Cape Snake Rescue

Overcome your fear.

   Jun 08


Prevention is always better than cure

•  Suitable protective clothing such as boots and long trousers can prevent a serious snake bite when hiking or walking in the veld

•  Most snakes cannot identify motionless objects, so it is best to stand perfectly still if a snake is encountered. Then proceed in the opposite direction or wait until the snake moves off and proceed.

•  Always put your hands and feet where you can see them, especially children when retrieving a ball or toy, encourage the use of a broom or long stick to accomplish this

•  Be wary of dense bush around houses as this is an ideal hideaway for snakes. Trim below bushes so that the stem above the ground is visible

•  Keep grass around houses short as this will increase visibility significantly and provide an early warning.

What to do in the event of an encounter in the home

•  Remove all pets from the area; many dogs are killed when trying to attack snakes

•  Keep an eye on the snake from a safe distance and point it out when help arrives

•  Try and give an accurate description, taking note of colour, general shape of the body, length- measure snake against an object close by such as skirting board door etc

•  If possible, close the door to the room and place a towel underneath the door to prevent escape.

•  Unless you know exactly what you are doing leave all snakes alone

•  If it can be safely done, place a bucket over the snake and place a heavy object on it.

•  Do not pick up dead snakes-Some play dead

•  Do not attempt to move any snake without the proper equipment and experience

What to do in the event of a suspected Snakebite

•  Make sure the snake is a safe distance away from victim where it cannot cause any harm

•  Identify the snake

•  Trying to kill it for identification is one thought if positive identification is not possible. This is however not a good idea as many people get bitten trying to handle or kill a snake. A much better and safer option in the modern world is taking a picture with your mobile phone, killing the snake is a very dangerous option and is in 99% of the case, not necessary.

•  Remove all jewellery and all items from the affected limb, loosen clothing and expose the site of the bite – this is important as massive swelling may occur and any restrictive items may cause complications

•  Do Not cut, suck, burn or administer any medication to the victim. Nil per mouth rule should be adhered to, should the victim be thirsty rather wet their lips instead.

•  Should the bite be from a Cobra, Boomslang or Rinkhals a pressure bandage can be applied and the affected limb immobilised by splinting.

•  No pressure bandage or Tourniquet for suspected Adder bites, as this will cause a concentration of venom in an area causing extensive damage, limb should be immobilised though.

•  Call for an Ambulance Immediately.

•  Treat the victim for shock

Should the victim stop breathing perform CPR and do not stop until requested to by a Doctor or Paramedic.

Should medical personnel be in any doubt as to the process or if in doubt of the symptoms, contact a snake handler for guidance without delay.

Venoms of the various snakes and symptoms thereof

Snake venoms are a modified form of saliva. They consist of a complex mixture of toxins, proteins and enzymes. They are usually well adapted to killing or immobilising the usual prey of a particular species.

The actions of the venoms of the Peninsula snakes are:

Cytotoxic – Cell acting poison –typical of Adders and Rinkhals except The Berg Adder.

Cytotoxic venom destroys the cells – usually causing massive necrosis or death of large parts of flesh. Adders have long fangs and this means the venom can be injected quite deeply into the tissues.

Haemotoxic – Blood acting poison -Typical of Boomslang.

Haemotoxin causes the prolongation of blood clotting time or destroys the ability of the blood to clot at all. The victim suffers massive tissue bleeding and huge “bruises” develop all over the body. Blood oozes from all mucous membranes. It is slow acting and responds rapidly to the correct anti-venom. In severe cases massive transfusions of whole blood may be necessary.

Neurotoxic – typical of the Cobra

venom paralyses the musculature. Early warning symptoms are tingling in the lips, inability to swallow saliva and increasingly difficult respiration. The pupil dilates and does not respond to light. The action of such venoms is usually fairly rapid with severe symptoms manifesting themselves within hours in most cases.

Venom in the eyes

In the event of venom entering the eye from a Rinkhals wash out the affected eye with large quantities of water or any bland liquid and seek medical attention immediately to prevent permanent damage. Failure to do so can result in temporary loss of sight or permanent blindness. The eye will burn intensely and vision will be blurred for even days afterwards.

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