Friday, January 9, 2009

Snake in the Garden

A non-venomous Fork Marked Sand Snake found in my garden last week

The day before New Year, my husband walked to the garage and saw all the gardeners standing ramrod stiff in the compost heap. They held their forks upright in front of them, dug into the hummus; they looked neither left nor right. He knew immediately that they had come across a snake. He asked John if they had seen a noha (snake). John nodded and slid his gaze towards a tree on his right. He had hung a live snake over a branch. My husband called me to come out with my camera. Hearing there was a snake I dashed into the bedroom, removed my pillow case and took this with me as well.
When I arrived outside, the snake had fallen onto the ground and was desperately trying to get away. I managed to get a few photos of it so that we could identify it later. (I also wanted to blog about it ;) Using a twig, hubby gently held the snake down; I turned the pillow case inside out and with my hand inside, I carefully gripped the snake near the tail and lifted it off the ground, head facing down. I turned the pillow case right side out again and the snake slid to the bottom. I managed to take two more photos when my husband stopped me saying he didn’t want to place any more stress on the snake. The gardeners were by now staring at us as if we were something from outer space. Meanwhile Graham reversed my pickup out of the garage and in full view of the men outside he and my husband took the snake out of the yard. They subsequently released it on the golf course.

I took two photos of the snake in the bottom of the pillow case

My husband and Graham took the snake away in my pick-up. It's important that the gardeners see the snake being removed completely from the garden

We always deal with snakes in the garden in this manner. If we tell the gardeners to leave it alone, they are sure to kill it. If we catch it and release it in a bushy part of the garden, the gardeners will not work anywhere near this.

Last summer the gardeners came across a Red-lipped Herald (Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia) while carrying out maintenance work on my ponds. On that occasion, my husband pinned the snake down with a rake handle while I caught it in a pillow case. When we turned around, the men were standing rigidly clutching their garden implements and watching us with their mouths open! As with the snake last week, we released the Red-Lipped Herald on the golf course.

Once I’d downloaded the photographs onto the computer, my husband checked in our book on Snakes of South Africa. We have identified it as a Fork-Marked Sand Snake. (Psammophis leightoni) It was approximately 80cm long and moved very fast. Its bite is not venomous to man.

My husband and I are not irresponsible when it comes to snakes and other dangerous insects (like scorpions, fortunately not common in our part of the country). For instance, we’d not fiddle with/approach snakes like the Cape Cobra (Naja Nivea) or the Rinkhals (Hemachatus heamachatus) which is similar to a rattlesnake. However, I’ve never encountered any of these dangerous snakes in or around my garden so I’ve not had to make any difficult decisions yet.


  1. Jo, you are braver than I am. I am phobically terrified of snakes. It was pretty though.

  2. Hi Dedene, most people are terrified of snakes, so your phobia is not unusual. Do you have any venomous snakes in France? Hugs Jo

  3. It sounds like you have a pretty good sense for the level of risk as you deal with them and choose to co-habit peacefully.

    This week's excursion with the mouse notwithstanding, I'm generally that way, too, especially outside, where animals have as much right as we.

  4. Ha-ha Jeanne, I read your post about the mouse. I agree with you there. Nothing is allowed in my house unless invited! Did you know: the best rat trap is spelt with three letters? C - A - T . Hugs Jo

  5. Jo, I admire you for rescuing this snake & (ashamedly) admit that they are the one animal that I do kill when I find them in my house or garden ! I have had so many terrible close shaves with venomous snakes here in Tanzania & I suppose it is from fear more than anything else that I do this. I applaud you & your husband though, for saving them. I can just picture the look on your gardener's faces - priceless !! (P.S. Sorry I've not been commenting much, as you know I'm battling with internet connection problems at the moment.

  6. Hi Lynda, never feel "ashamed" when you're protecting human lives. I am quite aware of venomous snakes Tanzania, even in South Africa. When we lived in Zululand we had close shaves with dangerous snakes and I never made excuses for thinking about my children and pets before the snake. However,the Free State has mostly timid and non-poisonous snakes. Especially those that come close to human habitation, ie my garden! Nevertheless, hubby and I treat any and every snake with utmost respect. I'm sorry to hear about your Internet problems. I trust they will soon be resolved. Take care. Hugs Jo xxx


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