Hi Reddit, IamA snake photographer from Cape Town, South Africa - I relocate wild snakes found in people’s homes back to nature, I train people on snake identification and first aid for snakebite via the African Snakebite Institute, and I photograph snakes as a hobby.

PROOF: https://i.imgur.com/QRrAXZs.jpg

You can see my photography here: /r/wvzphotos

Several of my photos were used in the newly revised and published "A Complete Guide to the Snakes of Southern Africa": https://www.africansnakebiteinstitute.com/book

I also helped develop a free app that provides information about snakes, spiders, and scorpions in Southern Africa, and has been downloaded more than 200,000 times: https://snakebiteapp.co.za/

The work I do is all about conservation, and with every callout / training session I also try to educate the public about the importance of citizen science - helping researchers collect data via apps like iNaturalist.

Unfortunately there are a multitude of myths & misconcepts about snakes out there, so feel free to Ask Me Anything about snakes, snakebite, and snake safety! I'm out in the field looking for things to photograph today so I'll answer questions throughout the day as I can.

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: WVZ Nature & Wildlife Photography

Instagram: @snakerescue

Reddit: /r/wvzphotos

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

Comments: 234 • Responses: 26  • Date: 

Mitchell828102 karma

How would you recommend someone getting over an extreme fear in snakes?

za_snake_guy140 karma

Exposure helps a lot - even just seeing them at a snake park might help you get over some of the fear.

And then learning about them is a good idea - once you know about the venomous ones in your area, how you can avoid being bitten, etc, they become a lot less scary.

Best of all would be to do a venomous snake handling course!

za_snake_guy18 karma

Exposure helps a lot - even just seeing them at a snake park might help you get over some of the fear.

And then learning about them is a good idea - once you know about the venomous ones in your area, how you can avoid being bitten, etc, they become a lot less scary.

Best of all would be to do a venomous snake handling course!

Summerie83 karma

Do snakes stick around in an area, or do they move along?

This guy was in our driveway about 8 weeks ago.

It was pretty late at night, so we didn’t call anyone to move him. I don’t know how far they roam or if he’s likely still around, but I haven’t seen him again.

He was pretty still, so we were able to show the kids and neighbors from a safe enough distance what a Copperhead looks like. Really pretty snake, although I would not have minded if he had been collected and relocated. Mainly because of the kids and the dog spending so much time in the yard.

za_snake_guy82 karma

It depends, if there's food, water, and shelter for them they may stick around yeah. But then if there's a lot of human activity in the area they'll probably move off. Best is to just have everyone aware about them and keep an eye out for safety.

CMDRIkkyblergs57 karma

I grew up in South Africa, and when I was a kid my parents dog chased down a cobra (we think) who spat in her eyes. My parents tried flushing her eyes with milk. Does milk actually help neutralize the venom or did it not help at all?

(PS She lived until 16 years pretty happily but was blind after the incident)

za_snake_guy10 karma

It doesn't neutralize it, no, it just washes out the excess venom.

You don't have to use milk, anything you'd be willing to drink would be fine.

For pets and humans, by the time the venom hits the eye the damage has been done, after that you should rinse out the eyes with water or anything you'd be willing to drink for 10 minutes, then go to a doctor / vet.

Blindness from being spat in the eyes is uncommon, but secondary infections are a concern.

amsterdammit53 karma

Hello, good morning! We were taught in wilderness first responder/wilderness emt training that the proper first-aid treatment for a wet bit from a pit viper (rattlesnake, copperhead, water moccasins etc...), as well as elapids (coral snakes), is to dress the wound, immobilize the affected limb and seek medical treatment, the only difference for elapids being to apply a moderately constructive dressing (ace wrap) over the wound site... How well does this treatment approach align with your experience with wet bites? I am in north America and have only received training on potential hazards in the US. Thank you!

za_snake_guy120 karma

You should immobilize the affected limb, yes - snake venom initially travels through the lymphatic system and the lymph fluid flows when the limbs move.

I wouldn't waste time on dressing the wound, rather use that time to get the patient to the nearest hospital with a trauma unit.

As for pressure bandages, yes they may give the patient a few extra minutes in neurotoxic bites, but you need to apply a very exact pressure else you either create a light tourniquet (never use a tourniquet on a snake bite!), or you won't be restricting the lymph flow sufficiently. I'm not familiar with Ace Bandages but you do get Snakebite Smart Pressure Bandages that have rectangles printed on them. When applying them you stretch them so the rectangles become squares in order to apply the correct pressure.

You shouldn't try to capture or take the snake with you to the hospital, although if possible you can take a oriel from a safe distance.

Call ahead and notify the hospital you're heading to that you have a snakebite patient and which route you'll be traveling, then they can send you an ambulance to meet you halfway.

ProjectionPerfection38 karma

For someone unfamiliar with handling snakes, what would your advice be for someone that absolutely has to handle/move one?

za_snake_guy66 karma

If at all possible, call an experienced person to come and do it for you. You can toss a blanket or towel over the snake to keep it calm until the snake catcher arrives.

If not, then don't ever touch them or try to pick them up. You can use a long broom to sweep them away or into a deep bin.

wyl1e39 karma

We get rattlesnakes where we live and have encountered several in our back yard. The last one I caught in a net then transferred to a bucket. I've since bought snake tongs to handle them in the future. Am I out of my mind?

za_snake_guy60 karma

No, that's perfect! Snake tongs are a good, safe way to handle venomous snakes. Just be sure to buy well-made tons that don't have sharp edges.

Kivadavia32 karma

What is the most shocking thing you have seen throughout your career?

za_snake_guy135 karma

The number of people who freehandle snakes - working with them without using tools or any kind of protective gloves.

It's stupid, unnecessary, and doesn't accomplish anything. Inevitably these people get bitten and they have to receive medical attention that could have gone to someone who didn't purposefully put their lives in danger.

CircularRobert8 karma

Hey, I found this green looking snake that was looking sick, so I put it in my backback and took it home...

Ring a bell? ;P

za_snake_guy3 karma

😂 That was quite a special case!

barnabasjohnthomas26 karma

Don't snakes ever get hurt with the hook/tongs things we see catchers using on shows like National Geographic?

za_snake_guy40 karma

They can. Less so with the hooks, but badly made tongs can crush a snake or cut their skin.

As long as you use good equipment they should be fine though. For example, ASI's basic snake handling course only uses tongs, and across thousands of students per year none of them have ever injured a snake.

CuriousLacuna22 karma

Any snake encounters that stick out as your weirdest/most dangerous?

za_snake_guy69 karma

None where I were on my own, but it's usually when I'm called out to remove a snake from someone's house that the sticky situations come up.

One callout I was on the home owner and I didn't share any languages, and he kept trying to grab the snake with his bare hands even though I was telling him off.

zoomazoom7622 karma

My neighbors dog recently got bit by a copperhead (we live in central Virginia)... can a dog die from a snake bite?

za_snake_guy49 karma

Yes they can. Here in South Africa even big dogs can die within 15 minutes from Cobra or Mamba bites.

dedfrog20 karma

Hi! Fellow South African here :) we sometimes take our dogs hiking, and walk every day in the Melville Koppies or Emmarentia, where people often spot snakes. In the back of my mind I'm always concerned they'll get bitten. Someone on Fb was selling snakebite kits for dogs, is there anything I could carry in a backpack or the boot of the car that would help in that situation?

za_snake_guy7 karma

No, and the commercial snakebite kits for pets or humans don't do anything. The only thing that will help for snakebite, is treatment by a medical specialist.

12nb3411 karma

I saw a video of a rhino who, presumably, had its foot having disintegrated from a bite of some African viper. Is this for real?

za_snake_guy6 karma

Might have been due to a cytotoxic (tissue destroying) Puff Adder or Mozambique Spitting Cobra bite.

12nb342 karma

What can happen to a person bitten by such a snake? He can lose his leg or arm?

za_snake_guy2 karma

A person losing an arm or leg would be very unlikely, unless they didn't get any medical attention. Usually there would just be some tissue damage.

za_snake_guy1 karma

Yes they can. Here in South Africa even big dogs can die within 15 minutes from Cobra or Mamba bites.

nippletonbonerfart15 karma

Is there any snake that you really dread relocating?

Also just gotta say your photography skills are wonderful, been following you for a while. Love your work!

za_snake_guy4 karma

Thanks so much! Nah, not really, I'm fine with all of them. Slug-Eaters maybe, they give off a very foul-smelling musk. 😂

gaimangods14 karma

What is the best way to repel a snake from you, so that I don’t have to worry about running away from it? I can think of fire but something else that I can do inside the house as well?

sirhcdobo7 karma

Not op but not many snakes are actually aggressive, they typically won't strike unless they are threatened and that is unlikely to happen unless startled, cornered or attacked.

My hobbies take me outdoors and into snake territory fairly regularly so when I'm in an area likely to have snakes I keep a very good watch out so as not to walk into one, move slowly making lots of noise with my steps. Never sick your hands where you can't see.

Whenever I have come across a snake it is usually from a distance, just give it space (and keep an eye on it) it will usually go off for cover it's self. If it doesn't I find another way.

za_snake_guy6 karma

Yup. 5 Meters is a safe distance from any snake - even the spitting snakes can't reach that far.

za_snake_guy5 karma

If it's in the garden you can spray it with a hose, but usually they will move off when they see you.

Unfortunately there is no chemical, plant, or device that will repel snakes from your yard - to avoid seeing them it's best to ensure that there's no food, water, or shelter for them in your yard.

AsteroidMiner9 karma

Which is the fastest venomous snake and how fast do I need to be to outrun it?

za_snake_guy2 karma

The Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis) can move at speeds of up to 14km/h, but they can't sustain that for more than a few meters - most snakes only have one active lung and not a lot of energy. Also, snakes don't chase people.

NomadTheNomad8 karma

Wanneer maak slang seisoen oop?

za_snake_guy22 karma

Snakes don't hibernate in South Africa, it doesn't get cold enough. So, on warmer winter days like today they still come out to bask.

It's about 24 degrees Celcius where I am today, and I managed to find a Black Spitting Cobra and a Karoo Sand Snake earlier today.

tetriswithfloor7 karma

I have a bunch of questions. I hope you don't mind answering them. Thanks

  1. What would be the best course of action to deal wit a snake bite when emergency services are not available?

  2. How effective are some popular methods seen in movies like sucking out the venom or tying an extremely tight knot above the wound to stop blood flow towards the rest of the body from that spot?

  3. Is it advisable to amputate yourself if you know you have been bitten by an extremely poisonous snake and emergency services aren't nearby?

  4. Is there a handbook which tells you the various types of venomous snakes, their poisons and their antidotes?

za_snake_guy2 karma

  1. Keep the patient calm and get them to the nearest hospital with a trauma unit. There's nothing you can do that will heal a venomous snakebite outside of a hospital context.

  2. None of those methods work, and some may even make it worse on the patient, such as tying tourniquets. Best is always to just get them to the nearest hospital.

  3. No, it's not feasible to do that yourself, and it's rarely required. Best is to make your way to help as calmly as you can. By the time you would be able to amputate yourself the venom would have spread into the rest of your body anyway.

  4. For South Africa I recommend https://www.africansnakebiteinstitute.com/book/. 😊

za_snake_guy19 karma

The snake wouldn't have eaten the cat, and usually cats are quick enough to not be bitten - bad luck this time.

The guy's handling of the snake is horrible and dangerous - he's not using any tools and they can easily turn around and bite you when you hold them by the tail like that.

The_H3fty_Man5 karma

Do you have to handle venomous snakes differently than what you would non-venomous snakes? Or is it kind of like you know if I respect you and I don't move quickly you're not going to attack me or bite me type deal?

The only snake I've ever interacted or attempted to hold was a ball python, so I don't know if all snakes react differently or similarly

za_snake_guy2 karma

Different species react differently, and even within species different individuals have different personalities.

Non-venomous snakes I'll happily handle them with my hands, but venomous ones I'll always keep an eye on and only handle with tools.

justz00t-7 karma

Have you ever used the trouser snake line? If so how often?

za_snake_guy13 karma

Nah, too on-the-nose.