So let’s say you’ve found a snake in your house and you just called a snake catcher, now you need to explain to them how to get to you. But, you live out in the middle of nowhere or your street address is very difficult to explain – what do you do?
Since this is a question that we get a lot, I thought I’d do a comparison of the effectiveness of various “snake repellents” people try to use:
|Snake Repellent||Effect on Snakes|
Don’t be fooled by urban myths or sham products!
Unfortunately, there is no chemical, gadget, or plant that will repel snakes from your property. Controlled studies have shown this time and again, all over the world. The African Snakebite Institute has a very comprehensive post about this, here.
This fact doesn’t stop some people from still selling sprays, powders, gadgets, and other kinds of so-called “snake repellent“, though!
Any money you spend on products like this is money wasted. And if you’re pouring household chemicals onto the ground in the hope that it’ll keep snakes away, you’re doing nothing but polluting the Earth.
So what can you do about snakes on your property?
Snakes enter gardens and houses for one of these three reasons:
- Water, or
If you ensure that there are no food sources (such as frogs near ponds), no open water sources (such as fountains, ponds, and dog bowls), and no shelter (rubble, long grass, etc.) on your property, chances are you won’t see many snakes.
Don’t help unscrupulous business owners get rich off of your concern for your family! Rather, keep your property clean, be snake-aware and know what to do if you see a snake, always keep a snake catcher’s number handy, and if you live in a remote area with regular snake sightings, consider doing a snake handling course.
In case you’re thinking of doing a snake handling course yourself, I thought I’d tell you about what to expect from the experience. You can find out more about groups that present snake handling courses in your area, at the end of this post.
I’ve attended courses by both the African Snakebite Institute (presented by Johan Marais), and the Cape Reptile Institute (presented by Dr Tony Phelps) – most of the clips you’ll see in this video are from the time I attended the Cape Reptile Institute course.
Your course will be structured more or less as follows:
We were given some reading material when we arrived for the course, and the day started off with a theory lecture discussing snakes, snakebite, and snake safety, followed by a written exam to test our knowledge of the theory.
After the written exam we had a hands-on identification test – there were a couple of snakes out on a table, we got to spend some time with them, look at them, touch them, and then we had to try and identify each of them correctly (which counted towards our final marks).
After that we finally got to the practical snake handling part of the course! As you can see in the video we started with a rope (so we could get used to picking up a snake properly with a hookstick), then after we finished with the rope we moved on to live snakes.
Starting with Mole Snakes, we had to pick them up properly, carry them in the right way, put them in a bin, close the bin the correctly, and so on, all under the watchful eye of an instructor. We each got a couple of tries with the Mole Snake, after which we moved on to Puff Adders, then Cape Cobras, and finally Boomslang.
As we practised, our instructor was able to tell us what we were doing wrong, help us correct our technique, and give us general guidance. After we finished up with the Boomslang we moved on to a final practical exam where we were divided up into teams of two and each team was given a scenario where there was a snake hidden somewhere – the team had to go and find it, identify it, and then safely capture & contain it.
If you have an interest in snakes or you live in an area where you often encounter snakes, I can highly recommend doing a course like this!
Take a look at the links below for more details about groups who present courses in your area, and feel free to send me a message if you have any questions!
Sign up for a Snake Identification & Handling Course:
The following institutions provide snake-related courses in South Africa on a regular basis, click on any of the logos to contact them and learn more:
(If you provide Snake-related courses or training and you’re not listed here, please send me your details so I can add you).
There are many myths & misconceptions about snakes, one or these being that you can distinguish venomous from non-venomous snakes based on the shape of their pupil or tail scales.
This image has recently been doing the rounds on social media again:
This isn’t true for South African snakes – please don’t follow advice like this and rather always contact a professional snake handler!