs are being rear fanged, mellow tree dwellers who arent particularly aggressive but have very toxic venom...

What kind of encounters do you have with them?

Do people get bitten much by them?

za_snake_guy90 karma

Boomslang have a very potent haemotoxic venom that can cause hemorrhage and death within 24 hours of envenomation.

However, they are very timid snakes who are quick to flee when they see a human, and you have to get them really angry before they’ll bite. For a long time people didn’t even know they were dangerously venomous.

They’re also super quick (I’ve often had to run after them and end up catching them on lawns a couple of houses down the street), they like climbing up the snake hook towards you instead of just hanging on it, and they dislike being put into a bucket - they usually pop right out again.

They’re the species I catch third most often (behind Mole Snakes and Cape Cobras) in my area. Every now and then there’s a bite - mostly on snake handlers (a friend of mine got a dry bite from a Boomslang a couple of months ago), but the last recorded death from a Boomslang bite in the Western Cape was 17 years ago.

darwinsidiotcousin16 karma

Isn't boomslang venom supposed to a mite nasty as well? Think I remember reading something that said it's a hematoxin that causes lung pockets to burst and fill your lungs with fluid. sounds a tad like an urban myth, but I've heard crazier shit

za_snake_guy32 karma

They have a haemotoxic venom that can cause massive bleeding and internal hemorrhage if not treated.

blondie--20 karma

Which snake is the most dangerous to catch? Most agile, defensive, venomous, etc?

za_snake_guy83 karma

There are a couple of possibilities depending on the situation...

Boomslang are tricky especially when they’re up in trees and you have to use a ladder to get to them - they’re very quick.

Black Mambas have a very fast-acting’s neurotoxic venom and they’re very long (can be over 2 meters) and fast, which can make them tricky to handle.

Mozambique Spitting Cobras are foul-tempered little firehoses - once they start spitting they don't stop.

claudia995287 karma

What are some of the most common misconceptions about what to do in case you encounter a snake or are bitten by one?

za_snake_guy988 karma

In general, don’t believe anything you’ve seen in the movies / on TV. Even so-called “reality shows” or documentaries that talk about snakes are often dramatized and have incorrect information.

The list of misconceptions is huge, but these are some that I encounter often:

  • Don’t try to chase away any snakes you see. Although many of them will flee at the sight of a human, some (like the Cape Cobra, Black Mamba, or Puff Adder) won’t hesitate to bite if you corner or threaten them. Rather keep watching any snakes from a safe distance of 5 meters and call a snake catcher.
  • Don’t pick up any snakes, ever. Even if you pick them up by their tails, some of them can curl around and still bite you.
  • Don’t try to grab a snake behind the head, although this is often done on TV it’s not safe unless you know exactly what you’re doing and you were able to identify the species. Some snakes have long fangs that can pierce through their jaws or necks and still prick you, and some snakes have mobile fangs that they can point backwards and still envenomate you with.
  • If you’re bitten by a snake in South Africa, you don’t have to catch or kill the snake to take it with you. You can take a photo from a safe distance if the snake is still around, but your priority should be to get to a hospital with a trauma unit ASAP. We have only two antivenoms (a “polyvalent” one for Cape Cobras, Black Mambas, Puff Adders, Rinkhals, Mozambique Spitting Cobras, etc.), and a “monovalent” one for just the Boomslang. Based on your symptoms the doctors will know how to treat you.
  • Don’t cut, suck, shock, or tie off bite wounds, this doesn’t help at all and may actually make things worse.
  • If a spitting snake gets venom into someone’s eyes, don’t wash them out with milk - milk contains bacteria that may make things worse. Rather gently wash out their eyes with running water for 15 minutes, the go to a doctor. If you don’t have water, you can use anything you’d be willing to drink, but last of all milk. And don’t pee in people’s eyes unless you don’t like them.
  • If you, a friend, or a pet was bitten by a venomous snake and the snake did inject venom, the only thing that’ll help is medical treatment at a hospital. Don’t try home remedies, don’t try to “walk it off”, and don’t believe any of the “old wives tales” that say you should inject your dog with petrol or cut off the tip of its ear - it’s all bunk.

Fifth_damn_account463 karma

some snakes have mobile fangs that they can point backwards and still envenomate you with.

That’s a new level of nightmare for me, thanks.

za_snake_guy176 karma

This is a Stiletto Snake (Atractaspis bibronii), it's often mistaken for a harmless Common Wolf Snake or a Subadult Mole Snake, and when people try to grab it behind the head they get bitten:

https://i.imgur.com/4rMfTGU.jpg

Meatchris117 karma

So you're saying if I get bitten, don't inject my dog with petrol?

za_snake_guy42 karma

You would be surprised how many people believe this kind of stuff is true.

elainemarieseinfeld82 karma

As an Aussie living in the bush, is there anything you can do to help your prognosis before you arrive at the hospital or before the ambulance arrives? As I’m sure you know, some of the world’s deadliest snakes live here, and although our dogs tend to keep them away from the house, snake awareness has been drilled into me since childhood. Thanks for this AMA!

Fedwinn68 karma

Just from my personal knowledge, since i'm not sure he'll get to you, the recurring thing I hear is to stay as calm as you can to keep your heart rate down. So if you have to run away from the snake get 5 meters away then walk. I'd suggest counting your breaths for a 3 to 4 count per inhale and exhale as this will help keep heart rate down. The slower the blood flow, the slower the venom will spread. Source: Eagle Scout and mom is obsessed with snakes.

za_snake_guy61 karma

Correct, stay calm and get to medical help ASAP. If your buddy was bitten by a neurotoxic snake, you can use a Bag Valve Mask to help them breathe until they get to help.

Don't cut, suck, shock, or do anything else to the bite wound, don't apply a tourniquet, and don't try to catch the snake to take it with you (take a photo if you can).

vbevan55 karma

Move as little as possible and stay calm. Higher heart rate = more venom moved around your body.

If bitten on a extremity, start at the bite site then wind a bandage up the arm/leg then back down past the bite site. Not too tight, you don't want to cut off circulation, just slow it down. If their fingers turn people it's too tight.

Do a first aid course, you'll learn this and more. Most companies will pay for you to do it if you ask.

Edit: fingers should not turn purple or people!

za_snake_guy47 karma

Be very careful if you apply bandages, and never apply a tourniquet that cuts of blood flow completely (snake venom moves through the lymphatic system, not the blood, so a tourniquet does nothing except starve the limb of oxygen and nutrients.

Look online for Smart Pressure Bandages, they are an ingenius way of applying exactly the correct pressure. A portable / collapsible Bag Valve Mask can also be useful to assist with breathing.

peppylol15 karma

Thank you for the tips. Can I ask why cant I tie off the bite area? Ive always thought that it would slow the spread of the venom.

vbevan28 karma

I assume he means with a tourniquet, this can result in needing amputation due to tissue death. A properly applied pressure bandage is still recommended.

Source: Australian trained in first aid.

za_snake_guy46 karma

Correct. Snake venom spreads initially through the lymphatic system, not the veins, so a tourniquet does nothing but starve the limb of oxygen and nutrients.

Tureaglin14 karma

What's the biggest mistake you've made while dealing with a snake?

za_snake_guy91 karma

The closest I've come to a serious mistake was while I was removing a female Boomslang from a lush bush. I didn't realize there was a male in there too, and the moment I grabbed her tail to pull her out his head popped out 10cm from my hand... I had quite a fright!

Bosticles3 karma

inject your dog with petrol or cut off the top of it's ear

What. The. Fuck.

za_snake_guy8 karma

Yeah, people do this and much worse.

On the sillier side people also believe things like if a Black Mamba bites you, you have to run to the nearest river and drink water before the snakes does, if the snake gets there first you'll die. 😂

Indigojam264 karma

Have you ever been bitten by a venom wielding snake?

za_snake_guy335 karma

Luckily not, and I aim to keep it that way!

klashne220 karma

Hey, a bit of a different question but here goes:

I do fish and prawn farming in SE Asia. I use nets with 3cm holes to catch prawns. Sometimes small Cobras or a non venomous water snake can get stuck in them.

What's the safest way to get them out without hurting them or risk getting bitten? Also should I relocate them or leave them where they are?

za_snake_guy226 karma

Get a nice long pair of forceps or a snake tong, then gently grab them with those and work them out - don’t touch them with your hands.

It’s always best to release them as close to where they were found as possible.

throwawayblue699 karma

If possible, call a professional if the snake is venomous.

If non venomous, you can place a towel over the head of the snake and gently pin the snake by the head and then go about cutting the net off.

za_snake_guy17 karma

Snakes can wriggle out of a bad grip easily, especially when you use a towel and can’t feel what’s happening. I’d say rather use forceps or a snake tong.

hitura-nobad215 karma

What was the most exotic snake(non-native) ,which you had found in people's homes?

za_snake_guy331 karma

I’ve found a couple of Corn Snakes, a Honduran Milksnake, and once a Reticulated Python, all of them were escaped pets.

caycan107 karma

Glad you caught them! Are there some types of pet snakes that have become invasive in South Africa?

za_snake_guy172 karma

Luckily not invasive in the sense that they’ve established and started breeding, but snake catchers here do find many escapees.

Unfortunately people grow tired of their snakes and let them loose, or their enclosures don’t close well, and those escaped pets can have a negative impact on the local ecosystem by stealing niches or food sources.

TheRainMonster52 karma

When you catch those, I assume you don't put them out in the wild. Are they taken to pet stores?

za_snake_guy81 karma

It depends on the province the snake was found in, each has their own nature conservation authority with their own rules.

Here in the Western Cape if I can't find the original owner and report the details to Cape Nature, I have to either adopt the snake as a pet myself, or euthanize it.

LarsQuell143 karma

I live in Cape Town now I’m a bit worried - how often do you find venomous snake in residential or otherwise public areas?

Also are there dangerous snake in hiking spots like Table Mountain, Constantiaberg etc.

za_snake_guy253 karma

That depends on the area - in Melkbosstrand I get a lot of Boomslang, in Table View I get Cape Cobras, etc.

Snakes occur everywhere, but you really don’t have to worry about encountering one - most people go their entire lives without ever seeing a snake.

And if you do see one, just stay at a safe distance of 5 meters and call me - my number is on my website & Facebook page. At 5 meters’ distance there’s no snake in the country that can do anything to you, not even spitting snakes.

Snakes do not attack people, as long as you give it space it’ll either stay where it is, or it’ll go hide somewhere until you leave.

Claidheamhmor64 karma

Nice AMA; good to know there are guys like you around. :)

I holidayed in camp sites and on a farm in the Eastern Cape my whole childhood, and the only live snakes I've ever seen in the wild are night adders and mole snakes. Some of the staff killed a pregnant puffadder though, poor thing. I've always made a bit of an effort to make noise while walking in the bush, to give snakes warning.

za_snake_guy25 karma

Thank you!

janacjb38 karma

I know it’s a bit out of your area, but do you know what snakes are in the Tulbagh area? Or way out in Swartberg? I hike there a lot and I don’t want to die 😥

za_snake_guy40 karma

The chances of encountering a snake are very rare, I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you.

I’d recommend downloading this app and using the “Local Species” feature to check which species occur in those areas:

https://www.africansnakebiteinstitute.com/app

When you’re out hiking, try to avoid walking through bushes and long grass, and step onto rocks and logs so you can first check what’s on the other side before stepping over.

zimzomzim23 karma

What if im out hiking and stumble upon a snake within 2 meters of me and it is looking right at me - do i back away slowly? Run? Stay still?

What if it approaches me?

za_snake_guy65 karma

Just back away to a distance of 5 meters. Snakes can’t hear, so feel free to shout and scream at your buddies to warm them. 😉

The snake will either stay where it is, or go hide. If it comes your way it’s not attacking you, it probably just knows of a hiding spot behind you - step aside and it’ll go past.

Kureeru45 karma

I nearly stepped on a cape cobra coming down from Devils Peak, near the block house. He stood up (do you say stood up?) and I tried to back track, but the gravel was just slipping out from beneath me. I swear my life flashed before my eyes. He was enormous!

za_snake_guy39 karma

Yeah, raised up and made a hood.

He was probably just as startled as you were - what did he do? Go the other way and hide?

yesicanderson133 karma

Why do snakes have lisps in movies?

za_snake_guy180 karma

Haha, anthropomorphizing?

Although popular culture often use a “sssssh” sound to indicate a snake, that’s not actually what they all sound like. Some hiss, some rattle, and some puff (breathe very loudly).

aarontbarratt40 karma

Snakes have an organ in their throats called the glottis. They can use it to make a hissing sound. Snakes lisp in movies because they're personifying that hissing sound in human speech

za_snake_guy35 karma

Interesting fact about the glottis: it can be used like a snorkel, so when the snake is swallowing a big meal the glottis sticks out the side of their mouth so they can still breathe.

FCBarca45112 karma

This sounds really fascinating but also very niche. How did you get into this line of work and find employment?

za_snake_guy234 karma

I wish I could make a living from this, but unfortunately everyone who does snake relocations in South Africa does it as either a hobby, or just for some extra income.

Many of the relocations I do are in areas where people cannot afford to pay a callout fee, and even when they can people will often rather kill the snake then pay. Sadly for a country with so much natural beauty, conservation isn’t always foremost in people’s thoughts.

As for how I got into it, I’ve always had a love for animals and a fascination with things people find scary. A couple of years ago I finally got around to doing a snake handling course, bought myself some equipment, applied for a permit from nature conservation, and then started giving out my number to my community.

amharbis55 karma

So what do you actually do full time?

Sir_Boldrat142 karma

They plant snakes in various places, for a smal fee.

za_snake_guy129 karma

It's a nice thing to bring up when I have clients who are late on their invoices from my day job... "You know I catch snakes that I need release spots for, right?" 😝

za_snake_guy25 karma

😂

za_snake_guy128 karma

Software development, and I work for myself so I'm able to take a break and go catch a snake when a call comes in.

jamespayne9288 karma

Is there a type of snake that is particularly difficult to relocate and if so, why is it so tricky?

za_snake_guy224 karma

The trickiest ones I’ve had to deal with are Boomslang They are fast, have great eyesight, and are very skittish, so I’ve often had to run after them and grab them a couple of houses further along on someone’s lawn.

Boomslang don’t like being put in a container (they pop out as soon as you put them in, and they also tend to turn around and start climbing up the snake hook towards your hands rather than lie in the crook of the hook like other snakes.

Although I haven’t ever relocated any Black Mambas (they don’t occur in my area) I have worked with them on courses, and they can also be tricky because of their length.

Kyratic64 karma

Howsit, I live in Nelspruit (on a koppie, with some veld out back) and various snakes are common. I'm 70% sure that Mozambican Spitting Cobra's are breeding in my back yard in one of the larger rocky areas. We have at least one spitting cobra in the house a year, I usually try to usher them out, or call a catcher if they are being difficult. the only other snakes I have caught in the house was a brown house snake and a gespikkelde bosslang that my cat brought it.

Is there any specific sent or some substance that will annoy the snakes and make them not want to come indoors, particularly spitting cobra's. I have realised that they wont leave my property, its a paradise with many, many lizard species and many frogs (there is a waterfall which the frogs love)

za_snake_guy33 karma

Hey! Unfortunately there's no chemical, plant, or gadget that repels snakes, but there are son practical things you can do:

  • Get rid of food, water, and shelter.
  • Install mosquito- proof shutter doors (those with the metal betting) and keep them closed. If you can stick your little finger into a gap, a snake can get in there.
  • Keep the grass and bushes around the house trimmed.

And then lastly, download this free app and see who lives near you that can help with any dangerous snakes you see:

https://www.africansnakebiteinstitute.com/app

(The same compant offers snake handling training too if you're interested in that.)

Claidheamhmor24 karma

I don't know if it's urban legend or not, but we were told that snakes are not keen on crossing rope on the ground. We used to sleep on the porch, and were never bothered by the night adders in the garden, so maybe there was something to it.

za_snake_guy49 karma

Absolute wishful thinking unfortunately - nothing repels snakes.

sonictank72 karma

Do snakes in homes tend to attack people or they’re just lost and don’t figure shit about anything?

za_snake_guy163 karma

Snakes don’t attack people, that’s a common misconception.

We’re much bigger than them and (with the exception of the Mozambique Spitting Cobra which seems to sometimes mistake the smell of humans for smaller mammals, then bite people in their beds), they don’t try to eat people.

Usually when a snake is found in a house they were there looking for food, water, or shelter, or they are juveniles and just got lost.

If you have open water features in your garden, these may attract frogs which in turn may attract snakes. Or, if you have building rubble / garden refuse lying around that may make good shelter for snakes or their prey.

As long as you keep a neat yard, you’re unlikely to ever find snakes in your house - only a handful of people who have called me for help, call more than once.

scrumping149 karma

sometimes mistake the smell of humans for smaller mammals, then bite people in their beds

And just like that, she lost all interest in visiting South Africa.

za_snake_guy7 karma

It’s a very rare thing, and you could always go to the Western parts of the country where this species doesn’t occur. 😉

Bob_Bradshaw70 karma

How many times have you gotten bit? What was the most serious one?

za_snake_guy123 karma

Never by a venomous snake, because I always use snake handling tools (a hookstick or snake tong) and I stick to my safety protocols.

I’ve been bitten a couple of times by non-venomous snakes because I’ll usually just pick them up with my bare hands, but their bites barely even draw blood.

galacticunderwear15 karma

Are most non-venomous bites painful?

Serebrus20 karma

Not OP, but I can say that it varies vastly depending on the snake/size of snake. Non-venomous snakes still have teeth/fangs. The bigger pythons like Reticulated or African Rock and Burmese can still do damage with a bite.

Additionally, some non-venomous have much larger teeth/fangs than others... check out Green Tree Pythons as an example.

za_snake_guy25 karma

This is correct. A non-venomous bite from a Mole Snake or Southern African Python will likely need stitches.

za_snake_guy64 karma

Sorry guys, I’ve just been on a couple of callouts - a Harlequin Snake and a badly injured juvenile Cape Cobra - I will continue answering questions a little later.

wallsofwater55 karma

Do you carry antivenom around with you, and if so, how expensive is a single treatment?

za_snake_guy167 karma

I don’t, and I also don’t recommend others do (or that people keep it in their house / on their farm) for several reasons:

  • It’s expensive, polyvalent antivenom (for Cobras, Mambas, Puff Adders, etc) cost about R5500 per vial and monovalent antivenom (for Boomslang) costs close to R7000 per vial.
  • Depending on the severity of the envenomation, you may need 10 or more vials.
  • Many people are allergic to antivenom, so you may try to treat yourself with it then you die from anaphylaxis instead of the snakebite. It should only ever be administered in a hospital context.
  • It has a short shelf life and needs to be kept refrigerated.

In most cases, doctors treat snakebite symptomatically and only give antivenom if it’s absolutely necessary.

Cape Cobras and Black Mambas, for example, have a neurotoxin venom that causes paralysis and halted breathing. It’s the lack of breathing that can kill you, not the venom itself, so as long as you can get to a hospital with a trauma unit they’ll get you on a respirator and keep you breathing.

Something you can carry with you if you know how to use it is a Bag Valve Mask (BVM) - if someone has difficulty breathing while you’re transporting them to the hospital, you attach the mask to their mouth and nose and squeeze the bag at regular intervals to get air into their lungs.

mrblobby3037 karma

Not OP but anti venom is particularly expensive and has a shelf life of a few months. From what I remember, even hospitals don't stock it. There is a manufacturer somewhere in Gauteng, probably Johannesburg and it gets dispatched as needed.

za_snake_guy22 karma

The SAVP produces it in Gauteng, yes. Some hospitals keep it in stock but there may he stock today and none next week because it expired / was used.

When someone has been bitten, the most important thing to do is to get them to a hospital with a trauma unit, regardless of whether they have antivenom. In most cases antivenom isn’t used (see my related response about anaphylaxis elsewhere on this post), and if it is necessary it can be flown in.

brannak145 karma

Have you had it with these mothafuckin' snakes, on this mothafuckin' plane?!

za_snake_guy81 karma

Oh my word, I could only get through about 15 minutes of that movie... it’s one of the big examples of how snakes are misportrayed as monsters in movies and TV shows.

hellahater42 karma

Is there a snake you hope to handle someday that’s not in your region? (Australia etc)

za_snake_guy77 karma

I’ve only ever seen Rattlesnakes in private collections, we don’t get them here naturally. I’d love to see them in their natural habitat someday.

SnapesGrayUnderpants49 karma

I live in California. Rattlesnakes are native to every county in California. I have only seen 2 in the wild. After watching a TV show about people who do snake relocations in South Africa and kinds the snakes they deal with, I have a much better appreciation for rattlesnakes. They are non-aggressive, they don't climb trees or bushes. If they should get into your house, you won't find them on a shelf behind folded clothes poised to spit venom into your eyes like the spitting cobra in the tv show. They often rattle if you get too close so you know they are there. They only bite humans in defense. I'm not afraid of snakes but the spitting cobra, tree cobra and black mamba in the tv show totally freaked me out and I had to stop watching.

za_snake_guy16 karma

Be skeptical of what you see on TV when it comes to snakes - a lot of it is dramatized to draw more viewers. Take a look at some of the captures on my YouTube channel if you’d like to see what it’s like without the drama / rented snakes.

Dc1993x40 karma

On average, how many calls per day?

za_snake_guy116 karma

In the warmer months (September - March), I get around 6-10 calls a day. Some of them are just for advice, some of them are for snakes too far away and I refer them to snake catchers nearer them, and some I go catch.

An average summer week I’ll relocate about 8-12 snakes.

themanhimself1340 karma

Do you have any snakes that you have known for a long time and are quite close to you? Do snakes act like a dog or cat would act if you kept one as a pet? (recognising the owner, happy to see the owner etc.)

za_snake_guy113 karma

Snakes don’t really get close to people or other animals, even their own young - reptiles don’t have the parts of the brain you need for love, compassion, etc. Pet reptiles may get used to the sight & smell of their owner in association with food, though.

kuntum37 karma

Do you have any funny story while on the job you can share? Also props for doing what you do, man. I’m sure all the other people you helped are very thankful to have someone awesome like you around

za_snake_guy130 karma

One that comes to mind is the time I was called about a snake that someone at a factory had identified as a baby Mile Snake (harmless) then captured (with his bare hands) and put in a bucket. They wanted me to come fetch it so I could release it somewhere else.

I went there, had a look in the bucket, and asked the crowd who amongst them was the guy who had caught the snake. He was standing off to the side grinning and high-fiving his friends.

His grin quickly turned to a look of shock (and I think he almost threw up) when I told him that it was actually a baby Cape Cobra that he had picked up.

I always tell people not to try and ID snakes themselves - it’s just too easy to confuse the different species unless you’ve had the relevant training.

realShustyRackleford32 karma

Oh my goodness, thank you for doing an AMA!

We've just rescued a snake who couldn't stay with their owner. It was a bit of a hurried situation and I'm in the process of giving myself a crash course in caring for the beautiful, little fellah.

Only thing is there's soooo much varying information out there; can you recommend any reliable sites?

And any tips for first time owners would be greatly appreciated! Although I don't believe we've one you'd specialise in (It's a Children's Python) what are some good general rules for snake care and handling?

Thanks for your time!

za_snake_guy24 karma

Which country & area are you in, and do you know which exact species it is (or can you post a photo)?

I’m more knowledgeable about South African species and wild snakes than captive ones, but I can try to give some guidance based on the above.

BSS_Patroclus27 karma

Have you ever been bitten? If so, what happened?

za_snake_guy58 karma

Never by a venomous snake, because I always use snake handling tools (a hookstick or snake tong) and I stick to my safety protocols.

I’ve been bitten a couple of times by non-venomous snakes because I’ll usually just pick them up with my bare hands, but their bites barely even draw blood.

TVBoss25 karma

Im terrified of snakes. Irrationally so. How can I snake proof my home and yard? Is there any practical way? (Pacific Northwest, USA)

za_snake_guy31 karma

So unfortunately there's no chemical, plant, or gadget that will repel snakes. This stop unscrupulous people from still selling "snake spray" or "snake powder", or uninformed people from recommending that you plant certain things around your yard, though.

All you can really do is make sure there's no food, water, or shelter for the snakes or their prey (frogs, lizards, rodents, etc): fix dripping taps, don’t leave building rubble or garden refuse lying around, etc.

I’m not sure about the statistics in the USA, but here in South Africa most people go their whole lives without seeing a snake. I just see many because I get callouts or actively go looking for them when out hiking.

HristoZA21 karma

What do you rate the most dangerous snake in Cape Town is?

Also I know you don't find them in CPT, but have you ever had to deal with a Black Mamba in your career? If so, what was that like?

za_snake_guy55 karma

I’ve never had to relocate a Black Mamba from someone’s home, but I have worked with them on courses.

They’re beautiful snakes, can be difficult to work with because of their length and speed, and they really do smell like curry!

https://i.imgur.com/Rkqmyvq.jpg

UStoleMyBike20 karma

What’s the coolest story you can tell us about your job?

za_snake_guy25 karma

Well I have a couple of shocking stories where people just didn’t realize or understand the danger they were putting themselves in.

Take this guy, for example:

https://youtu.be/AlDDsOUCOcA

I think he didn’t understand English very well, and I kept having to try and explain to him before and during the video that those gardening gloves he was wearing wouldn’t protect him from a bite at all.

M1chaelSc4rn19 karma

Wow, that must be an interesting profession. Going into it, what did you not expect about the career?

za_snake_guy95 karma

I wish I could make a living from this, but it’s more of a hobby - most people can’t afford to pay for a callout, and those who can would often rather kill the animal than pay a service fee.

I didn’t expect to see people lying so often... for example they’ll call me all panicky telling me I’ve got to go help them immediately, they see a snake in the house, but then when I get there they’ll confess that they saw the snake a couple of days ago and they want me to scratch around and find it (which would be impossible).

Or, they’ll promise that they’ll keep watching the snake from a safe distance until I arrive (if they don’t it may go hide somewhere and I won’t be able to find it), then when I get there they’re in the house watching TV or something.

I’ve wasted a lot of time & fuel because of lies told to me on the phone! 😉

hm486617 karma

Do you ever work with dogs to assist in flushing out or locating snakes?

za_snake_guy37 karma

No, that would be too risky for the dogs. Also, some snakes like Puff Adders are ambush hunters and have no scent, so dogs can’t sniff them out.

Generally when I get a callout the snake will be out in the open and I’ll ask the caller to keep watching it until I arrive.

Sometimes it’ll go hide while I’m on my way there, and in a couple of cases I’ve had to break open decking / wooden floors / cupboards to find it.

setmehigh16 karma

Hi this summer I've found two copperheads in my back yard. This is less than ideal because I have dogs. How can I deter copperheads without murdering them?

za_snake_guy24 karma

Check some of my other comments here - there’s nothing that repels snakes, but making sure there’s no food, water, or shelter for them will help.

b_dahlia15 karma

First: I really like your posts and especially your pictures at the southafrica sub! :)

On the other hand I am a litte concerned with a view to our upcoming vacation to South Africa in December. We have been in ZA already but just stayed in guesthouses in densely populated areas the last time. However, this time we will spend a few weeks in the Cederberge and Great Karoo and will stay overnight in small cottages in the wild respectively in the sanpark camps.

Maybe it is a stupid question... Is it advised (or overacted), to check all corners of the cottages for cape cobras or other crawling invaders when checking in?

Anyway, I will definitely turn on the lights when going to the toilet at night. :D

za_snake_guy12 karma

You don’t have to worry about it too much, the snakes will he actively avoiding you too.

That being said, some sensible things to do are to keep doors closed, check under your bed, and knock out shoes before putting them on.

SuperKamiTabby14 karma

So this is something I kinda hoped would pop up. The place I work for is a hotel (of sorts) near the Grand Canyon. I know rattlesnakes live in the area, and I know they would love to get warm inside one of the rooms.

My question is...the [email protected]#k do I do if one of my guests gets bit? My first aid training boils down to CPR + can you feel your toes/move your toes? I mean, I know I'd he on the phone with EME ASAP, but what can I do? I'm not Steve Irwin (despite naming my pet Bal python after him) and as such I am not going snake wrangling.

za_snake_guy23 karma

As far as I know most Rattlesnakes’ venom is haemotoxic, meaning that it affects the clotting or consistency of your blood.

Don’t worry about catching the snake, if someone gets bitten call for an ambulance and drive outweigh the bite victim to meet them along the way so they can get medical treatment ASAP.

itskrayz13 karma

What happens if you are bit? Do you have an emergent vile of anti venom in a vehicle or do you suck out the venom and spit it in the snakes face?

za_snake_guy16 karma

Hahaha, I had a good laugh at that macho image. 😂

No, You can’t carry antivenom with you (it should only ever be administered by a doctor in a hospital), and you can’t suck out snake venom.

I answered a similar question about antivenom in more detail elsewhere on this thread.

NotTheBelt13 karma

What’s the most amount of snakes you’ve found in one home or in one day?

za_snake_guy11 karma

I once found two Boomslang in the same bush - a male and a female. It was mating season though, other times of year you rarely see snakes near each other.

Brjtegore3 karma

Does it bother you when people say snakes are poisonous rather than saying they are venomous?

za_snake_guy22 karma

No, because I know what they mean.

There is a difference between poison and venom, yes, but it’s a little pedantic when people argue about it. When a layperson asks whether a snake is poisonous any expert will know what they meant.

English is also one of only a handful of languages that distinguish between the two terms - in my native language (Afrikaans) both venom and poison are called “gif”.

matthieu1143 karma

Have you ever been bit? If so what does it feel like?

za_snake_guy10 karma

Only by non-venomous snakes which I’ll sometimes pick up without tools when I do a relocation, or if I find them whilst out hiking.

It’s not really painful and won’t even draw blood with many species, just feels like a slight pinch & pull on your skin.

Some non-venomous snakes can have very painful bites, though. Our Mole Snakes (Pseudaspis cana) have about 200 teeth with sharp back edges, and when they bite they do a “tin opener” movement, cutting down to the bone. A Mole Snake bite won’t kill you, but it may require stitches.

ZeldaStone1042 karma

Are snakes really as dangerous as the world makes them out to be? If I happen to come across a snake will it come dashing out to me and attack or are they usually more passive until provoked?

SuperKamiTabby7 karma

Not OP.

Snakes will generally seek to get away from you. They see and smell us and can easily sum up that we are not pretty and do not smell like prey.

For the most part, snakes have three main goals. "I need food", "I need shelter" and "I need warmth."

In short, leave 'em alone and they'll leave us alone.

za_snake_guy7 karma

This is correct. Snakes don’t attack people, and snakes don’t chase people - if given a chance they’ll always rather escape.

And if a snake does come your way, that doesn’t mean that it’s heading for you. It may just be heading for a hiding spot it knows of behind you - step to the side and it’ll go past.

Blackgeesus2 karma

What’s a myth about snakes?

za_snake_guy9 karma

That online advice about snakes is true.

Don’t believe any of those viral posts you may see about checking the type of pupil, type of scales, etc to determine whether a snake is true or not. The only way to distinguish venomous from non-venomous snakes is by being able to identify the exact species, and that takes training and experience.

Snakes don’t move in pairs, just because you saw one / had one relocated doesn’t mean it’s mother / mate will come looking for it.

Snakes don’t attack people. Give them space and they’d much rather go hide.

Cutting, sucking, shocking, burning, or applying a tourniquet to a snakebite wound doesn’t help at all, and may actually make things worse.

LegendofLaw1 karma

Why havent you answered anything? Are you a sneaky snake?!

za_snake_guy2 karma

Haha, I’m working on it! And doing some snake callouts in-between typing answers on my phone. 😉

rawker861 karma

what are your thoughts on the "dry bite" myth?

za_snake_guy1 karma

I’ve never heard it referred to as a myth... dry bites are quite well-documented here.

A very good friend of mine who is also a snake handler was bitten by a Boomslang he was catching a couple of months ago, and he rushed to the hospital. After a day’s worth of monitoring and blood tests he didn’t show any signs of envenomation so they were able to dismiss it as a dry bite.

This kind of thing does happen often, most of our snakes can control their venom yield for each bite.