Top Ten Most Common Snakes Around Grahamstown.


This list is in no particular order and is based on what I have seen inside or very close to Grahamstown.


Boomslang (Dispholidus typus typus)

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Size: 1.2-1.5m.

Habits: Diurnal snakes which are found in a large variety of habitats, most commonly in trees and shrubs, but may descend to the floor to bask or find food.

Diet: Chameleons, frogs, tree-living lizards, birds and occasionally rodents.

Danger to man: The boomslang possesses a very dangerous haemotoxic venom capable of killing people. Monovalent antivenom is however available and has been found to be very effective in counteracting the venom. Although dangerous, the snake rarely bites, with most bites being received from snake handlers. There is a big misconception that boomslangs cannot inject venom on larger body parts because they are back-fanged. This is however untrue as boomslangs can open their mouth’s 170 degrees and can thus easily inject venom into a leg or an arm. Due to the placid and shy nature of this snake, there is virtually no chance of simply walking past a tree and being bitten.

Similar species: Boomslangs are easily confused with green mambas and members of the genus Philothamnus (green snakes) north of the Transkei because of the uniform green colour but in Grahamstown males tend to be more of a fluorescent green and females tend to be brown.

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Brown House Snake (Boaedon capensis)

head shot 20 August 2017

Size: 60-90cm.

Habits: A nocturnal species which is common around houses where it is often found beneath building rubble, rocks and corrugated metal.

Diet: Rodents, bats, birds, frogs, lizards and other small vertebrates.

Danger to man: None, does not possess venom.

Similar species: Larger individuals can resemble pythons but the gold bar either side of the eye is very distinctive, making identification relatively easy.

body shot 20 August 2017


Western Natal Green Snake (Philothamnus natalensis natalensis)

wng 12 September 2017 head shot 2

Size: 60-90cm.

Habits: This snake is a fantastic climber that spends much of its time in trees and shrubs near water. Western natal green snakes also tend to be active during the day.

Diet: Lizards, geckos and frogs.

Danger to man: None, it has no venom.

Similar species: This snake is easily confused with all members of the Philothamnus genus (green snakes). In terms of Grahamstown however, This snake is most easily confused with the spotted bush snake, but the spotted bush snake is far less common in the area.

wng 12 September 2017 body shot 3


Red-Lipped Herald (Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia)

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Size: 30-70cm.

Habits: Widespread and abundant species which is commonly found in damp areas, under rocks, building debris and compost heaps.

Diet: Frogs, toads and sometimes lizards.

Danger to man: Mildly venomous, but the venom is of no concern to humans.

Similar species: Although quite distinctive, they are sometimes mistaken for rhombic night adders because of their similar nocturnal behaviourial patterns.

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Rhombic Egg Eater (Dasypeltis scabra)

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Size: 40-75cm.

Habits: Can be found in most habitats, but it is particularly common in old termite mounds.

Diet: Bird eggs.

Danger to man:  None, the snake does not possess venom and it is virtually toothless.

Similar species: This species is easily confused with the rhombic night adder.

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Common Brown Water Snake (Lycodonmorphus rufulus)

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Size: 45-85cm.

Habits: The snake is a nocturnal hunter which is closely associated with water bodies such as dams, streams and rivers where it is often found beneath rocks and debris on the banks of the water sources.

Diet: Mainly frogs, tadpoles and small fish but can take small rodents.

Danger to man: None, this species does not possess venom.

Similar species: Can be confused with the olive ground snake and yellow-bellied house snake but within Grahamstown, the brown water snake tends to be the most commonly encountered of the three.

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Spotted Skaapsteker (Psammophylax rhombeatus rhombeatus)

juvenile headshot skaapie 17 sept

Size: 45-85cm

Habits: A fast-moving, diurnal species which can be found in a large range of habitats, mainly under rocks and fallen debris.

Diet: Mainly rodents, but also eats lizards, birds, frogs and other snakes

Danger to man: Mildly venomous species which may cause localized swelling, but the venom is not capable of killing or even hospitalizing humans.

Similar species: Easily confused with other sand, whip and grass snake species. Luckily the cross-marked whip snake is the only other commonly encountered whip snake in the area, making positive identification relatively easy in Grahamstown.

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Cross-Marked Whip Snake (Psammophis crucifer)

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Size: 40-60cm.

Habits: Diurnal snakes that are often found inside old termite mounds and under rocks and other fallen debris.

Diet: Lizards, geckos and frogs.

Danger to man: Mildly venomous, but the venom is of no concern to humans.

Similar species: Easily confused with other sand, whip and grass snake species. Luckily the spotted skaapsteker is the only other commonly encountered psammophid in the area, making positive identification relatively easy in Grahamstown.

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Puff Adder (Bitis arietans)

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Size: 90-100cm

Habits: This snake spends much of its time under bushy cover where it uses its’ camouflage to blend into its surroundings. During mating season these snakes however become very active and thus become more common to walkers and hikers who often see them cruising through the veld in search of mates

Diet: Rats, mice and other small vertebrates

Danger to man: Very dangerous cytotoxic venom that can kill if left untreated. The venom of this snake is however slow acting leaving victims of this bite much time to get to hospital. Although this snake has a bad reputation because of the sheer amount of bites recorded throughout South Africa as a result of people accidentally stepping on them whilst they are in ambush mode, very few bites actually prove to be fatal.

Similar species: Easily confused with other adders, but luckily, the rhombic night adder is the only other adder found in Grahamstown. There are records of berg and albany adder in and around Grahamstown but neither of these species have been seen for a long time.

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Rhombic Night Adder (Causus rhombeatus)

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Size: 30-60cm

Habits: Common in damp areas where they can be found under rocks, logs and in abandoned termite mounds.

Diet: Toads and other frogs

Danger to man: Mild cytotoxic venom that is dangerous but not life-threatening, hospitalization may be required though. The venom may be potentially lethal to small dogs.

Similar Species: This snake is very easily confused with the rhombic egg eater. It is also sometimes confused with adders but luckily the puff adder is the only other adder currently recorded in and around Grahamstown.

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Sources:

Alexander, G. & Marais, J. 2007. A Guide to the Reptiles of Southern Africa. Cape Town. STRUIK Nature.

Branch, B. 1988. Snakes and other Reptiles of Southern Africa. Cape Town. STRUIK.

Branch, B. 2016. Snakes and other Reptiles of Southern Africa. Cape Town. STRUIK Nature.

Marais, J. 2004. A Complete Guide to the Snakes of Southern Africa. Cape Town. STRUIK.

Marais, J. 2014. Snakes and Snakebite in Southern Africa. Cape Town. STRUIK Nature.


 

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