What’s the best way to avoid snake bite? Simple answer – leave snakes alone. Up to 95% of bites occur when people try to catch, kill or interfere with a snake in some way.
This mole snake (Pseudaspis cana) was rescued on a scorching day. The snake was hot, extremely active and by the time I got it to the release site it was striking readily, even at moving shadows in the transport box.
This behaviour is commonly misinterpreted as aggression, a perception which probably only serves to feed the fear of snakes which so many people suffer from. When overcome with fear the mind has the powerful ability to exaggerate reality. Our perceptions become distorted and fictitious stories are born.
Snakes can’t move between points nearly as fast as is commonly believed. Humans can easily outrun a snake but even better, we’ll never have to!
Because snakes don’t chase people.
[covertplayersinglevideo trvideoid=”yyIKvmDSZ0A” trdisplaytype=”5″ trnumbervideosdisplay=”” trvideoperpage=”36″ trthumbnailwidth=”200″ trthumbnailheight=”150″ trpopupwidth=”600″ trpopupheight=”350″ trvideoalign=”left”]However, their striking speed should not be underestimated.
Turning fear into respect is the key to a healthy man-snake relationship.
Mole snakes are excellent snakes to be around if you’re trying to get more comfortable with snakes in general.
They are a decent size, lively and although they are non-venomous their bites can be painful.
Snakes are not aggressive in the true sense of the word. They will either flee or defend themselves just as we would if we felt our lives were in danger.
Have a look at the snakes behaviour in the video clip.[covertplayersinglevideo trvideoid=”I6gN7CSkU3U” trdisplaytype=”5″ trnumbervideosdisplay=”” trvideoperpage=”36″ trthumbnailwidth=”200″ trthumbnailheight=”150″ trpopupwidth=”600″ trpopupheight=”350″ trvideoalign=”left”]
What did you notice?
In my eyes this snake is being defensive, not aggressive. It isn’t trying to chase or bite me. It is not ‘after me’ and only becomes agitated when I get too close.
It chooses a position from where it can see me at all times and defend itself. It isn’t fleeing at this stage because it is exposed; if it turns its back now, with nowhere to hide, it would be more vulnerable to attack.
Snakes often display some form alarm signal when faced with a threat; hissing, feigning death, spreading a hood and ‘spitting’ venom are some of the better known survival strategies. They are not designed to hurt anyone out of spite, or trick you in any way.
I believe that once people are able to recognise these behaviours for what they truly are; that snakes are animals just like any other; that they too experience fear and distress, the less they will fear them.
WARNING: Disregarding a snake’s warnings is asking for trouble. If a snake is giving off alarm signals, move away if you want to avoid snake bite as you are probably too close or the snake is cornered.
Best practice is to make sure that you keep your distance at all times. No putting hands or feet close by or fidgeting with the animal in any way to see ‘what it will do’.
It will bite! And we shouldn’t be surprised if it has already given us fair warning.
What if I step on a snake?
Of course, in some instances snakes use cryptic colouration to avoid being seen. This means that instead of moving off quickly they stay frozen in one place hoping that their camouflage will be enough to protect them. People most at risk are hikers and rock climbers who may place their hands or feet on top of an unsuspecting snake.
What can you do about this?
- Never put your hands or feet where you can’t see properly (like in a hole or in plant cover)
- Always use a stick or other long object to remove something from any area where a snake might be hiding
- Always step onto, not over, branches or rocks. A snake might be sunning itself on the other side.
- Wear long pants and good strong boots (these aren’t 100% guaranteed to stop a bite but will minimise the chance of fang penetration)
If you’re still not sure and would like to protect yourself even more the snake proof gaiters might just be for you. They’ve been proven to protect against a number of snake bites including a large puff adder! (see letter of proof here).
The take home message is that snakes should be given the respect that they deserve. Heed their warnings and try to recognise these behaviours for what they are. There is no reason why we can’t observe and enjoy them from a safe distance without conflict.
Know of anyone who has pushed these boundaries and suffered a snake bite? Feel free to ask questions and leave comments below.