Snakes have a long history of getting a bad press, going back to Adam and Eve and, of course, that story about the Egyptian cobra that killed Cleopatra. In recent times newspapers, magazines and the internet are doing far more damage to their image, largely because of ignorance and sensationalism.
There have been a number of hoaxes on the internet in recent times about snakes, and some of them come and go over the years.
There’s the one about the 6,5m black mamba on the sidewalk, sometimes in Richards Bay, or at a mine in Botswana or even on the Gautrain construction site. The pictures are actually of a fibreglass model of a N Australian python, apparently put on an Australian sidewalk in a high accident area to help reduce the speed of passing cars. This was no black mamba, and in any case they do not get near that length.
There have been reports of 4,5m black mambas, but the longest specimen accurately measured in the past 20 years was in the region of 3,8m.
There are are also pictures of a massive “puff adder” doing the rounds on the internet, the most popular being a photograph of an American (in the US) with a dead eastern diamondback rattlesnake suspended from a snake tong. If you look in the background you will see a can of American beer and the person holding the snake is wearing cowboy boots. It is not a particularly large snake and probably measured around 1,5m. By using different lenses and angles, one can easily change the perceived size of a snake.
The most popular hoax at present is a photograph of a large reticulated python from Asia with a pig in its stomach. The snake is on the back of a truck and the story is that this happened in SA (Richards Bay or various mines) and that the python swallowed a drunk person!
I receive lots of e-mails from people who are desperate to keep snakes out of their properties. They use various chemicals, old oil, diesel or snake repellents that can be purchased from some hardware stores. They even use specific plants to discourage snakes.
Some argue that the snake repellent works as they had three snakes the previous year and none this year, since using the spray. The counter argument is that there are thousands of houses that do not spray snake repellent and also do not have snakes!
The bottom line is that none of these measures will keep snakes away. Snake repellent, in my view, is a total waste of money. We have done various tests and it just doesn’t work.
Keep your property clear of building rubble, compost heaps, piles of rocks, corrugated sheets of asbestos or tin lying around. Don’t provide any suitable hiding spots for snakes. In addition to shelter, snakes also seek food. If you have an abundance of rodents or frogs on your property, the lure of food may lead snakes into your garden.